Matthew 17:24-27: when the Italian Church forgets about its fiscal duties

“The incredible saga of anti-Catholic prejudice and pride continues. It does so incessantly. Much, very much, this is due to the malice, superficiality and inertia of the media”. These are the words of Marco Tarquinio, director of catholic Italian paper Avvenire about the recently proposed bill to stop tax exemption for Church-owned real estate properties in Italy.

If approved and implemented, it is estimated that this bill will bring 600 million euros into Italy’s finances. Apart from that, there has been investigation about illicit use of such Church-owned properties for lucrative activities (hotels, restaurants, conference hosting). Needless to say, all these activities are exempted from tax declaration.

Taking into account Mr. Tarquinio’s statements, I would like to respond by pointing out that prejudice  is making a judgment or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy.

The advent of this bill and the fierceness of huge part of national press on the issue is everything but prejudice or preconception. It is based on evidence which has been notably kept unveiled for a very long time.

A simple amateur investigation has unmasked speculation in a convent in Ferrara and, only God knows, (this is a euphemism) how many of such occurrences are taking place in this very moment in Italy. I excuse myself for using the word unmasked as ,in reality, these practices are open in the air but hardly documented.

Tarquinio proceeds in his eulogy (to such a lost cause) by claiming that the evidence provided by the media and by the Radical party (that published their investigation) is the “last falsity circulated maliciously and deceitfully about a malign being of the institution of the Church”.

Such denial against the results of investigative journalism always turns out to be a sign of the end of excuses, pledges and acts of self-justification. It reminds me of Nixon’s famous quote in front of David Frost When the president does it is not illegal or Mr. Berlusconi’s I have never met Mr. Mills in my life. Well, we have seen how these two turned out, I guess Mr. Angelo Bagnasco is preparing his case.

The media are not a reversed inquisition.  The old and new Italian societies are tired of ecclesiastic negationism and unraveling influence on policy-making on ethical issues. In terms of morality, we could make a thousand reportages titled predica bene e razzola male, literally “Preach well but do wrong”.

Perhaps it’d be good to remind some representatives of the “holy” institution about Matthew 17,24-27.

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

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