Pope Francis (his friends call him Frank) is coming to town this week, and 1.5 million Americans are expected to line the highway to greet him. I don’t plan to be there.
The hawkers have arrived before him and prepared the way with all kinds of merchandise for the faithful–for a price. With a choice of 193 “official” items, you can choose a T-shirt with the Pope’s likeness; an “exclusive Pope Francis Bobblehead” for $19.95; an “I Love Pope Francis” mug for $14.95; a “Pope Francis Rosary Keychain” for $4.95; a 4-inch “Pope Francis Figurine” for $11.95; a “Pope Francis Plush Doll” for $24.95; a “Pope Francis Holy Bear” for $11.95; a pair of “Team Pope Boxer Shorts” for $12.95; and on and on and on.
This is similar to the religious junk sold in almost all Protestant, even Baptist, bookstores that sell nail clips with “I Love Jesus”; “Hand and Body Cream” with Scripture verse; hand soap with “God Bless Our Home”; a whole food Bible Bar; Bobble Heads of Mary and Jesus; a glass ash tray with a “picture” of Jesus; pens, jewelry, etc. ad nauseam. But all promote cheap Christianity. And I am not referring to the price.
I suppose in this day of materialism the above is to be expected; however, there are limits–lines many Catholics will not cross. If the Church pitches an all-natural breakfast “Pope-tart” then many Catholics will dispose of their rosaries quicker than long underwear in a Texas heatwave.
At the Pope’s first meeting with the international press he said, “How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor.” Well, he can take care of that. He has had much to say about the poor (whom Christ said would always be with us) and the disadvantaged; however, I will believe Francis is really concerned with the poor when he announces, advertises, and accomplishes a massive yard sale of the Vatican’s vast assets in St. Peter’s Square–with the proceeds going to poor Catholics.
According to the International Business Times, Francis is raffling off his espresso machine, wallets, a panama hat and other personal items with the proceeds going to the poor. Posters are all over the Vatican announcing this gambling venture that will aid the poor. Nice gesture but it is just that, a gesture. Now he should get serious and sell off the priceless works of art, jewels, books, etc. After all, the Roman Catholic Church is the richest institution on earth. That’s far from its alleged founder who didn’t have a place to lay His head.
Francis quoted the great Fourth Century preacher John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople who died in 407: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs.” Well, if it’s theirs then give it back. After raising maybe a trillion dollars in the world’s biggest and richest yard sale Francis could pass the proceeds to the poor in various nations depending on the percentage of Roman Catholics in those nations.
The Apostle Peter, allegedly the first pope, although there is no historical evidence that he was ever in Rome, didn’t only talk about the poor, he did something about it. In Acts 3:6, he was asked by a poor, lame man for some money and Peter replied, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have, give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” And he did! Pope Francis can’t say “Silver and gold have I none” because he sits on unknown wealth in the Vatican. Neither can he say, “Rise up and walk.” He has great possessions but no godly power.
St. Peter’s Square is an ideal place for a yard sale with plenty of room for two million books; 80,000 valuable hand-written manuscripts; paintings by Raphael; statuary and works by Leonardo de Vinci; artwork of Michelangelo with tools used in work on the Sistine Chapel; embroidered silk vestments, religious relics and a touchable cast of Pope John Paul II’s hand. Wow, a touchable cast. Right or left hand? Additionally, there are hundreds of mosaics, frescoes, and bone fragments of Peter and Paul. But then only a fool or fanatic would put any credibility in bone fragments. But many would and the price tag would be enormous. How many people can boast, “I own some of Peter’s bone fragments”?
The “Holy Towel of Jesus” on which Christ wiped His face, and bears His image is kept in the Pope’s private chapel and could demand a huge price from one of the faithful buyers. Many other relics of inestimable value would sell “like hotcakes.” Also there is a thorn from His crown of thorns, milk from the Virgin Mary, and an object that at one time contained Christ’s umbilical cord! Not the cord itself but the object that the cord was in at one time! Of course, there are some splinters from His cross although there are enough pieces of the “original” cross upon which Christ died to build a modern house! Hyperbole perhaps, but only slight.
The Church also has some “filings” from the chains of Peter that they permit the hoi polloi to see at times that would bring a huge sum. But since Peter was not in Rome either as pastor or prisoner, where did the “filings” come from? Just wondering.
It seemed when European Roman Catholic Churches got short of funds during later Middle Ages, they “discovered” more relics to dazzle, deceive, and draw the naïve. And such actions always filled the offering plate just as the sale of indulgences built St. Peter’s starting in 1506 and completed in 1626. The Pope’s very public avarice in the sale of indulgences to simple-minded peasants, who were promised perpetual happiness in this world and eternal glory in the next, precipitated the Reformation. Future Popes refused to learn from their sorry, sinful, and sordid history and continued to sell indulgences to get people out of purgatory.
In my opinion, the Pope should stop selling indulgences and start selling the Church’s opulent holdings, including all the relics. Indulgences are toxic according to history. Francis should keep in mind that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. When does the yard sale begin?
I haven’t been to Rome in a while but I’ll be one of his customers. Maybe I can afford to purchase a splinter from the “true” cross!
http://bit.ly/1iMLVfY Watch these 8 minute videos of my lecture at the University of North Dakota: “A Christian Challenges New Atheists to Put Up or Shut Up!”
Fact, Fraud or Faith?
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Only an uninformed fanatic says that evolution or creation can be proved scientifically. Christians believe in creationism because we believe in the veracity of the Bible but we also have scientific evidence to support our position. In every debate I’ve had with evolutionary scientists, the arrogant, asinine accusation is made, “Well, evolution is scientific while creationism is religion.” Evolution is about as scientific as a voodoo rooster plucking ceremony in Haiti. Almost.