Poor Pinoys, Billionaire Beggars
Updated: Jan 4
The Wholly Rotten Criminal Church - 05
By 23 December 2021, the death toll of typhoon Rai (Odette) in the Philippines stood at 258. Many hundreds more are wounded, 47 still missing. Over 600,000 are left homeless, lacking water and food.
But all is well in the Philippines. As GMA News headlines on December 18, the Archbishop of Cebu is perfectly safe, even if some of the properties on his residential compound did suffer catastrophic damage. To make matters worse however, many trees got felled in the compound of the Santo Tomas Church, Danao City - Cebu.
The typhoon seems to be god's anniversary gift to celebrate two years of Corona-pandemic and adds to the 51,000 deaths in the Philippines caused by god's latest biblical plague. From 2015 to 2018 the Republic of the Philippines saw its people fare a little bit better, but the pandemic has plunged many Filipino families (back) into poverty. They can rejoice however that their much adored Catholic Church has gotten richer and is in perfect financial health. As this fifth instalment will also turn out to be a very lengthy one, let’s start with the conclusion.
A matter of perspective
It has only been a few decades since the Republic of the Philippines was counted as a 'Third World' country or ‘developing nation’. Seen as derogatory, the terminology to describe the living standards of a country changed significantly, as did the scope of criteria used to determine what made a country ‘developed’, ‘developing’ or ‘underdeveloped’. Since the 1990’s, the Human Development Index was increasingly used to describe the economic and social state of a country and the comparison between them. Since macroeconomic data like Gross Domestic Product or employment rate offer a rather limited view on a population’s well-being, the HDI bases itself on the following main criteria: life expectancy at birth, average years of schooling, expected years of schooling and gross national income per capita.
The index expresses the performance of a country on a scale from 0 to 1 with 1 being the “ideal” development stage. In 2020, the global average was around 0.7 on this scale. In 1990, the Republic of the Philippines still found itself far below this average with an index value of 0.595. Since then it has been climbing the scale rapidly, catching up to former “First World countries”. In 1993 it reached the 0.6 value, the “good” 0.7 average in 2015, doing slightly better in 2019 with a 0.718 score. There are a few sub-criteria on which the Philippines score extremely well (i.e. gender development index), but the positives are dragged down by the scores in other categories. One of those is the income per capita (income per household) criterion or more precisely, the income disparity thereof.
Although the income disparity has lessened a tiny bit for the Philippines between 2015 and 2018, a closer look at the numbers from the Philippine Statistics Authority will tell you millions of sad stories. The average annual income per Philippine household* in 2018 was 6,272.55 USD, or 1,254.51 per capita. [Average annual income per capita USA in December 2019: 33,140.80 USD]. While the average income has increased since 2015, so have food and utility prices. The poverty threshold for a Filipino in 2018 stood at a yearly income of 504.10 USD per capita. From the same survey can be derived that in 2018 16.60 % of all Filipinos live in absolute poverty (22 % in 2015), while more than half of them are barely able to feed themselves. Bottom line of the survey: one in five Filipinos is struggling to survive, while 9 million Filipinos live in perpetual starvation. Need more salt for the wounds? The Philippines is the country within South East Asia with the largest homeless population: more than 4.50 million. Almost 3 million of them try to scratch a living in the streets of Metro Manila, right under the nose of one of the richest organization in the Philippines: the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila. And while the average yearly income of a Filipino in 2018 stood at 62,600 PHP, the average annual revenue per Catholic priest in the Philippines stands at a vastly underestimated 2,500,000 PHP. But in all fairness, what clergy man could possibly survive in the Philippines with a measly 50,100 USD per year? Unlike the average working Filipino, they have expenses.
Filthy rich... literally
The Catholic Church in the Philippines is consistently breaking the Philippine law. It does so in full knowledge thereof and in all intent. In line with the apostle Paul, it encourages people to follow the laws of their countries, to be good law abiding citizens and to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But when it comes to practicing what they preach, they don’t give a goddamn about the Philippine laws or the Philippine people. The Catholic Church’s utter contempt for the Filipinos is easy to demonstrate.
On July 04, 2019 the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an invitation to comment on the guidelines concerning money laundering and terrorist financing that all non-stock and non-profit organizations have to follow in order to comply with the Philippine Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines (RA. 11232). Most of those guidelines are nothing new and what’s more: easy to obey: “5.2.3. Financial accountability and transparency – The board of trustees approves an annual budget and follows a process to monitor the use of funds. The board of trustees also mandates that its NPO keep adequate and complete financial records of income, expenses, and financial transactions throughout its operations, including with respect to the use of its funds. NPOs clearly state program goals when collecting funds, and ensure that funds are applied as intended and consistent with the purpose of the organization. Information about the activities of the NPOs shall be made publicly available.”
The Catholic Church violates those rules willingly, intentionally and repeatedly. By law, the charitable status of the Catholic Church should be revoked and their tax exemption annulled. The Catholic Church is already known for being the biggest money launderer in the world and chooses to fall in the highest risk organizations by its unwillingness to comply with rules that apply to every hard working business owner. They should be deemed ineligible for insurance policies because of their plain refusal to disclose provenance and spending of funds, lest those insurance companies are willing to be deemed high risk as well by association.
Because of the Catholic Church’s continuing law breaking, we cannot calculate its wealth with absolute precision. But as much as the Catholic bishops will hate it, we can give some estimates. They are always welcome to disprove the presented assessment, by simply obeying the law, have their financial statements audited and disclose them to the public.
We’ll start with the factual tip of the iceberg.
