Monday, September 13, 2010

When An Event Admission Ticket Is Not An Event Admission Ticket

Thought I'd do my small part to help organizers defray the cost of Benedict's visit by advertising some sample souvenirs.  For a thoughtful review of these and others, try this link

Seriously, there are times I don't know whether to laugh or cry--because there are times when Church leaders, in giving the appearance of adhering to Church doctrine, appear very manipulative, more like con artists than spiritual leaders.  This tendency has been amply demonstrated by our clerical higher ups in the abuse crisis, but now Archbishop Vincent Nichols has given us another demonstration of double speak.  His task was to prove that setting an admission price for papal events in Britain did not violate simony statutes, especially setting a flat fee for admittance to Papal Masses.  From RTE Ireland:

Those wanting to see Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Britain this week have been asked to make a 'financial contribution' to attend masses to help make up a shortfall in funding.

When they go to the events, they will also be urged to buy t-shirts, baseball caps and tea cups commemorating the visit, as the Catholic Church's marketing arm swings into action.

The Church is asking for £25 (€30) per head to attend the open-air mass in Birmingham on September 19, the final day of the visit. (This is about $39 US.)

The contribution is slightly lower for the mass in Glasgow on Thursday, at £20, and entry to the prayer vigil in London on Saturday is £5.

All the prices include transport to the venues and a 'pilgrim pack' -- a bag containing a CD and a booklet about the visit.

While asking for payment to attend a papal mass is believed to be unprecedented, the Catholic Church has denied it amounts to an entrance fee.

'Those contributions only cover the costs of the transport and the security provisions,' said Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England.

'It includes their travel so it's not as if it is a payment to go to mass.' (I suppose that technically one could pay for a ticket whose end destination is a papal mass, and not go to the mass.  There for selling 'travel packages' explicitly to papal masses is not technically simony, even though it gives a very definite appearance of violating the spirit of the doctrine.)
The funding of the first ever state visit by a pope to Britain is expected to cost around £20m and has attracted controversy as taxpayers are footing £10 to £12m of the bill.

That leaves a £10m shortfall for the Catholic Churches in England, Scotland and Wales to pick up, of which £6m has already been raised through a public appeal for funds.

The 'financial contributions' to attend the masses will make up the rest.

More than three quarters of Britons are against meeting even half the cost of the visit, according to a poll by public theology think tank Theos this month.


Irish laity are not snapping up their allotment of travel packages.  Of 2500 'financial contributions' slated for the Irish for Pope Benedict's mass in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, 2000 remain.  Where as 300,000 attended JPII"s mass at this venue in 1982, organizers estimate 80,000 for Benedict.  Perhaps Benedict will see this upturn in apathy as proof that his desire for a leaner church is well on it's way.  That would probably be easier for him to accept than the alternatives, that he is not JPII, that the abuse crisis really has had a profound effect on Catholic participation, and that Benedict's Catholic world view is rapidly losing ground in the advancement of secular notions of individual human rights--especially in the democratic anglo world, but also in Latin American countries.

One could wonder if thirty plus years of the restorationist agenda has been particularly good for the People of God.  It doesn't seem to have been to good for the People of God as defined by Vatican II theology.  With the beatification of Cardinal Newman as the centerpiece of this trip, there has been a great deal of writing about Newman and his influence on the Church.  To be honest, I don't actually recognize much of the Cardinal Newman of Vatican II in the analysis of Cardinal Newman coming from Benedict and the Vatican.  I would have to agree with John Cornwell's take, that the theologian whose writing was so much a part of Vatican II thinking would have to be 'restored' as much as Vatican II itself.

One of the more interesting things I learned in reading Cornwell's article is the reason for the extensive decomposition of Newman's body: 

"On a wet October day in 2008, an assortment of priests and grave-diggers arrived at the cemetery in Rednal, armed with shovels and a mechanical digger. They planned to transfer Newman’s remains to a tomb back at his church in Birmingham. Nothing was found except the brass name-plate and a few bits of rotten wood. A solution to the mystery was discovered in the archives of the Birmingham Post. A journalist at the burial reported that, on Newman’s orders, the grave was filled with compost to hasten decomposition."

It does seem that Newman was not interested in the Church finding and restoring his physical remains.  Perhaps on some level he knew that there was nothing he could do about his ideas, so he asserted his only control about those ideas through his burial--side by side with his beloved companion with no relics left to be manipulated for the 'sainthood industry'. Newman's final message seems to be about the supremacy of the love in his life, and this was not to be overshadowed by the veneration or manipulation of his ideas or his physical body.  Truly a message from the grave, but probably not one we will hear from Pope Benedict. 

