|It could be that today's nouveau riche won't be all that interested in the traditional honors scrambled after by yesterday's nouveau riche.|
There's been interesting fall out from some international stories in the last couple of weeks. Some of those stories have intersecting points of interest for the Church. One such story is the scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's news empire. Back in 1998, Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory under the sponsorship of Cardinal Mahoney of LA. At that time Murdoch's then wife Anna was a Catholic and she herself was made a Dame of the Order. These honorary papal knighthoods are interesting in and of themselves, at least as to who is in and who is out, but now some folks think there should be some accountability for membership--and I'm not talking accountability in the financial sense. The following is from Britian's Catholic Herald:
Debate: Should Rupert Murdoch’s papal knighthood be rescinded?In 1998 Rupert Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory. He had apparently been recommended for the honour by Cardinal Roger Mahony, after giving money to a Church education fund. A year later he donated $10 million to help build Los Angeles Catholic cathedral.
Is it right that papal knighthoods should be awarded in this way? The honour is supposed to recognise a person’s service to the Church. Certainly, Murdoch’s money has helped the Church; but surely there are many, many faithful Catholics, whose tireless service to the Church goes unacknowledged, who deserve to be honoured much more.
And is Rupert Murdoch a person the Church should celebrate? He owns – or did own – a newspaper that lost its moral bearings; he ought to bear some responsibility for that.
On the other hand, rescinding his papal knighthood might be difficult to justify. Other papal knights may also have flaws. Where do you set the bar?
So, should Rupert Murdoch’s papal knighthood be rescinded? Or is it fair to honour someone who has helped the Church financially?
First off I have no doubt Rupert Murdoch will retain his knightly status. Back in 1831 when Pope Gregory XVI initiated this entirely lay knightly order, he said this in the inaugural brief:
"gentlemen of proven loyalty to the Holy See who, by reason of their nobility of birth and the renown of their deeds or the degree of their munificence, are deemed worthy to be honoured by a public expression of esteem on the part of the Holy See"
I wrote yesterday that the Holy See has been right on top the changing economic scene in Europe, and back in 1831 the handwriting was on the wall via old noble money and the burgeoning upstart nouveau riche. Hence one could achieve Papal Knighthood through the age old notion of noble birth or by the new reality of donating loads of money. For the Vatican, selling papal nobility kept them connected with the changing scene of wealth and power, and nothing has changed about that 'mission'.
There will be no real reform of Catholicism as a spiritual system until leadership changes it's relationship with money. Catholicism has to stop rewarding billionaires for donating millions to build cathedrals. They could start altering this relationship by taking the very tiny step of looking at how those billionaires made the money they donate. Murdoch has done more to destroy the integrity of Western news media than any other single individual. He has done more to lower the level of discourse in the West by promoting the soft porn of his tabloids right thru to the ideological venom which now passes for cable news in the US. If his business practices are seriously being held up as some sort of Catholic notion of chivalrous behavior, it's a form of chivalry with zero basis in the Gospels.
If readers take the time to read some of the comments after the Herald article they might catch a glimmer of where common ground can be found in Catholicism. It's this notion of how the Vatican relates to wealth. I don't think we can even begin to address the other multiple expressions of abuse until we start seriously demanding accountabilty for how our leadership relates to the wealth of the world. There is a spiritual way and a worldly way. The vast majority of Catholic history has been thoroughly polluted by relating to wealth in the worldly way. It's past time to try a different path.