Ploughing through 300 + company disclosures on PSE.edge requires no small amount of patience and perseverance, but it isn’t all too hard to find out that based on the closing share prices of 20 December 2021, the Catholic Church of the Philippines owns 32,616,508,428.21 PHP in PSE listed stocks [653.64 million USD]. Those stocks provided the Church with a dividend income of: 564,467,221.92 PHP [11,311,968.38 USD] in 2020 567,627,060.80 PHP [11,375,291.80 USD] in 2021
The latter two amounts are of course after dividend withholding tax, which is deducted at the source. It would not surprise me at all that, in spite of being illegal entities, the Catholic dioceses and monastic orders would have the gall to reclaim the DWT because of their “charitable” status. Whether their combined 2020-2021 dividend income stands at 1.132 billion PHP or 1.258 billion is probably of little concern to them. A difference of 126 million PHP is what some bishops spend on their private residences; hardly worth devoting a chapter on. Let’s not forget either, that what we see of the iceberg is on average only 10 per cent of its total mass. This definitely applies to the wealth of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. There have been the odd newspaper articles or blogs about the HRCC’s stock holdings…and that’s where most of them stop when estimating the riches of the number one criminal cartel.
The files submitted by the stock listed companies only have to disclose the 100 largest shareholders. It is fair to assume that the actual number of stocks directly owned by the Catholic entities is much higher. Furthermore, the Church undoubtedly parks large sums of money to be invested in stocks by intermediary of stock brokers, just as many Filipinos would do. The list of top 100 stockholders submitted to the SEC would therefore state the stockbroker as shareholder if it falls within the 100 largest, not the customer accounts of the brokerage firm. Nothing stops the Philippine dioceses from investing in foreign stock markets. They are without a doubt among the 15,000 customers the Vatican Bank is managing financial assets for. Thus it is safe to assume that the total stockholdings are at least twice the total that can be derived from the company disclosures.
Going over the financial statements of dioceses for our previous posts has taught us a thing or two about the church’s investment strategies. They are no different than any other bank or investment company. It is quite evident that the stock holdings of the Philippine dioceses are but a portion of their financial assets. Most of those are in fact invested in fixed income securities. Applying the common distribution rates, the stock portfolio of a diocese usually represents between 25 to 35 % of their financial assets. So let’s be gentle and apply the 35 % rate. Summing up, we can confidently state that the HRCC Philippines’s financial assets are:
Treasury bonds and treasury bills: 186.38 billion PHP
Stock market listed company shares: 65.22 billion PHP,
and that the total dividend and interest income of the HRCC Philippines in 2021 was: 9.08 billion PHP.
Combining statistical data of the Philippine Statistics Authority with some of the Hypocrite Catholics’ own publications, we get a peek on their year round operating revenue. Sometimes their pride just gets the better of them. Like their brethren in Italy, Belgium and other countries across the globe, the Catholic clergy of the Philippines is always happy to sell admission tickets to heaven, aka sacraments. After 456 years of scamming the Filipinos, this form of racketeering still lines their pockets with “a few coins”.
Issuance of baptism certificates: 160 million PHP
Baptism ‘stipends’: 4 billion PHP
Wedding fees and ‘stipends’: 782 million PHP
Total sale of sacraments 2019: 4.942 billion PHP [99.04 million USD]
The church wouldn’t be the church if it didn’t extort its sheep on a weekly (often daily) basis: Sunday service collections in 2019 (low end): 8.52 billion PHP. Although the Holy Racketeers of Catholic Criminals have many forms of income, Sunday collections are still a major one. This also explains the ambiguous stance of the Church towards the quarantine measures imposed by the Philippine government in 2020-2021. The prohibition of mass gatherings caused a serious downturn in regular revenues. On the other hand: you can’t milk dead sheep [Although the death of their flocks may still generate a small compensation, you can only sell the dead meet once]. We can still say a thing or two about the abolition of the centuries old ‘arancel system’ of the church; it advertises it with much pomp and glory and presents it as the one of the greatest gifts to the Filipino people in the 21st century. But don’t let those wolves fool you, they already rolled out their back-up plan. Let’s just keep in mind for now that “the Catholic Church giveth, and the Catholic Church taketh”.
So far we have established that in normal circumstances, the yearly income of the Catholic Church is around 14 billion peso. That is of course way too little to offer the Catholic clergy a chance to lead a decent life; but at least they don’t have to sleep under a bridge like those homeless children they don’t give a ship about. These numbers are the ones we have fairly easy access to. It is clear that the above described income doesn’t reflect the total revenues of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, nor does it give a very accurate idea of the church’s total asset value or net asset value. We will give some examples further on, but to arrive at a fair estimate of the total assets and total income of this secretive financial tycoon is a gargantuan task, if not impossible. We have no idea what the church receives in donations on top of the Sunday collections or sacramental sales, next to zero numbers on bequests, residential and commercial properties held by the church or the rental income derived from them. In spite of the quadrillions of websites, blogs, online publications, digitized archives and so forth, very few give us a comprehensive overview of the possessions of the church, their value and the income they generate. There are no numbers available on the sale of trinkets at pilgrimage sites, no data on the stipends the church collects for “month’s mind masses”. What more can be said about the Catholic Church’s incredible wealth has to be calculated, deducted or inferred through a plethora of channels.
Save the people. Rob them blind
In 1899, the Dominican friar Ambrose Coleman published in Boston (Ma. USA) a compendium of previous magazine articles from his hand. As can be expected the book is enormously biased; especially when describing the 1898 revolt against Spanish rule as a devious Masonic plot that incited the happy Filipino slaves to suddenly become unhappy with their benevolent slave master. Commenting on his time in the Philippines as a missionary, it gives a good insight in the minds of the Catholic clergy ruling the Philippines and their opinion of their subjects. As these Catholic missionaries, up until the last days of their reign, saw the Filipinos as retarded, uncultured and uncivilized savages, they felt perfectly justified in ruling, exploiting and oppressing them. It similarly made them feel entitled to their lands and natural resources. Thus they stole whatever they wanted from the Filipinos and over a good four centuries built up the enormous wealth the now mostly indigenous Catholic clergy is still increasing and living off. To asses this wealth one has to have a rudimentary idea about the history of the Philippines as a colony of Spain and the papacy. The dynamics can be described very briefly:
"Divide et impera": favor one clan to gain control of another
Steal their lands
Allow them to work the no-longer-their lands for a “small” fee if they convert to Catholicism.
