How the Apostolic tradition of poverty was abandoned. Jesus, the two greedy italians pdf of Christianity, was the poorest of the poor.
Roman Catholicism, which claims to be His church, is the richest of the rich, the wealthiest institution on earth. The startling contradiction of the tremendous riches of the Roman Catholic Church with the direct teaching of Christ concerning their unambiguous rejection, is too glaring to be by-passed, tolerated or ignored by even the most indifferent of believers. In the past, indeed, some of the most virulent fulminations against such mammonic accumulation came from individuals whose zeal and religious fervor were second to none. Their denunciations of the wealth, pomp, luxury and worldly habits of abbots, bishops, cardinals and popes can still be heard thundering with unabated clamor at the opening of almost any page of the chequered annals of western history. But, while it was to their credit that such men had the honesty to denounce the very church to which they had dedicated their lives, it is also to the latter’s discredit that she took no heed of the voices of anguish and anger of those of her sons who had taken the teaching of the Gospel to the letter and therefore were eager that the Roman Catholic system, which claimed to be the true bride of Christ, be as poor as one she called master. When she did not silence them, she ignored them or, at the most, considered them utterances of religious innocents, to be tolerated as long as her revenue was not made to suffer. This policy was not confined only to come critical or peculiar period of Catholic history.
It became a permanent characteristic throughout almost two millennia. The splitting of this giant religious system into three distracted portions, Roman Catholicism in the West, the Orthodox church in the Near East, Protestantism in Northern Europe, to a very great extent became a reality very largely because of the economic interest which lay hidden behind the high-sounding dissensions between the simmering rival theological disputations. It was the allurement of the immediate potential redistribution of the Vatican’s riches among the lay potentates which a successful religious secession would have rendered possible, that became the principal factor ultimately to persuade them to rally to the side of Luther and his imitators. The dynastic issue of King Henry VIII of England was not as basic as the economic motivation which really led to the final breakaway from Roman authority. The landed gentry who supported his policy did so with their eyes well fixed upon the economic benefits to come. The variegated alignment of the German princes with Lutheranism was prompted chiefly by the same basic economic considerations.
It was such concrete, although seemingly secondary, factors which in the long run made the Reformation possible. The true early Church acted upon, and indeed practiced, the tenets of Jesus Christ, thus putting the accumulation of the treasures of heaven before the accumulation of those of the earth. But as the Roman Catholic system began to develop, the first tiny seeds of the temporal amassment of wealth were planted. These were eventually to grow into the monstrous giant mustard tree which was to obscure the light of Europe for over a thousand years. The early Christians, following upon the example of the Apostles and the first and second generations of Christ’s disciples, upon conversion obeyed Christ’s commandment to the letter and disposed of their possessions.
These they either sold or gave to the Christian community, the latter using them for communal benefit, so that all members would partake of them in equal portion. There was no personal attachment as yet to riches thus used, either on the part of the single Christian individual or for any autonomous Christian nucleus. The ownership, possession and enjoyment of any wealth was anonymous, impersonal and collective. There was also the help of the poor, of the slaves, of the sick and of the prisoners. Church’s wealth had already become substantial, she managed to act in harmony with Christ’s injunction about poverty. Christians, however, by now no longer sold their goods upon being baptized. They had come to harmonize the possession of worldly good with the teaching of Christ by conveniently quoting or ignoring sundry passages of the Gospels.