In the meantime Vatican organizers are most likely concerned with other messages.  After all there are all those 'financial contributions' and 'travel arrangements' yet to be sold.  


  1. Wow, what a T-shirt with Benedict looking like a real spunky all decked out Rock Star! This is the stuff that rock stars use at their gigs to offset costs and defray their traveling expenses.

    Unfortunately, the Church, the Mass, the Pope is not a traveling Rock Band, or is it? Too expensive a gig for people to go to. Will have to wait for the video to come out!!

    Can't wait!! Wow!!

    Word verif: pardione - Party on!!!

  2. "Tickets are free." Except for those who can't come up with approximately $39. What happened to going out to the highways and the byways?

    Jesus never charged a penny! Never even asked for a donation. AND he fed many of those who came... for free!

    I remember when I first read this months ago. It irked me then. It irks me now!

    Jesus himself would not be admitted! I bet he and his disciples would choose to give that money to the poor. Which is exactly where it should go!

    word is: busts

  3. Here's how the psalmist viewed worship:

    Nothing about payment. Doesn't even "require" a priest! Let alone a pope. No evidence of souvenirs being sold. Indeed, I seem to recall Jesus taking out a whip when it came to evicting moneychangers from the Temple!

    Old Testament. New Testament. Testifying AGAINST what the Vatican is requiring of the British public (who want to attend papal masses), a public that is (already) 77% disinterested in a papal visit.

    Not only that

  4. I would prefer to see a breakdown of exactly how all that money is going to be spent. Is it going to cover wages for the extra police officers and EMTs and etc. to assist in managing the very real needs of the expected crowds then obviously there has to be some way to meet those legitimate expenses.

    And of course it is reasonable to make the argument that The Holy See should cover those expenses out of its own assets. Remembering of course that those assets were also contributed by other adherents however willing or not. I certainly would not argue that the taxpayers in the UK should have to cover it entirely.

    But I think the real issue here is that this part of the Catholic Church is devolved into little more than a cult of personality. I saw this easily when JPII was traveling and even more so at his death. Why on earth it should be a big deal to any Catholic to assist at a Mass in which The Pope is the chief celebrant with this sort of expenditure of treasure, I just don't understand.

    Don't get me wrong: I think the bishops should be traveling out, celebrating and meeting up with real Catholics of all walks in life. But I don't know. Maybe they should just show up unannounced in random parishes. Somehow I don't think Christ put up advance billboards advertising The Sermon on the Mount.

  5. Anon:

    The cost of police and so on is being born by the British govt in England and I assume it's the same in every other country he's visiting in the British isles.

    The money being collected by the church is completely apart from the millions and millions being paid by British taxpayers! Indeed, many intend to protest the pope's visit, not only because of antipathy toward the pope, but especially, at a time of economic hardship, for this extra govt expense - one which over three quarters of the population opposes!

    And, as we know, the church never, ever tells us where its money goes...

  6. My apologies, Veronica. I had not seen your name at the end of your comment.

    Interestingly, "cult of personality" seems to define the RCC at this point, not just the papacy. For I recently heard a priest describe the different RCC religious orders - each one urging its own special charisms and methods of spirituality as related to the "cult of personality."

  7. Yes, TheraP, I've seen breakdowns of how much money is required and which 'political entities' if you will are paying what amounts. But that doesn't really tell me a whole lot about exactly what is paid for and by whom. Perhaps because I'm not a citizen of the UK and don't understand their way of life to this sort of detail. For all I know - and it does happen to some degree in the states, some security provided by the government is reimbursed by the private entity holding the event. An example might also be when the President uses Air Force 1 to fly to a location. If the trip is for purposes having to do with partisan politics rather than office presidential type stuff, the political party can be made to reimburse the government for some portion of the expenses. Has the Vatican decided that the number of EMTs the UK has offered to provide is insufficient in their judgment and then opted to provide more? Not saying this has happened, just saying I don't know. There may be some sort of reasonable explanation. Worst case scenario: The government is paying ALL these costs and The Vatican is only claiming they need cash to meet those same expenses so The Vatican makes a cash profit.

    Yes, I'm cynical enough to think that last is the most likely. But I am trying to combat my tendency towards cynicism. I ask you to bear with me. :)

    Nor am I saying that I agree with charging people cash - in whatever amount large or small - and saying it is only to cover the required transportation to the Mass. Said transport required and you can't take part in the Mass without using it from what I've read. In the name of security. In whose opinion? Because maybe that person or entity should be bearing the costs.

    But facts are facts and there ARE costs for the event. Christ could make food out of nothing. But I think that is too much to ask of the average human being. I know I can't. Which might be a good thing. I'd overdose on chocolate myself. :)

  8. Typical liberals, they think money falls from the trees.

    Also, how about all of charatible contributions the CC makes.

