Time to revisit the Protestant Reformation

During March of 2013, a Roman Catholic papal conclave was convened in the luxuriously appointed Vatican to consider the replacement for Pope Benedict XVI, who unexpectedly resigned well before his death.

A mystery?

Not so, says Gerald Posner in his book “God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power in the Vatican.” He says that Pope Benedict resigned because of the decades-old internal battle over the use and abuse of the Vatican’s independent-nation status for financial high jinks in the Vatican Bank.

Posner asserts that in addition to laundering cash and gold for the Nazis and in falling heir to many Jewish annuities nationalized by the Italian government of the time, the Vatican Bank directly benefited by the death of Jews at the hands of Hitler by not paying death benefits to beneficiaries, as most of them were also in the death camps.

Lawsuits on this and similar issues are still making their labyrinthine way through various courts.

All of this ugly activity being nestled in the breast of a worldwide organization that professes to follow the teachings of the Holy Bible seems to be the acme of hypocrisy.

Posner concludes that Pope Benedict was unable resolve the conflict between the value of illicit activities to support the church’s admirable worldwide activities and the pressures from the world banking community to become more transparent in their money activities, so he resigned.

The conclave replaced Pope Benedict with Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Upon elevation, Cardinal Bergoglio changed his name to Pope Francis, thereby wrapping himself in the cloak of St. Francis, famous for his concern for the poor.

Vatican Bank problems continue in the forefront of domestic policy issues for any pope in his role as absolute ruler over the tiny country known as the Vatican.

When confronted on the issue, Pope Francis stated his policy: “The Vatican Bank will be run in the best interests of the Vatican and the Catholic Church,” to which I would personally respond: “So what is new?”

Though Pope Francis divested himself of a few visible trappings of the papacy, he retains control of a worldwide, multibillion-dollar organization and lives in a gilded palace at the expense of others.

Pope Francis immediately veered away from the teaching of the Bible, which directs that God’s people be concerned with saving souls as Jesus stated in John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

He went on to clarify the church’s eternal relationship with earthly governance when he said in Mark 12:17: “Render unto to Caesar [earthly governors] those things of Caesar and to God [the heavenly kingdom] those things that belong to God.”

In other words, don’t get involved in earthly politics.

In spite of the Biblical proscriptions, Pope Francis veered into earthly politics by becoming the leading advocate for left-wing financial policies and a leading spokesman for environmental catastrophe.

He supports what is hypocritically called “progressive” policies. Progressing toward what — more slavery of the workers, more corruption of the poor, more destruction of economies such as the Argentine president accomplished in his home country?

In doing so, he has allied himself with left-wing dictators throughout the world such as the Castro brothers and their island prison country and Evo Morales, the left-wing strongman of Peru.

During the pope’s recent swing through his home continent, President Morales presented him with a caricature of Catholic rendition of Christ on the cross with Christ impaled on a communist hammer and sickle.

The pope warmly received this perversion in spite of the fact that communists have killed more Christians than any other political movement, and today suppress Christianity among the huge population of China.

Not to put too fine point on it, Morales did all of this while wearing a tribute to the left-wing murderer Che Guevara.

When publically siding with earthly governments in their left-wing and questionable environmental policies, Pope Francis temporarily relinquishes his cloak of infallibility and opens himself to honest rebuttal.

It was similar excesses of Catholic popes during the 15th century that occasioned the Protestant Reformation.

Likely most Protestants don’t realize that the root word “protest” in their denominational names was inherited from Martin Luther and John Calvin, who protested the misplaced dogma of the church and dysfunctional economic policies that resulted in a mass clerical bureaucracy demanding ever more resources.

As for the theological protest, Martin Luther pointed out that the Bible does not prescribe a trip to heaven via good works on earth.

Instead, as Paul said in one of his letters to the church at Ephesus (Ep. 2:8): “We are saved by Grace and Grace alone and that is a gift from God.”

Thus the indulgences that the then pope was selling to finish building St. Paul’s Cathedral at the Vatican were simply immoral and not worthy of the Church of God.

With the advent of the printing press, Protestants claimed direct access to local language versions of the Bible and no longer needed a massive bureaucracy to tell them what was in there.

Earthly leaders from Catherine the Great in Russia to the PRI Party in Mexico decried the mass wealth that the church had accrued from the donations of the poor and then used for the support of the piety at the expense of the poor laity.

Thus Catholic reformers such as Martin Luther would urge Pope Francis not to abandon his day job of saving souls to instead play political consultant in chief to earthly dictators.

Stirling, a former U.S. Army officer, has been elected to the San Diego City Council, state Assembly and state Senate. He also served as a municipal and superior court judge in San Diego. Send comments to Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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