Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why the Church Can Take on Corruption Despite Its Problems

In a recent lecture on human dignity, the Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear that in his opinion the world at large is not waiting with bated breath to hear what the Church has to say about morality. So why should anyone be expected to take Christians seriously when they launch a global campaign about corruption?

Lectures about morality from Christian communities with a track record in child abuse and bizarre cases where children have been demonized as witches can seem disingenuous. And there is little encouragement in the fact that according to the Status of Global Missions report in 2010, 'ecclesiastical crime' – across all faiths – is on the increase. In 1900 an estimated US$300,000 went missing from religious coffers. In 2010 that figure rose to US$32b and is projected at US$60b by 2025.

Fact and fiction have conspired to paint unpleasant caricatures of pastors pilfering from the offering plate, and preachers growing fat on the sacrifices of their beleaguered congregations. More recently, allegations of theft surrounding the Pope's former butler, Paolo Gabriele has only served to fuel the fallacious ideas which Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code left so vividly in our minds. Many people still harbor images of the Occupy campaign stalking St Paul's Cathedral for months and raising questions about the church's profligate relationship with City banks.

Even so, one of the greatest misnomers about faith is to present it as a panacea of human perfection. As someone once suggested, the Church is like Noah's Ark: smelly on the inside but arguably safer than swimming in the flood tide outside.

On the way to perfection, religion often stumbles in the streets.

And in a world where corruption kills people, undermines enterprise and stifles development, religion cannot wait for its own perfection before it works to clear up the mess.

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