The Pope: “Corruption Is a Greater Evil than Sin”

Modern interpretation of Christ driving the money changers from the temple by Anthony Freda/Daniel Zollinger

“More than Forgiven, This Evil Must Be CURED”

Preface: If you are an atheist (or adherent of another faith) and believe that the Catholic faith is crazy, you are obviously entitled to your belief.  But please remember that very few Americans are atheists … and the majority don’t trust atheists.  More importantly, it’s wise to work with allies on core issues, such as fighting corruption … even if you would normally disagree with them. 

In this case, the Pope just may speak for a lot of allies.  After all, there are more than a billion Catholics worldwide.  Some 85% of the American population identifies itself as Christian, and 78 million Americans have been baptized into the Catholic Church. The U.S. has the world’s fourth largest Catholic population.

Legal authorities have done nothing to crack down on Wall Street corruption.  The U.S. government admits that it refuses to prosecute fraud … pretty much as an official policy.

Sure, a few “small fish” are indicted … but the big boys go free.  Indeed, there are two systems of justice in Americaone for the Wall Street  fatcats, and one for everyone else.

In reality,  the government helped cover up the crimes of the big banks, used claims of national security to keep everything in the dark, and changed basic rules and definitions to allow the game to continue. See this, this, this and this.    Because fraudsters weren’t prosecuted and the banks weren’t broken up, the fraudsters are now committing bigger and bigger crimes, and banks are now bigger than ever … leaving the economy open to an even bigger crash than occurred in 2008.

Even the President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank has repeatedly said that bankers have to improve their ethics … but to no avail.

Why isn’t the government cracking down on corruption and fraud?  Because most government workers are themselves corrupt.  As is the government procurement process.

Yesterday, Pope Francis gave a powerful speech, directly addressing these problems (Google translate):

The scandalous concentration of global wealth is possible due to the connivance of public leaders with the powers that be. The corruption is itself a process of death … when life dies, there is corruption.There are few things more difficult than opening a breach in a corrupt heart: “So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich with God” (Luke 12:21). When the personal situation of the corrupt becomes complicated, he knows all the loopholes to escape as did the dishonest steward of the Gospel (cf. Lk 16.1 to 8).

The corrupt through life with shortcuts opportunism, with the air of one who says, “It was not me”, coming to internalize his mask as an honest man. It’s a process of internalization. The corrupt can not accept criticism, dismisses anyone who provides criticizes, tries to belittle any moral authority to question him, does not value the other and insults anyone who thinks differently.  If the balance of power permits, he  prosecutes anyone who contradicts him.

Corruption is expressed in an atmosphere of triumphalism because the corrupt fancies himself a winner. In that he struts to belittle others. The corrupt knows no fraternity or friendship, but complicity and enmity.

The corrupt does not perceive his corruption. It’s a little like what happens with bad breath … it’s hard for those who have it to know, unless someone else tells them.

For this reason, the corrupt can hardly get out of their internal state by way of remorse of conscience. Corruption is a greater evil than sin. More than forgiven, this evil must be cured.

Corruption has become “natural” to the point of getting to statehood linked to personal and social custom, a common practice in commercial and financial transactions, in public procurement, in any negotiation involving State agents. It is the victory of appearances over reality …

***

There are now many international conventions and treaties on the matter … not so much geared to protect the citizens, who ultimately are the latest victims – particularly the most vulnerable – but how to protect the interests of operators of economic markets and financial companies.

The penalty is selective. It is like a net that captures only the small fish, while leaving the big [fish] free in the sea.

(Note: I tried to improve Google translate’s rough translation. My Italian is rusty, and I would welcome a better translation from a fluent Italian speaker.)

What Does it Mean to Do God’s Work?

The head of Goldman Sachs said he’s doing “God’s work” with his banking activities.

The head of Barclays also told his congregation that banking as practiced by his company was not antithetical to Christian principles.

Are they right? Is big banking as practiced by the giant banks in harmony with Christian principles?

Do Justice

Initially, the Bible does not counsel us to ignore the breaking of laws by the the powerful.

In fact, the Bible mentions justice over 200 times — more than just about any other topic. The Bible asks us to do justice and to stand up to ANYONE — including the rich or powerful — who do injustice or oppress the people.

Indeed, one of the first things God asks of us is to do justice:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

While many churches and synagogues have become obsessed with other issues, many have arguably ignored this most important of God’s demands of us. As pointed out by a leading Christian ministry, which rescues underage girls trapped as sex slaves in third world countries:

In Scripture there is a constant call to seek justice. Jesus got upset at the Pharisees because they neglected the weightier matters of the law, which He defined as justice and the love of God . . . Isaiah 58 complains about the fact that while the people of God are praying and praying and praying, they are not doing anything about the injustice.

Should Christians just pray for justice and leave the rest to God?

That’s not what the Bible asks us to do. Instead, Hebrews 11:33 tells us that we are God’s hands for dispensing justice, and God uses us to “administer justice.”

