The average churchgoer may not be aware of it but The Vatican owns a very profitable bank called the Institute for Works of Religion or more popularly known as the Vatican Bank. It has been the subject of lawsuits — one accusing the bank of profiting from gold looted by Nazi puppets during World War II (Google “Emil Alperin et al. v. Vatican Bank et al”) and another demanding the release of intelligence reports gathered by a Vatican spy (Google “Levy v. CIA”). If you want a more entertaining jumpstart toward learning about the Vatican Bank, go and see The Godfather III then read about Roberto Calvi, nicknamed “God’s banker”, who was found hanging on a bridge in London in 1982. The most recent news about the Vatican Bank involves money laundering which the Italian authorities has been investigating.
In short, then and now, the Catholic Church has always been involved in banking for profit. It doesn’t go around announcing it but the church likes money. Lots of money.
The banking activities of the church has not been limited to The Vatican. In the Philippines, funds of the Archdiocese of Manila gave birth to the Monte de Piedad and Savings Bank in the 1800s. The bank operated for a hundred years with the Archbishop of Manila sitting as chairman of the board until investigations revealed that it had been lending money to ghost borrowers which led to its shutdown and eventual sale to the Keppel Group. Another sale followed and what used to be Monte de Piedad is now G.E. Bank.
In Germany, the Catholic Church owns Pax Bank.
Der Spiegel newspaper discovered the bank had invested 580,000 euros (£495,310, $826,674) in British arms company BAE Systems.
It also invested 160,000 euros in American birth control pill maker Wyeth and 870,000 euros in tobacco companies [BBC News].
Now you get the context in which I ask the question: “If the CBCP could earn on condoms, will it support the RH bill?” In fact, let’s ask the more general question. If the Catholic Church could earn from the manufacture and sales of all forms of contraceptives, including birth control pills and condoms, will it change its stand on birth control and safe sex?
Is that a rhetorical question? Not really. The church likes money. So, I’m thinking in terms of give and take. The church does not want to “lose” by changing its stand but if it could “win” in some other way, perhaps, the loss would be easier to accept.
If the Reproductive Health Bill were passed, the implementing rules will naturally include provisions on how the government will acquire contraceptive accessories for distribution. As government projects go, it’s usually a case of bidding and the lowest bidder gets the contract. We all know that products manufactured by multinational pharmaceutical companies are terribly overpriced (that’s what led to the Generic Drugs Law). If the church, through the CBCP or directly, were to invest and hold majority stocks in a company that manufactures contraceptives and that company can offer the lowest bid to the government, well, that would be a win-win situation. Why… the government and the church could be working as partners under a revitalized Reproductive Health Law! Isn’t that wonderful?
But how could the church-owned company ensure that it would be the lowest bidder? Should it bribe the officials involved in the bidding process? Not necessarily. Prices of medicines soar because of advertising and marketing expenses. If the church-owned company stayed away from them (the objective is just to be the lowest bidder with no intention to sell to the public, anyway) and made no-frills products (never mind the fruit-flavored colored condoms in fancy packaging), it could keep the prices low.
Now, transform that scenario into a global one. The church could be earning billions and billions without much work.
So, dear CBCP, don’t you think that’s a win-win situation? Bishops are not kings but they can live like kings if they were smart.