Once they are convinced they need salvation, charge them for their salvation.
Use funds to finance territorial expansion and control of allied clans
Repeat process until maximal colonization
Set up banks to solidify economic control; organize education to monopolize knowledge and brainwash new generations. Train selected indigenous to become their own prison guards and tax collectors. Force remaining heathens to Catholicism through social coercion.
This in a nutshell describes how the Catholic Church in the Philippines amassed its fortune. With land being the basis of it all, that’s where we will continue our assessment.
One of the most renowned and oldest universities in the world, the University of Santo Tomas in Sampaloc, Manila is one example of prime real estate owned by the Catholic Church. The university branched out over a number of campuses in the past century. Its main and most known campus sits on a beautiful plot of land in the center of Manila of 21.50 hectares. The market value of that one parcel of land?
As there is no government database with an overview of market prices for land in the Philippines, under whatever form, we’ve consulted 200 online advertisements for lots for sale in Sampaloc, Manila. Prices varied from 63,300 PHP per square meter to 280,000 PHP per square meter [5,611.22 USD per m2]. The larger the lot, the higher the average price. Calculation of the average of those 200 ads yielded a land price per square meter of 152,000 PHP. With the UST campus being 21.50 hectares, its land value amounts to 32.68 billion PHP [655 million USD]. That’s just the land of course. And this is only one example of real estate of the Catholic Church.
Do we know how much land the Catholic Church still owns in the Philippines? Not exactly, but diving into the four hundred years of colonial history we can get an idea.
When the Americans became the new colonial power in the Philippines and started surveying the country, they found that the Catholic Church owned approximately 836,366 hectares of cultivated and built-on land. In the hopes of defusing the tensions between the Filipinos and the church over land use and ownership, the American rulers tried to transfer some of that land back to indigenous ownership. After two years of negotiation with the dioceses and missionary orders in the Philippines on the one hand and the Holy See-but-do-not-Tell in Rome on the other, governor Taft was able to buy 170,000 hectares of land in 1904 for the favorable sum of 7.25 million USD [representing approx. 220 million USD in 2021]. Given the history of the Philippines, that may not seem like a fair value from the friar’s perspective. For four hundred years however, they had been generating income on lands they had stolen and instead of giving it back to the Filipinos, they now sold it back to them through the brokerage of the USA. As said in our previous articles on the Wholly Rotten Crime Conglomerate, if you’re a criminal the size of this one, crime really does pay. The land deal created more problems of its own, but the Catholic Church could sit easy on the pile of money it got and the 666,666 hectares it still owned. For the superstitious reader among you, this number cannot possibly be a coincidence, can it?
In 1947, then president Manuel Roxas agreed on another purchase of 4,342.16 hectares. The purchase agreement entailed various stipulations, with the payment of 5.63 million pesos being its main point [32,271,160 USD or 1,613,558,000 PHP in 2021]. Between 1904 and 1946, the civil authorities of the American colony had continued brokering land deals. As fore mentioned purchase by president Roxas shows, the process would continue well into the 21st century and court’s agendas still have land disputes between the Philippine Republic and the Catholic Church lining up. Based on what little historic information we have, we calculated that the Catholic Church still owns approximately 146,000 hectares of land in the Philippines, most of it in and around Metro Manila. Calculating this amount of land at a market value similar to the land occupied by the University of Santo Tomas would lead to a total land value of 221.92 trillion PHP. We realize however that not all land holdings should be considered at those prices (even though the “UST-average” is already an underestimation). Breaking down the total land area between rural, agricultural zones, while maintaining that 60 % of church lands is situated in high priced urban centers, leads us to a final underestimate of the church’s land value of 115 trillion PHP [2.31 trillion USD].
Catholic apologists like Boyd and Marsden, featured in our introduction article, may well argue that buildings are a liability (which is why the church keeps buying and building them?) and land but sleeping assets, but the fact is that every morning the Catholic Church wakes up a little richer. Land prices in the Philippines are rising at annual rates between 6 and 15 %. Even if the Church would only own a 25 hectare lot of land in the province of Batangas or Laguna, worth well over 300 million PHP, in the two months between the research and publication of this article it should book an unrealized gain in asset value of 5 million PHP. Earning 80,000 PHP with one good night’s sleep means nothing to these poor fellows of Christ. While millions of Filipinos are literally starving, the Church holds out its billionaire hands, begging the poor to finance its building projects and pay for the upkeep of its palaces.
Living the life: the small kubo of the Bishop of Bacolod, Negros Occidental
Some of the families that helped out the Catholic Church pay for its quarter billion peso renovations to Manila Cathedral. The HRCC has yet to contribute to the 5k peso renovations of their benefactors' homes.
Pay to pray: constructed assets of the HRCC Philippines
In our introduction article we already mentioned the “Mother Church” of the Philippines. In 2012 the Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Concepcion (although there is nothing minor about this humble cottage) closed its doors for major renovations. Luckily for the archdiocese, it did not have to spend a single penny of the more than 250 million peso needed for the renovations. For the most part, the project was funded by wealthy tycoons like Ramon Ang (San Miguel Corporation), George and Mary Ty (Metropolitan Bank and Trust) and the Consunjis (DMCI Holdings). They were credited by the grateful cardinal Tagle at the reopening mass on 09 April 2014, completely free of charge! The “small parishioners”, so described by the vice-chairman of the foundation heading the project, were collectively thanked for their smaller donations afterwards, in her interview with the Manila Times on April 12, 2014. The Manila Cathedral is only one building, but we recycled it as an example of how the Catholic Church does not spend money of its own to build a church or maintain it. Push to shove, everything the Catholic Church owns is funded by parishioners. Once again, let’s not get into the semantics of ownership, as the clergy so often does.
