Over the summer, we have had something of a masterclass in the interaction between church and money. First, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, announced that he was keen to help non-profit lenders, such as credit unions, compete with payday loan companies and declared war on Wonga – before having to admit sheepishly a couple of days later that he was unaware that the Church of England “invested indirectly” in Wonga. Then we had the new(ish) Pope Francis issuing a motu proprio against money laundering. The new decree is intended to tackle money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation (so not at all ambitious, then), and also sets up a financial security committee to coordinate the anti-corruption effort in the Holy See.
I am not a religious person myself, but one of the things that has always intrigued me is how often criminals claim to be devout. We see it most often with the mafia, who seem to be able to reconcile murder and mayhem with marriage, children and religion. An extreme example is Paul “Doc” Gaccione, who used his time awaiting trial for murder in 2012 to write a book about his religious beliefs and experiences, which must be a great comfort to his victim’s family (he was found guilty in the end). And don’t get me started on the so-called religious leaders who use their position and influence to dupe people into handing over their money (and worse).