With Pope Francis coming to the United States just a little over a week away, he has sent a very clear message to churches that use their tax-exempt status as a way to exploit their property for economic gain. Some churches are refusing to accept refugees into the buildings they own, instead preferring to use it to make money on rentals.
“Some religious orders say, ‘No, now that the convent is empty we are going to make a hotel and we can have guests and support ourselves that way, or make money,'” said Pope Francis. “Well, if that is what you do, then pay taxes! A religious school is tax-exempt because it is religious, but if it is functioning as a hotel, then it should pay taxes just like its neighbor. Otherwise it is not fair business.”
The practice of renting space in religious buildings is very common in Europe. The philosophy behind it, that Pope Francis describes, could very well undermine what many televangelists do in the United States. Rather than practicing their religion, these charlatans run lean businesses and make fat profits. If the church isn’t engaged in the business of the Church, as Pope Francis explained, then it’s time for them to pay their fair share of taxes!
Demonstrating that he follows his own words, the Vatican is taking in two refugee families, who will remain “as long as the Lord wants.”
In the same interview, Pope Francis stated the importance of the Catholic Church adapting to modern times and getting out into the real world to try to make a difference: “If somebody has a room in his house which is closed for long periods, it develops humidity, and a bad smell. If a church, a parish, a diocese, or an institute lives closed in on itself, it grows ill and we are left with a scrawny Church, with strict rules, no creativity. On the contrary – if it goes forth – if a church and a parish go out into the world, then once outside they might suffer the same fate as anybody else who goes out: have an accident. Well in that case, between a sick and a bruised Church, I prefer the bruised, because at least it went into the street.”
Finally, Pope Francis made clear his disgust with those in government failing to take action to protect the environment. “Nowadays the world is at war against itself … in installments, bit by bit, but it is also at war against the land, because it is destroying the land, our common house, the environment.”
Watch Ring of Fire Co-Founder Robert Kennedy (who met with Pope Francis today) talk about Climate Change with Thom Hartmann
For more on this, read the article at Crux titled: “Pope warns religious orders: Take in refugees, or pay property taxes.”