How does the Catholic priest Francis Marsden look when held against the background of the above example? “On the whole, buildings are a liability. Maybe 30–50% of our annual income goes on repairs, maintenance and heating costs. A big repair job like a roof replacement can easily empty a parish’s bank account and send it into the red.” So did this 250 million repair job send the Archdiocese of Manila in the red? Of course not, it was in fact a very profitable endeavor. Cost wise it was a zero sum operation for the church and with its doors reopened to the public, it could now continue to milk its Catholic sheep.
Giving the University of Santo Tomas a second look, we notice that it is not merely made up of empty land. Its main and oldest building was constructed from 1924 to 1927 for a present day equivalent of 608 million PHP [12,190,701.75 USD]. This one campus alone counts some 20 similar sized buildings, parking lot, swimming pool, fountains and pavilions. And UST is only one of at least 423 colleges and universities under the umbrella of the HRCC in the Philippines.
The main 5.45 hectare campus of De La Salle University on Taft Avenue in Malate is tightly packed with 15 buildings. A rough underestimate of these constructed fixed assets at present day construction cost would yield a value of 10.25 billion PHP. It would take anyone several years to compile a mere basic list of all the constructed fixed assets of the church. Such a list would include:
5,980 churches (estimate)
5,000 parish schools (estimate)
423 colleges and universities, each with one or more campuses and one or more buildings per campus (count of the Wikipedia list, see references)
51 hospitals (as listed by the Catholic Directory)
9,040 priest residences, whether part of larger compounds, condominiums, detached homes or palaces like the ones for Manila and Cebu archbishops
monasteries and sanctuaries
religious statues on public grounds
religious statues on private grounds
parking lots, car parks
cemeteries (which are basically next level retirement homes) and funeral parlours
residential and commercial real estate
Installations for all the above
Furniture for all the above
Value of this summary list (at least 23,000 buildings) at construction cost: 12.25 trillion PHP.
"Sharing a Jeepney with those smelly commoners and pay 9 peso for a ride?
Not me", says bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, "to extend my services to the poor and sell baptisms or confirmations, I will not accept anything less than...
... a 1.6 million SUV. How else can I tend to my sheep?"
The same bishop made headlines again when he shielded a priest accused of child rape from criminal investigation in 2011.
Unlike our greedy, pardon, needy bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, I treat every Catholic priest as an equal child of god and give them each a 250,000 PHP car (which is already far more than they deserve). I don’t see the Church giving lay Filipinos cars worth 1.6 million PHP for their birthday. Anyway, this puts the value of their car park at 2.26 billion PHP. God told me that it’s actually a lot, lot more; but the Church officials refuse to believe that god speaks to me, let alone confirm god’s words.
Free education for all Filipinos
Running a school or hospital certainly comes with a lot of expenses, there’s no denying that from our end. And what’s more, the Catholic Church does in fact spend a lot of its money on helping out the poor and disadvantaged: almost 10 % of its revenue. So yes, the Catholic Church in the Philippines does do charitable work. But so do many companies, corporations and Filipino citizens. We know that DMCI Holdings Inc. for example, did a lot of the renovation work on Manila Cathedral for free. Does that entitle the company to the tax exemptions reserved for charitable institutions? Conversely, does organizing education through institutions like UST or DLSU make the Church a charitable institution? Are all the hospitals run by Catholic orders offering free health care to all who walk through their doors? Can young Filipinos obtain a bachelor or master degree without paying any fees? Charging a student 500,000 PHP for a bachelor’s degree does not really qualify as charity. This sum represents almost two years of entire household income for more than 50 % of the Philippine population. The fact that the University of Santo Tomas is a direct owner of PSE listed company stocks shows that the reputable institute is definitely not a leak to the HRCC’s overall finances. With 40,375 students enrolled in 2019, the admission, administrative, tuition and miscellaneous fees received that year exceeded 4 billion PHP.
We realize that the numbers we present are sometimes hard to believe. Let’s look at the 2013 financial statements of the Private Education Retirement Annuity Association. Its acronym PERAA could not be more appropriate to tell you what the Catholic Church is all about. Based on its average annual Return on Investment of 13.16 %, we assume that the numbers of 2013 are lower than the present ones.
Note also how the distribution of investments mirrors our earlier assessment of the company stocks, treasury bonds and bills directly owned by the Catholic dioceses and monastic orders. Seeing that this one trust enjoyed 269.56 million PHP in interests and dividends in 2013 puts the 9.08 billion postulation for the entire Catholic Church of the Philippines in our opening balance sheet much closer to being fact, rather than fiction.
Another rare financial statement of any Catholic institution that we have found online, was the “President’s Report” for the fiscal years 2015 to 2017 of the UST Research and Endowment Foundation Incorporated (its fiscal years follow UST’s academic years). The foundation raised 10,262,096.78 PHP. In 2016, 499,290 PHP of those funds was government funding through the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. In 2017, it received another 299,645.00 PHP as first tranche of a 1 million PHP grant by said commission. Over both years, the foundation disbursed 4,003,592.41 in scholarships. Of those disbursements, 49,655.00 PHP went to travel expense of professors, 47,135.00 PHP to travel expenses of assistant professors and UST professor Alfredo P. Co got 80,000.00 PHP to give a lecture. Paying a professor 80,000.00 PHP to give one lecture? In all, students received 3,825,802.41 PHP (37.28 %) of the donations given to the foundation and the underprivileged professors received 176,790.00 PHP (1.72 %), or a total disbursement of 39.00 % of received donations. Either the Board of Trustees further paid themselves a compensation for their management, or they parked the remaining 6,258,504.37 in interest or dividend generating financial assets. Both scenarios put the charitable aspect of the foundation in question however, as not even 50 % of the received donations were used as intended. If the board would have done the same since its 1991 existence, with similar funding and disbursements, it might be sitting on a juicy pot of 162 million PHP (who but the board members can say?). How many Catholic trusts and foundations like PERAA and USTREF are there in the Philippines: one hundred, a thousand, five thousand? We may be talking about trillions of Philippine pesos rather than billions.