    If it wasn't for the Pope(s) and the heirachy, you would have no Catholic church today.


  9. I would think a certain amount of the expenses cited by the Church are for venue rent and the provision of security etc. for events on Church property. I would also think there are fairly serious expenses associated with the religious observances including construction of stages, lighting, sound, choirs, orchestras, celebrants etc. etc.

    Producing these large scale masses would be very similar to producing a major rock concert. Having done some of that in my youth, I have an idea of how high production expenses can get--very high.

  10. Jasper, Catholics are supposed to believe if it wasn't for Jesus and His additional promise to be with us to the end, there wouldn't be any Catholic Church today. Or has Benedict reformed that idea as well.

  11. Finally a topic I really know something about!

    To the extent it is a arena event, like all the others, the municipal and national governments will serve and protect. No charge backs for basic traffic control, public security etc. Nations are expected to provide appropriate security for official visits of heads of state.

    The "rock concert" is all contractual. Colleen's right the venue will expect their fees for all manner of services. Professional production services are not cheap.

    JP2's last World Youth Day was held in Toronto in 2002
    Our Auditor General published a report about the federal government's contribution of $2 million to cover security and operations.

    (The Canadian government has long encouraged the hosting of major international events like this, the Winter Olympics, etc.)

    "Because it is a Church event, the Catholic Church in Canada undertakes the ultimate financial responsibility, and this will be considerable. Since it is an international event of such prestige and importance, and because it will contribute significantly to the economy of Canada, Ontario and the City of Toronto, government help from all three levels is expected and has been promised. The main source of financing the effort will come from the package containing registration materials, meals and transportation passes that will be sold to each of the expected 500,000 registered participants.

    Corporate sponsorship is also expected to be a major source of funding along with the free will offering of Canadians who wish to express concretely their solidarity with youth, "their belief in them, their love for them, and their need for them."

    Unfortunately many of these events do not cover their costs, and do not produce the promised benefits. Often the legacy is a white elephant.

    I wouldn't want to be the promoter of this event.


    This word verification generator must key on some words in the original article. Mine: repig

  12. "If it wasn't for the Pope(s) and the heirachy, you would have no Catholic church today."

    True that - the hierarchy does make me achy in the heart. So what's the point? I'll wager that without the Popes there would still be Christians. Maybe even more Christians.

  13. I love serendipity.

    As I was thinking about Ireland this weekend I tuned into Rick Steves program on NPR. He interviewed Lord Alderdice, one of the key political figures who helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, provides us with a look at the personal reasons that fuel political conflict and provoke terrorist acts. He shares his approach for addressing the tensions that face the United States and its allies today, with suggestions for overcoming terrorism and designing "road maps to peace."

    You can listen to the program podcast here:

    Too bad "religion and church" were so much part of the problem, not the solution. I am puzzled by the relatively small role of religious and clergy in creating and maintaining peace. There are so many examples from every religion and region of the world.

    Canadian troops have been at war in Afghanistan for eight years now. The Canadian Conference of Catholics wrote a letter in 2008 but that's all.

    I've never seen or heard of a single event for peace sponsored by our church.


  14. I don't have a problem with them charging for transportation. They should have charged more for an entrance fee, enough to cover the entire cost of the pope's visit. That way the only people who would have to pay would be the ones who actually want to see him.

  15. Following in the footsteps of Prickliest: How about a subscription system? It would work like this. People who want to see the pope buy a "lay-away" ticket. Over time, could be even years and years, the faithful who yearn to see the pope pay into this system. Next there could be two ways of handling it. Either the pope visits where's he wanted or else there is a lottery system, where all deposits are pooled to pay for the pope visiting one country. In another 10 years another lottery. If you're lucky, or your prayers are answered, you might just get to see the pope! If not this pope, then the next one. Or the next one after that. You could even have a system where people pass on their ticket as a kind of inheritance if they die before they've seen a pope!

    Thank you, Prickliest! You've been an inspiration to me.

    One final thought. You could give a subscription as a gift. It might even become like the proverbial fruitcake that is given over and over...

  16. What I see missing is a papal shot glass. That's what I'd need most after reading this XXI's century version of Tetzel.

  17. That was funny Kevin. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a shot glass being offered somewhere. After all they are collectibles.

  18. Pope's visit lacks public support: poll

    "The government is paying between 10 and 12 million pounds for the state elements of the visit. The security operation will cost up to 1.5 million pounds.

    The Catholic churches in Britain are contributing up to 10 million pounds for the religious aspects. People attending public events on the visit must buy a "pilgrim pack" costing up to 25 pounds."