The Vatican announced recently that everything the Pope writes will fall under copyright law, including encyclicals like the one expected later this week. Not only does this apply to all future writings, but they claim it's retroactive for the last 50 years! Everything written by those Beatle-named Popes (John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII) of the last half-century are included.
Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, has been called God's rottweiler. His previous job (1981-2005) in the Vatican was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith... formerly called the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. Yes, that Inquisition. The same folks who brought the world heretic-barbeques and rack-of-man. They just got around to taking the word "Inquisition" out of their group's name in 1908.
In November, 2005 the new Pope visited a sick child in a Rome hospital, and reportedly scared the bejeebers out of the poor lad.
A bill for 15,000 Euros has been sent to a Milan publishing house that printed 30 lines from Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the conclave that elected him. They came up with the figure by demanding 15% of the cover price of the booklets that were sold, plus 3,000 Euros in "legal expenses."
Vittorio Messori, who has co-authored works with Pope Benedict and John Paul II, said that he was “perplexed and alarmed... This is wholly negative and absolutely disastrous for the Vatican’s image.” A pope’s words should be available to all free of charge, he said, and to “cash in in this way surrounds the clergy with the odor of money.”
Er, odor of money? Is the Vatican loaded, or is making the Pope's words a salable commodity sort of like a church bazaar?
The following excerpt from a transcript of programming aired on Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees program on CNN during Pope John Paul II's funeral in April, 2005 makes it sound like the Vatican values itself at one Euro, or currently about eighty-nine cents American. (But that's nearly 2,000 Italian lire, so maybe it's more than it seems.)
JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: People have these notions that there are vast islands of wealth here. I mean, the truth is, the Vatican's a pretty lean and mean operation.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's take a look at some of the numbers. The annual operating budget for the Vatican, $260 million. Property holdings of the Holy See, about $770 million. Add to that 18,000 pieces of art by the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael, Dante, Homer — so what's the grand total? A whole lot less than you would expect. Yes, say the experts, the Vatican does have tremendous artistic wealth, but the Vatican insists the precious artwork and real estate it possesses are held in trust for humanity. What does that mean? St. Peter's Basilica is valued at slightly more than one Euro.
ALLEN: Interestingly, the Vatican lists all of that stuff on its book at one euro, in terms of value. And that's because, from their point of view, it can never be sold. It can never be borrowed against. Therefore, it produces no revenue for them.
BAKHTIAR: We tried contacting Christie's and Sotheby's to inquire, hypothetically, about the fair market value of some of the Vatican's treasures, but we didn't have much luck. Nor did CNN's Vatican analyst John Allen when he tried to attach a price tag to some of these assets.
ALLEN: I once interviewed an Italian contractor to ask him, if you were to build St. Peter's Basilica today, how much would it cost you to put together? And he started trying to do the research to answer my question and called me back and said, can't be done. Nobody would build this building. By today's standards the cost would be so astronomic that it is simply impossible to calculate.
So, maybe, the Pope IS broke. Maybe he can go back to selling indulgences, too.