As manager of a fund like this, would I do differently? No, as any good head of a household or company, I would spend less than I get in. I’d invest and try to become independent of donations as a safeguard against a possible decrease of goodwill or dwindling numbers of benefactors.
What I wouldn’t do however, is go out in the streets of Metro Manila and beg the homeless to give me more money. I would not go visit farmers and ask them to donate more coins to my cause when they are forced from their fields because they can no longer pay off the interests on their loans for seeds or seedlings. I would not accept donations for a millionaire’s car to replace the one I should not have accepted as bribery in the first place. I would not emotionally blackmail millions of Filipinos into giving up to 10 % of their subsistence level income. I wouldn’t charge them to baptize their new-born after I made them believe that it’s a necessary requirement for a better afterlife. When sitting on billions of pesos, I would not pretend to be strapped for cash and abuse the generosity and kind-heartedness so typical of the Filipino people. Then again, I am not a Catholic priest.
David, aPHD, 29 December 2021
A poisoned gift? The abolition of the ‘arancel system’.
“Φοβού τους Δαναούς και δώρα φέροντες” – “Fear the Greeks even when bearing gifts”. Those who dabble in classical literature will recognize it as Vergil’s verse 47 of the “Aeneas”. For thousand six hundred years, and for 500 years in the Philippines, the Catholic Church’s main activity has been making money, in whatever way possible. In the 21st century, in denial of worldwide reports on its imaginable wealth, it pretends that it really isn’t that rich at all. The Catholic Church adamantly maintains that it is barely surviving financially. And in their worst monetary need, to everyone’s delight, they suddenly cut off a main source of income: the sale of sacraments. We should heed Lacoön’s warning and ask ourselves: “What’s the catch?”
It took the Archdiocese of Manila a few years to implement a policy that was already set forth by Pope Francis in the beginning of his papacy. The reason for this is simple: before going public with their latest PR-stunt, the Catholic dioceses needed to come up with a back-up plan. Yet even without their eyes on alternative sources of income, it tells us a few things about the wealth of the Catholic Church:
First of all, the Catholic Church is so rich that it doesn’t need to charge their parishioners a predetermined fee to baptize a new tax payer.
Second: – before you drop on your knees to kiss the Archbishop's hand:
The decree by Mr. Pabillo lifts the fixed rates on baptism, confirmation and mass intentions. That means that first communion, matrimony and last rites are still subject to the fixed rates.
Fees for baptism, confirmation and mass intentions are no longer fixed. In other words, the parish priest giving the sacrament can ask whatever he wants. If he does it for free, lucky you, but he is now at liberty to ask whatever he wants, even if it is twice the former rate. Like any goods or service, price is determined by offer and demand. Given the serious shortage of priests, this could open the door to substantial price rises for church services, as the people asking for sacraments outweigh its suppliers 8,000 to one.
The decree only applies to the archdiocese of Manila. Some dioceses in the Philippines have decreed the abolition of the 'arancel' much earlier than the fore mentioned (i.e. Lingayen-Dagupan already obeyed the pope in 2015). But every (arch-) diocese decides for itself whether or not to implement the propaganda policy.
Lastly, but far from least: for years now the Catholic dioceses have been aggressively promoting the idea of stewardship. This is the back-up plan. Catholic dioceses have been flooding the internet with their call for solidarity, moral and emotional blackmail (look at all those poor people in the world – while the priests in Manila literally step over the poor laying at their doorstep). But more than that, the Church is reminding its sheep that giving money is not a matter of choice. It is your duty as a Catholic to fund your friendly neighborhood spider. How many times have you not heard a Christian say that all Mosaic Law and prophecies have been fulfilled by Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection and are therefore abrogated. There is not a single instruction from Jesus that the Christian churches can use as a basis to demand payment from their members. There is not a single instruction from Jesus that told the apostles to organize a church. So lo and behold, where do some dioceses get their ideas for this “stewardship”? Yep, the Old Testament; and they make no qualms about how much you should give.
The Holy Spirit Catholic Church of Atlanta even gives its flock a complete “tax form” with breakdown of how much per bracket of income and to whom you have to give: 5 % to the parish, 1 % to Peter’s pence (and we all know where that money ends up), and 4 % directly to charity (Catholic organizations only of course!) Check out their shameless greed on https://www.hsccatl.com/Stewardship/Worksheet
Other Catholic leeches, pardon, preachers oppose this blatant imposition, even calling it extortion, but they none the less uphold the Obligation to support your church materially. I quote from the Catholic Answers Staff: “Christians are dispensed from the obligation of tithing ten percent of their incomes, but not from the obligation to help the Church.” “God doesn’t demand a fixed amount of money from us; he wants us to give from the heart. If people are forced by their church to give a certain percent of their income, that’s extortion. If they give freely and cheerfully the amount they are able, that’s a gift.”
If it is your duty to give money to the church, then where is the freely?
Under the ‘arancel’ system, you were charged per service rendered, correction, per magic formulas pronounced in your presence. Under the “stewardship’ paradigm however, you are morally coerced into paying all year round, whether you attended last Sunday’s magic show or not. The circle is made whole when you realize that by their own standard, the Church itself is only beholden to give ten percent of its income to charity. And that’s exactly what we see in the Catholic Church’s financial statements (the percentage varies of course, but rest assured, it never comes anywhere near the eighty or ninety percent). See the pattern? The HRCC is not much different than any other bank. [I apologize for the analogy to those banks that are in no way involved in criminal practices].
