Monday, July 25, 2011

Colleen Baker on John Paul II's Choice to Make Rupert Murdoch a Papal Knight: The Vatican and Money

I mentioned in a posting yesterday that Colleen Baker has reminded me that in 1998, Pope John Paul II made Rupert Murdoch (who is not Catholic) a papal knight, a Knight Commander of St. Gregory.  The award is bestowed on those of "unblemished character."  It is widely thought Murdoch was given this distinction because of his and his wife's large donations to Catholic causes.  And what is happening to him now in England is re-igniting debate about whether the Vatican should bestow honors like this solely because of the money wealthy donors give to Catholic causes.

And today I'm seeing that Colleen has an outstanding posting about this at her Enlightened Catholicism blog, with the title, "What Does Sir Rupert Murdoch Tell Us about the Vatican's Relationship with Money?" Colleen notes that, if you read the comments following the Catholic Herald article to which my first link (and hers, as well) points, you'll see that Catholics of various stripes may have common ground, when it comes to critiquing the Vatican's propensity to be swayed by wealth.

And she observes, incisively,  

There will be no real reform of Catholicism as a spiritual system until leadership changes its relationship with money.  Catholicism has to stop rewarding billionaires for donating millions to build cathedrals.  They could start altering this relationship by taking the very tiny step of looking at how those billionaires made the money they donate.  Murdoch has done more to destroy the integrity of Western news media than any other single individual.  He has done more to lower the level of discourse in the West by promoting the soft porn of his tabloids right thru to the ideological venom which now passes for cable news in the US.  If his business practices are seriously being held up as some sort of Catholic notion of chivalrous behavior, it's a form of chivalry with zero basis in the Gospels.

Catholics of both left and right have for some time now been exasperated with the choice of the Vatican to make Murdoch a papal knight, and the current revelations about his media empire are only sharpening that exasperation.  Meanwhile, the Catholic wife who helped him attract that papal honor is a thing of the past, and Sir Rupert has moved on to another, younger wife.

While no less than Archbishop Chaput tells us that the most important issue facing the Catholic church these days is how the gays are causing traditional marriage to disintegrate!  But the Murdoch story and the choice of John Paul II to make Sir Rupert a papal knight suggest to me that, as long as one has wealth in abundance, one is still qualified to be designated by the pope as a person of "unblemished character" deserving of a papal knighthood, even as one moves from wife to wife to wife.

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