Losing faith in the church's business methods


PLATFORM:Catholicism’s senior management must explain and atone for its questionable actions, writes MARGARET E WARD

IT’S A multibillion euro business with properties and offices throughout the world. The company’s services are used by a huge percentage of the global population and many proudly display – and even promote – its logo. This secretive, privately-held organisation has been in business for eons. It has a strong brand and a much-loved image.

Yes, the Catholic Church is perhaps the world’s biggest business. It has a corporate logo, brand values, a service offering, customer promises and a skilled workforce.

The Logo. The crucifix is one of the planet’s most instantly recognisable symbols. The brand doesn’t need product-placement opportunities since its logo continues to adorn the neck – and bodies – of some of the world’s biggest celebrities. Mel Gibson, Madonna, David Beckham and many others are closely associated with the logo.

The Brand. The Catholic brand is known for goodness, purity and the highest moral and ethical standards. Jesus Christ founded the company with his entrepreneurial colleagues a couple thousand years ago. Their brand messages and marketing materials – the Bible – have stood the test of time and gained them many loyal followers.

The Promise. Strict terms and conditions apply to the Church’s spiritual services. Catholics who live a good life by adhering to the rules of the religion – don’t kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or want other people’s stuff but do obey your parents, honour God and make your sacraments – are promised an express trip to heaven when they die.

There will be no stopover in Purgatory or extended layover in Hell for loyal customers.

On arrival, clients will be greeted at the Pearly Gates by their guide, St Peter, and granted entrance to a place of eternal happiness. Newcomers will be serenaded by angels of the heavenly choir and surrounded by all that is good and right. They will meet the people who have died before them and, most importantly, they will have an audience with the Almighty.

The Offering. Before customers can enter heaven they must study and pledge loyalty to the religion through the sacraments. In return, they become part of an international community that strives to do unto others as they would do unto you. The club is highly regarded for its work among the poor and for providing education in many needy nations.

Members pay to assist with these good works and to help with spiritual and material needs within their own local communities.

The Reality. Like many large companies that have fallen into disrepute, the brand’s promises are very different from the customers’ experience. As we learned from the Ryan report, also known as the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the business has been badly broken for a long time.

The brand has betrayed its customers and shareholders.

The Catholic Church has been a market leader, and even an innovator, when it comes to the widescale abuse of children for business purposes. Our church developed and perfected many modern business and political techniques.

Children’s sweatshops. Children were captive workers who paid for the orders’ holiday homes and lavish meals with blood, sweat and tears plus a good lashing of rape, degradation and dehumanisation.

Creative accounting. Funds given by the Government to feed, clothe and house orphans and industrial school detainees were not entirely used for this purpose, a percentage was funnelled into many of the religious orders’ more mainstream schools.

Innovative imprisonment. Children were held against their will on questionable charges such as “wandering”. Thankfully they were not asked to wear orange jumpsuits, just rags.

Generational mind control. Many of our industrial schools, orphanages and mother and baby homes were run under brutal totalitarian regimes.

Romania’s orphanages, created by the notorious Nicolae Ceausescu, bear a striking resemblance to the Irish system.

Pierre Poupard, the head of Unicef in Romania, told the BBC that the orphans were a “lost generation” - closeted away from society, often malnourished and subjected to physical and even sexual abuse.

Would Jesus Christ be happy to wear the church’s logo now?

The shareholders of this failed corporation – its parishioners – should call an annual general meeting and demand that the executives explain themselves and atone for their actions in words, deeds and cash.

Margaret E Ward is a journalist and managing director Clear Ink. Blog: margaretward.ie