I realize however that some people, for some reason, just love to be fooled. Other people will support criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes they commit. Maybe it is because people need to believe in something greater than themselves, and that that something is a good thing. They will continue believing it, even if the evidence points to the direct opposite. Some people could drop in on a priest raping their children and still look at them in reverence. Some people actually lost their entire life savings after a bank controlled by the Catholic Church fraudulently bankrupted itself; and still put money in the basket during the next Sunday’s service. The Catholic Church, with its 16 centuries of expertise, knows all too well that:
many people would rather be comfortable believing lies than unhappy knowing the truth
Notes, sources and references:
Glenn Cloarec, Ricky Ben-David and Agencies, “Israelis in Philippines call for urgent aid as typhoon death toll climbs to over 375”, 20 December 2021, The Times of Israel, https://www.timesofisrael.com/israelis-in-philippines-call-for-urgent-aid-as-typhoon-death-toll-climbs-to-over-375/
“Typhoon Rai (Odette) hits the Philippines, 600,000 people left with no homes as Christmas approaches”, CARE International, News and Press release, 21 December 2021, https://www.care-international.org/news/press-releases/typhoon-rai-odette-hits-the-philippines-600000-people-left-with-no-homes-as-christmas-approaches
Archbishop of Cebu office and residential compound, photos by Jonathan Rubin, from GMA News Online, “Cebu archbishop's residence, churches, seminary damaged by typhoon’, 18 December 2021 https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/topstories/regions/815044/cebu-archbishop-s-residence-churches-seminary-damaged-by-typhoon/story/
Worldometer, Coronavirus Philippines, Last updated: December 24, 2021, 04:02 GMT. Cases: 2,837,903; Deaths: 50,981. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/philippines/
Frances Mangosing, "Typhoon Odette death toll swells to 258, says NDRRMC", 23 December 2021, Inquirer.net, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1531201/typhoon-odette-death-toll-swells-to-258-says-ndrrmc
A matter of perspective
Economic and Social Research Counsil, “The Human Development Index”, https://esrc.ukri.org/about-us/50-years-of-esrc/50-achievements/the-human-development-index/
United Nations Development Programme, “Human Development Reports”, Source: HDRO calculations based on data from UNDESA (2019a), UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2020), United Nations Statistics Division (2020b), World Bank (2020a), Barro and Lee (2018) and IMF (2020), http://hdr.undp.org/en/indicators/137506
Note: In this article we use an exchange rate of 49.90 PHP to 1.00 USD, as quoted from 17 December to 20 December 2021 by XE Currency Convertor, based on global midmarket buy and sell prices, https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=1&From=USD&To=PHP Evidently, this rate varies daily and may therefore no longer be applicable by the time of publication of the article.
Philippine Statistics Authority, “2018 Family Income and Expenditure Survey”, Volume I. ISHB Series No.182, National and Regional Estimates, FIES 2018 Final Report, https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/FIES%202018%20Final%20Report.pdf
(*) Family or household: for the purpose of statistical data counted as 5 individuals, while in reality there is an opposite correlation between the income deciles and number of household members: the richer a family, the fewer children they tend to have.
Daryn Lenahan, “7 Facts about poverty in the Philippines”, 14 December 2020, the Borgen Project, https://borgenproject.org/poverty-in-the-philippines-2/
“United States Household Income per Capita”, 1984 - 2020 | YEARLY | USD | CEIC DATA, https://www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/united-states/annual-household-income-per-capita
Junio M. Ragragio, “the case of Metro Manila” https://www.ucl.ac.uk/dpu-projects/Global_Report/pdfs/Manila.pdf
Lisa Grace S. Bersales, Ph. D., Undersecretary National Statistician and Civil Registrar General, “Proportion of Poor Filipinos registered at 21.0 percent in the First Semester of 2018”, Reference No.: 2019-053, Release Date: 10 April 2019, Food and Poverty Thresholds, Philippine Statistics Authority, https://psa.gov.ph/poverty-press-releases/nid/138411
Philippine population on 18 December 2021: 111,707,434 Philippines, Population, Worldometer, https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/philippines-population/
“4.5 million homeless: The State of Housing and the Homeless in the Philippines: The Philippines has the largest homeless population in South East Asia towering at around 4.5 million according to the National Statistics Office1, which is already a cause for great alarm.” Kadamay - Philippines - OHCHRhttps://www.ohchr.org › KadamayPhillippines
Juan Du, Stefan Greiving, “Reclaiming On-Site Upgrading as a Viable Resilience Strategy-Viabilities and Scenarios through the Lens of Disaster-Prone Informal Settlements in Metro Manila”, 18 December 2020, School of Spatial Planning, TU Dortmund University, D-44227 Dortmund, Germany, Special Issue Sustainable Planning of Urban Regions, https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/24/10600/htm
Number of priests worldwide and in Philippines:
The Pontifical Mission Societies Philippines, “Statistics for the Catholic Church – 2019”, 19 October 2019, https://pms-phil.org/statistics-for-the-catholic-church-2019/
Citing Mr.Oscar Cruz (former archbishop), there were 9,040 Catholic diocesan priests in the Philippines. Jocelyn R. Uy, “PH Catholic Church badly needs priests for growing flock”, 12 August 2013, Philippine Daily Inquirer, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/464305/ph-catholic-church-badly-needs-priests-for-growing-flock
Tax and Accounting Center Philippines, “How to register a non-stock non-profit in the Philippines?” https://taxacctgcenter.ph/how-to-register-non-stock-non-profit-corporation-philippines/
Securities and Exchange Commission Philippines, Draft of SEC Memorandum to non-stock corporations, foundations and other non-profit organisations, regarding the amended guidelines for the protection of SEC-registered non-profit organisations from money laundering and terrorist financing abuse (“2019 NPO guidelines”) https://www.sec.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2019Notice_MC15RequestForComment_.pdf
Note on the disclosures of Top-100 shareholders: Between the research for, first draft and final publication of this article, there were 24 Initial Public Offerings on the Philippine Stock market, both of new company listings as of new preferred shares of listed companies. Since most of these were not listed for a full or half FY, they have not yet disclosed the list of their top-100 shareholders. One preferred share series has been redeemed while writing the article, while 7 others are under temporary suspension.
