Sunday 28 July 2013

How charitable is the Church of England?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has recently been embarrassed by the financial investments of his own church. While he was ranting against Wonga, the high interest pay day lender, it was revealed that his own church had invested in Wonga for a handsome return.

The church claims to have a charitable function in society and as its religious purpose recedes increasingly into the background, it is the church’s work for the poor that becomes the bedrock of its moral impetus. But what about its charitable purpose? How effective is it? 

Hypocrite or saviour of the poor?

The short answer is: we dont know. Neither the Anglican Church nor the Catholic Church ever open their books to public scrutiny to allow us to test their claim to help the poor. Whilst every other charitable organisation in the country is obligated to detail exactly how much they spend on fund raising, staff, and core charitable programmes, the churches refuse to publish these data. 

So, strictly speaking we have actually no evidence whatsoever where the money goes that we drop into the collection box at the church's exit. For all we know, they may just as well use it to pay for their gold-embroidered frocks and man-servants at the Bishop’s Palace. 

So, besides its important role to provide pastoral care, we dont know much about how effective the church is as a charitable organisation. Their charitable status hails from a time when we granted any religious organisation a charitable motivation per se, but those times are over. In fact, it has been these very established churches that have fought tooth and nail against other religious organisations to be granted the same privileges (think of Anglican Bishops sitting in the House of Lords for no apparent reason or justification but that it is an 'established church'). 

It is about time we know more about how effective the Anglican and the Catholic Church are in dispensing aid to the poor. The first step would be to open their books to public scrutiny. By becoming more transparent in financial affairs, the Archbishop Welby may just make the transformation from hypocrite to moral crusader. Perhaps. 

1 comment:

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