by Edd Doerr
Did you read the excellent six-column article in the Washington Post today (Sept 21, 2011) about Jason Berry, the journalist whose new book exposes the financial shenanigans of the Catholic Church? Don't miss it.
Below is a review of the book by my colleague Al Menendez in the current issue of Voice of Reason, the quarterly journal of Americans for Religious Liberty (of which I am president).
Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, by Jason Berry. Crown Publishers, 2011, 420 pp., $25.00.
Jason Berry's meticulously-researched book concentrates on the financial profile of the Catholic Church, including a study of the Vatican legal system. Berry casts a withering eye on "dishonest bishops, concealed sex offenders and mismanaged money" from the perspective of a liberal Catholic journalist, who himself broke the story of the clerical sex abuse scandal in Louisiana two decades ago. The result of these failures is that the Catholic Church in America "is undergoing the most massive downsizing in its history and is liquidating assets at a startling pace."
Not only has the clerical sex offenders' scandal cost the church dearly in terms of income and prestige, but the closing of churches to help stop the flow of funds is causing dismay. "As the bishops shut churches against the people's will, questions of financial ethics hover like black clouds."
Some of the conflicts will end up in the US legal syatem. "The financial accountability of bishops is an issue that seems destined for more activity in the civil courts," writes Berry.
An excellent book in it own right, it would have been even better had it also considered how much government money has gone to the church.
(Most of the back issues of Voice of Reason may be found on the Americans for Religious Liberty's web site -- arlinc.org. ARL was founded in 1982 by Humanist leaders Edward Ericson and Sherwin w\Wine.)