Catholic News Herald, “Offering Masses for the Dead”, 27 March 2017, last updated 10 November 2021 https://www.catholicnewsherald.com/faith/funeral/207-news/grief-briefs/1581-offering-masses-for-the-dead, consulted 20 December 2021. Article states a customary stipend of 5 to 20 USD, which is actually a lot lower than amounts quoted in the Philippines (even though Filipino’s statistically have less purchasing power), where prices range from 1,000 PHP (20 USD) to 5,000 PHP (100 USD).
World-o-meters, “Philippine population”, https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/philippines-population/ , 111,776,595 as consulted on 21 December 2021
Wikipedia, “Catholic Church in the Philippines”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_the_Philippines , The number of Catholics stated in the article are based on sources from the Church and from Pew Research Center in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Applying population growth proportionally would mean that since then the number of Catholics would have increased to 96.60 million.
Wikipedia, “Catholic Church in the Philippines”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_the_Philippines#cite_note-newsinfo.inquirer.net-2
Jack Miller. “Religion in the Philippines”, Center for Global Education, Asia Society, https://asiasociety.org/education/religion-philippines
Jocelyn R. Uy, “Filipino Catholic population expanding, say Church officials”, 11 August 2013, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/463377/filipino-catholic-population-expanding-say-church-officials
PNA, “Birth rate, marriages down amid pandemic – PopCom”, 11 October 2021, the Manila Times, https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/10/11/news/national/birth-rate-marriages-down-amid-pandemic-popcom/1817947
Rappler, “Fewer babies: Philippine births at 34-year low in 2020”, 10 October 2021, Rapppler / Philippine population, https://www.rappler.com/nation/philippines-number-births-2020-popcom/
Ferdinand Patinio, “PH tops countries with most number of baptisms”, 14 April 2021, Republic of the Philippines, Philippine News Agency, https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1136739
Republic of the Philippines, Philippine Statistics Authority, “2019 Philippine Marriage Statistics”, Special Release, 11 January 2021, Ref.no. 2021-020 https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/attachments/crd/specialrelease/P.R.%20NO.%202021-020_Marriage%20Statistics%202019_signed_1.pdf
Lyza Paloma, “How to get a baptismal certificate in the Philippines for Catholics”, 15 February 2021, Two Monkeys Travel Group, Guide for Filipinos, Philippine Travel Blog. https://twomonkeystravelgroup.com/baptismal-certificate-philippines/
John A. Pollock, “Parish Taxes”, Philippine Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1 (January, 1960), pp. 181-185 (5 pages) Published By: Ateneo de Manila University, cited from https://www.jstor.org/stable/42720438
Save the people. Rob them blind
Ambrose Coleman, “The Friars in the Philippines”, Marlier, Callanan & Co, Boston 1899, digitized and published online by Project Gutenberg, 15 June 2011, eBook #36438, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/36438/36438-h/36438-h.htm
The New York Times, ”Philippine friars will sell lands”, 17 December 1903, archives, https://www.nytimes.com/1903/12/17/archives/philippine-friars-will-sell-lands-they-agree-with-gov-taft-on-price.html
For the inflation adjustment to 2021 values of the 1904 land purchase, we used the CPI Inflation Calculator of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, $1 in 1904 → 2021 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 21 Dec. 2021, https://www.officialdata.org/us/inflation/1904?amount=1%20(for%20the%201904%20purchase)
Republic of the Philippines, Archives, historical papers and documents, messages, article: “Remarks of President Roxas on the Signing of an Agreement with the Archbishop of Manila covering the purchase of certain Church Landed Estates”, Official Gazette of the Philippines, 23 February 1947, Roxas, M. (1954). Papers, addresses and other writings of Manuel Roxas (Vol. 2). Manila : Bureau of Printing; from the Quezon Family Collections https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1947/02/23/remarks-of-president-roxas-on-the-signing-of-an-agreement-with-the-archbishop-of-manila-covering-the-purchase-of-certain-church-landed-estates/
John N. Schumacher, "Review: Church Lands and Philippine Socioeconomic Development", Philippine Studies 25 (1977) 456-469, Reviewed Works: THE FRIAR ESTATES OF THE PHILIPPINES by Dennis Morrow Roth; LANDED ESTATES IN THE PHILIPPINES. (Yale Southeast Asian Studies, monograph series no. 20) by Nicholas Cushner https://www.jstor.org/stable/42632397
Pay to pray: constructed assets of the HRCC Philippines
Euden Valdez, “The Manila Cathedral: The ‘Mother Church’ restored”, 12 April 2014, the Manila Times, https://www.manilatimes.net/2014/04/12/weekly/the-sunday-times/the-manila-cathedral-the-mother-church-restored/89457
Aries Rufo, "Can we know how rich the Catholic Church is?" 10 January 2015, Rappler, https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/80233-wealth-catholic-church/
Eunice Miranda, “Research outline(Manila Cathedral), 03 March 2011, Eunicemiranda blogpost, https://eunicemiranda.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/research-outline-manila-cathedral/
UST campus map counts 20 buildings and other constructed assets like fountains, decorative arches, statues, a swimming pool pavilions etc. https://www.ust.edu.ph/the-university/campus-map/
Google 3D Warehouse, “The University of Santo Tomas Albertus Magnus Building”, accessed on 21 December 2021 https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model/9dcefa1582e2071693b888148f1bcdf1/The-University-of-Santo-Tomas-Albertus-Magnus-Building-College-of-Education-Bldg?hl=en The site also gives its dimensions, which is helpful to estimate the construction cost: Length 9k inches, width 1k inches, height 8k inches or approximately L35m x W3.95m x H31.62m; 4 floors
