You Cannot Serve Both God And Money

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Perhaps the church once was a driving force in helping the marginalized and supporting the vulnerable, unfortunately this standard has not been maintained in recent years.

Regardless of whether or not you are a devout Christian, it is important to think about religious traditions. The continuing reports of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the whitewashes so long committed inside religious institutions are added reason to do something. As well as the trial at the Vatican of two investigative journalists for retrieving secret Vatican documents regarding financial exploitation, corruption and incompetence.

There is so much to consider on this issue, both for the religious and the non-religious. Currently, we are also entangled in the politics of the impending federal budget and no problem is more significant or more entwined in complication than tax reform. The convergence of these things is worthy of consideration, as the tax-exempt status of special interest groups and establishments in our country is a far-too-overlooked issue and one which must finally be seriously confronted and corrected.

Religious establishments are amongst such special interest groups. Under Australian law, religious organizations are exempted from taxation. This allows for approximately $30 billion a year to be free from taxation. The Catholic Church accounts for just over half of that immense amount. The Catholic Church is larger than all the others collectively, taking in around $16 billion annually. Having been exempt from taxation, all those billions are left unaccounted for. If they were eligible for taxation, there would be a new degree of honesty and transparency in how it was being used. If this was the case, several billions of dollars in revenue may be accessible for dealing with services that are currently keeping the budget unhealthily low. At the very least, this suggests we ought to do a stock take on the reasoning and validation for religious organizations reaping the benefits of tax exemption.

An assessment of the tax privileges routinely enjoyed by religious organizations would no doubt be embraced by the non-religious person, or even the believer who may be troubled by the ways in which some religious organizations operate in our society. Even a devout believer would likely want to be sure that values of fairness and equality are being utilized impartially. Catholics particularly, given the freshly exposed discoveries regarding dishonesty and corruption in Vatican finances, should surely hope to see much improvement in honesty and responsibility in the way their earned money is being expended by the church hierarchy.

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The Child Abuse Royal Commission has exposed extensive child sexual abuse committed by priests and conscious efforts by church leadership to conceal these evils and prevent the police from investigating further. The film, ‘Spotlight’ won the Oscar award for Best Picture in early 2016. The film uncovered the misconducts of hundreds of Catholic priests in Boston, these priests were sexually assaulting many children while the Archbishop of Boston was aware and did nothing to prevent it.

Similar atrocities have been committed in religious institutions all over the world. At this point you must be questioning why these churches continue to be afforded the privilege of tax exemption.

How can we, as a civilized society, permit these organizations to enjoy tax privileges while they continue to abuse their power and position so dishonorably? Long gone are the days when the church’s main focus revolved around shaping the morals and values of our children and families for the better.

The church used to have heavy involvement in the community: it was a place to go when one had lost their way, comforted the grieving and distressed, married us when we fell in love, baptized our babies, fed the unemployed and homeless.

They once strived to inspire love in the hearts of the broken and the hopeless.

Perhaps the church once was a driving force in helping the marginalized and supporting the vulnerable, but it continues to sit on its vast wealth. A vast wealth left un-taxed is a burden on the rest of society.

It is a cross we are forced to bear.

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