We have to “walk our talk” and put our prayers into action.

God demands that we do everything in our power to act as “God’s hands” in bringing justice. And as Saint Augustine reminds us, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”

Indeed:

The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene. (Isaiah 59:15-16)

This is the only place in the Bible where the word “appalled” is used for the way God feels — in other words, the only thing which we know God is appalled by is if people are not doing justice.

There are hundreds of other references to justice in the Bible, including:

  • Blessed are they who maintain justice . . . . (Psalm 106:3)
  • This is what the LORD says: Maintain justice and do what is right . . . . (Isiah 56:1)
  • This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. (Jeremiah 22:3,13-17)
  • Follow justice and justice alone. (Deuteronomy 16:19, 20)
  • For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice . . . . (Job 11:5,7)
  • Learn to do right! Seek justice . . . . (Isaiah 1:17)

So if the powerful players in the giant banks broke the laws, they must be held to account.

Fraud and Manipulation of Money

The big banks have engaged in systemic, continuous ongoing criminal fraud.

Allowing the banks to commit crime with impunity is not what Jesus would do. What would Jesus do? Turn over the tables of the money-changers. (economists agree.)

Moreover, the giant banks manipulate currency through the use of schemes such as manipulating interest rates (gaming interest rates in different regions – Libor, Eurobor, etc. – can in turn drive their currencies up or down), high frequency trading and artificially suppressing gold prices (which artificially inflates the value of fiat money) .

As Ron Paul notes, the Bible forbids altering the quality of money (which, at the time and place, was entirely in the form of coins):

Even the Bible is clear that altering the quality of money is an immoral act. We are instructed to follow the rules of “just weights and measures.” “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin” (Leviticus 19:35-36). “Diverse weights are an abomination to the LORD, and a false balance is not good” (Proverbs 20:23). The general principle can be summed as “You shall not steal.”

Proverbs 11:1 also provides:

Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.

So to the extent that the giant banks have engaged in any dishonest acts or the manipulation of currencies, they are violating scripture.

Oppression of the Poor

The Bible condemns oppression of the poor for the benefit of the affluent:

He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he that gives to the rich, shall surely come to want. (Proverbs 22:16)

To the extent that the giant banks have oppressed the poor to increase their riches, they are violating scripture.

Due to their looting, inequality is now worse in American than in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, most Latin American banana republics … and ancient Rome.

Waging War

Bankers are often the driving force behind war. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9), and Jesus would not have taken kindly to waging wars for profit based upon false pretenses.

Jesus Was Killed for Standing Up to Corruption

Reverend Howard Bess notes:

Jesus did not go to the temple to cleanse. He came to the temple to announce the destruction of a whole way of life. Those who operated the temple had no power to silence Jesus and put him to death. Those powers were held by the Roman retainers.

The charges that were leveled against him can be summed up as insurrection. There were three specific charges: encouraging non-payment of taxes, threatening to destroy property (the temple), and claiming to be a king. It was the temple incident that took Jesus from being an irritating, but harmless country rebel from the rural north to a nuisance in a city that controlled the great tradition. Rome’s retainers killed him on a cross.

In other words, Jesus wasn’t sentenced to death until he challenged the money changers. Jesus didn’t die for a sin like lust or slothfulness. He died for our corruption.

Resurrection: Christ’s Ministry

Christ – and his ministry – lives to the extent that we act as God’s hands to confront the big banks which are warping our economy and our world.

But Isn’t the Economy Still Too Fragile?

Shouldn’t we wait until the economy is stronger before prosecuting fraud?

Nope …

Ecclesiastes 8:11 notes:

When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.

Nobel prize winning economists agree.

Postscript: Not all bankers are bad people. For example, many bankers at smaller banks and credit unions are good people who are trying to help their communities. Each must be judged by his or her own acts.

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  • Rehmat

    Jesus said something like that over 2000 years ago. But kosher Pope Francis would never like to insult 1.2 billion of his sheep by calling them “Shylocks”.

    On June 16, 2014, The National Catholic Reporter quoted the kosher Pope Francis saying: ‘Inside every Christian is a Jew‘ during an interview published by Spanish daily La Vanguardia newspaper earlier this month.

    Francis said: “Every day, I pray with the Psalms of David. My prayer is Jewish, then I have the Eucharist, which is Christian.”

    http://rehmat1.com/2014/06/19/pope-francis-inside-every-christian-is-a-jew/

  • pud

    The “church” was built on the sale of indulgences…money given by the credulous to the delusional priests to win a pass to the adult theme park in the sky. What could be more corrupt that that? The modern concept of hell and satan is a “church” construct to compel obedience by the masses. What could be more corrupt than that? Papal Bull, Limbo, ritual cannibalism, guardian angels, miracles etc etc…the “church” is nothing but deception, delusion and lies told to children. What could be more corrupt than that?