“Church in the Philippines”, Union of Catholic Asia News, accessed 20 and 22 December 2021, https://www.ucanews.com/directory/country/philippines/25 Site states a number of 3,393 parishes
Philippines’ Catholic Directory, “Catholic Health Care in the Philippines”, 19 March 2011, http://catholic-ph.blogspot.com/2011/03/catholic-health-care-in-philippines.html Site lists 51 hospitals
Statista, “Average cost per square meter of residential constructions in the Philippines from 1st quarter 2020 to 1st quarter 2021”, Statista.com, Statistics > Construction > Building construction, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1246696/philippines-average-cost-residential-constructions-per-sqm/
Martilyo, “What is the construction cost per square meter in the Philippines? (Updated 2021)”, 20 October 2020, https://martilyo.com/blog/construction-cost-per-square-meter-in-the-philippines/
Lamudi Real Estate, “What you need to know about house construction costs in the Philippines”, 17 June 2019, Journal https://www.lamudi.com.ph/journal/heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-house-construction-costs-in-the-philippines/
Wikipedia, “De La Salle University”, Campuses > Manila https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_La_Salle_University combined floor area of 136,685.95 square meters, at estimated 75,000 PHP construction cost per sqm. Gives 10,251,446,250.00 PHP
Free education for all Filipinos
University of Santo Tomas, “About how much is the tuition fee, “, Office for Admissions, Frequently Asked Questions, https://ofad.ust.edu.ph/faq/ , accessed 18 November 2021, 15 December 2021 and 23 December 2021; citing: “College: approximately PhP 50,000 to 60,000 per semester. Senior High School: approximately PhP 55,000 per semester. Junior High School: approximately PhP 100,000 per year. Education High School: approximately PhP 30,000 per year.”
University of Santo Tomas, “Bachelor of Science in Accountancy (4 years)”, Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy, https://www.ust.edu.ph/academics/programs/bachelor-of-science-in-accountancy/ accessed on 23 December 2021.
Private Education Retirement Annuity Association, annual report 2013 https://www.peraa.org/pdf/Annual%20Report,%20PERAA%20Final.pdf
UST Research and Endowment Foundation Incorporated, “The President’s Report”, Fiscal years 2015-2017, http://refi.ust.edu.ph/assets/president-s-report-2017.pdf
Annex. A poisoned gift?...
Μαρία Παπαμαργαρίτη, “Φοβού τους Δαναούς και δώρα φέροντες (γιατί το λέμε; τι σημαίνει;)”, 28 November 2019, Αρχική Εν Ολίγοις, FreeOpinion.News, https://www.freeopinion.news/en-oligois/fovoy-toys-danaoys-kai-dora-ferontes-giati-to-leme-ti-simainei/ [Maria Papamargariti, “Fear the Greeks when they bring gifts (why do we say it, what does it mean?” – author’s translation]
Jeline Malasig, “PSA: Manila Archdiocese drops fixed fees for baptism, confirmation, mass intentions”, 26 March 2021, Philstar – Interaksyon, https://interaksyon.philstar.com/trends-spotlights/2021/03/26/188509/psa-manila-archdiocese-drops-fixed-fees-for-baptism-confirmation-mass-intentions/
SunStar Manila, “CBCP renews vow to end 'arancel' system”, 30 January 2021, https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1884371/manila/local-news/cbcp-renews-vow-to-end-arancel-system
Encyclopedia.com, “Tithes”, Religion > Encyclopedias almanacs transcripts and maps >Tithes https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tithes
Holy Spirit Catholic Church, “How much should I give”, Stewardship > How much should I give, https://www.hsccatl.com/Stewardship/Worksheet also under header “Stewardship”, consulted 19 and 23 December 2021.
Catholic Answers Staff, “What Is the Church’s Position on Tithing?” Catholic Answers to explain and defend the faith, Q &A, https://www.catholic.com/qa/what-is-the-churchs-position-on-tithing
Archbishop of Cebu office and residential compound, photos by Jonathan Rubin, from GMA News Online, “Cebu archbishop's residence, churches, seminary damaged by typhoon’, 18 December 2021 https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/topstories/regions/815044/cebu-archbishop-s-residence-churches-seminary-damaged-by-typhoon/story/
San Sebastian Cathedral's rectory, the residence of the Archbishop of Cebu, retrieved from: Around the Philippines, "Bishop's House in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines", http://www.aroundphilippines.com/2016/11/bishops-house-bacolod-city-negros-occidental-philippines.html
BBC News, “Philippine bishops to return donated SUVs”, 13 July 2011 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-14143031 The majority of commuting Filipino’s use trains, buses, jeepneys, tricycles, taxis. Not the catholic priests of the Philippines; they need their private vehicles. Photo taken by RURO Photo, Brij Dogra, Aninda Kabir, Stephen Hughes, Lawrence del Mundo, Quejaytee and Daniel Frauchiger via CrowdMedia, from article: Amarendra Bushan Dhiraj,” The Jeepneys Of The Philippines”, 26 August 2014, https://ceoworld.biz/2014/08/26/jeepneys-philippines-amazing-photos/
Image of the Mitsubishi Montero Sport (2011), image retrieved from: Top Gear Philippines, "Mitsubishi upgrades the Montero Sport for 2012", 20 October 2011, https://www.topgear.com.ph/news/mitsubishi-upgrades-the-montero-sport-for-2012
For the photo comments on bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, see i.e. Ina Alleco Silveria, "Gabriela calls on Butuan Bishop to stop coddling priest charged with rape of minor", 30 August 2011, Bulatlat - Journalism for the people, et al. https://www.bulatlat.com/2011/08/30/gabriela-calls-on-butuan-bishop-to-stop-coddling-priest-charged-with-rape-of-minor/