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The Vatican’s Financial Stake
in Capitalism

(14 June 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 24, 14 June 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Separation of church and state was the cornerstone of civil rights laid by the revolutionary founders of the United States in 1789. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” is the opening sentence of Article I of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.

In the treaty which George Washington made with Tripoli, ratified by the United States Senate on June 10, 1797, it was stated that: “The Government of the. United States of America is not, in any sense, founded upon the Christian religion.”

This doctrine was the fruit of centuries of bloody revolutionary struggle by the rising capitalist class against feudalism, whose chief prop was the Roman Catholic Church.

Exactly 150 years after the Bill of Rights was written, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, head of the greatest capitalist power on earth, was impelled to brush aside the doctrine of the separation of church and state and to make the first direct diplomatic bid to the Vatican by an American President.

Personal Ambassador

In a letter to Pope Pius XII, dated December 23, 1939, Roosevelt tasked the consent of the Pope to send a personal ambassador to the Vatican. This was the beginning of the political relations which continue to this day.

To establish the “new order” after the war, Roosevelt proposed Cooperation between the United States and the Vatican, which was and remains a major prop of fascist regimes in Europe and Latin America. “It is well,” said Roosevelt, “that we encourage a closer association between those in every part of the world – those in religion and those in government – who have a common purpose.”

The establishment of diplomatic relations with the Vatican was in such flagrant violation of the traditional attitude of the American people and government, that; Roosevelt was compelled to circumvent Congress in the matter. He sent Myron C. Taylor not as an official ambassador, but as his “personal representative” to the Pope.

In February 1940, the Pope had his first audience with Taylor, the former head of the U.S. Steel Corporation. Wall Street and the Vatican began to pursue their “common purpose.”

That common purpose is nothing less than the preservation of the capitalist system throughout the world, the suppression of all revolutionary resistance of the workers and peasants and the material and ideological preparation for war against the Soviet Union.

The continuation of Roosevelt’s policy by Truman, who has likewise designated Taylor as his “personal envoy” to the Pope, has aroused ho small alarm and protest from the Protestant denominations who speak, in the religious sense, for the overwhelming majority of our population.

On May 28, the Social Service Commission of the New York (Conference of the Methodist Church stated in its annual report that:

“We request our President to cease regarding the Vatican as a national entity, and to recall any personal representative at once. The sending of an official representative of our Government or a ‘personal representative’ of the President to the Vatican is contrary to the First Amendment of the Constitution ...”

This but echoes the previous strong protest of “Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State,” a joint body of the leading Protestant churches and clergy set up last year to combat the increasing encroachment of the Catholic Church on the public school systems, public treasuries, etc., in this country.

Fanfare for Spellman

In the face of this protest, Cardinal Spellman, the direct emissary of the Vatican in this country, has just been accorded, with the undoubted collaboration and assistance of the U.S. State Department, a triumphal diplomatic tour of Washington’s Far Eastern “sphere.” In the Philippines, Japan and China, American officials and military authorities joined with the heads of the governments – including Dictator Chiang Kai-shek and Emperor Hirohito – in according an official reception to Spellman such as is reserved only for the highest dignitaries of a world political power.

Why is the protest of the majority of religious groups in the United States unavailing?

While they correctly fear that any infringement on the doctrine of the separation of church and state invites the encroachment of Roman Catholic religious totalitarianism, they do not strike at the heart of the present relationship between Washington and the Vatican.

U.S. capitalism, in its drive to conquer the world and preserve capitalism everywhere, is in desperate need of dependable allies. But there is scarcely a capitalist regime outside the U.S. that is stable and self-sufficient. In this mortal crisis of world capitalism, the Big Business rulers of the United States are, forced to turn ever more toward collaboration with the Vatican and the Roman Catholic hierarchy as the most powerful ally in the defense of world capitalism.

For, surprising as it may seem to some people, and particularly misguided Catholic workers, the Vatican considers the defense of the capitalist system its greatest and most-embracing task.

It was Pope Pius XII whose voice rang the loudest in September 1944 in defense of capitalist property against the rising Italian revolution and asserted that “Christian conscience cannot admit as right a social order that denies the principle or renders impossible and useless in practice the natural right to ownership of commodities and means of production.”

When the French Catholic party, the Popular Republican Movement (MRP), was forced to include the slogan of “nationalization” in its program because of overwhelming French sentiment, Pope Pius XII on July 2nd, 1946, published a letter denouncing nationalization, even when carried out by law, and proposed instead “corporative associations” – the corporative State of Mussolini.

Godless Bolshevism”

The Roman Catholic hierarchy is the deadly foe of socialism and communism, not alone for “spiritual” reasons, but above all because they threaten the truly gigantic property and financial interests of the Vatican. Religiously speaking, the Roman Catholic Church holds all non-Catholics as benighted heathens subject to eternal damnation. But today it reserves its unrestrained furies for “godless Bolshevism.”

The reason is summarized by Li Fu-Jen in his article, The Vatican in World Affairs, published in the Fourth International magazine of October 1946. He wrote:

“Tribute flows into its (the Vatican’s) coffers from the most advanced lands and from the most backward. The Vatican publishes no balance sheets, gives no financial accountings. Only the inner circle of the top hierarchy knows the extent of its enormous properties and income. In addition to cathedrals and churches, monasteries and convents, seminaries and schools and mission establishments, the Catholic Church is the owner of vast secular properties, which make it the greatest real estate owner on earth.

“Among Catholic properties are to be found commercial structures of various kinds (including even movie palaces), apartment buildings and slum tenements. As owners of slum dwellings in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, the Catholic Church squeezes rents from the poorest of the poor. Owning great tracts of plantation and farm lands in colonial countries (that is, the Philippines, French Indo-China, North Africa, Latin America) it wrings profits from the labor of the most exploited among rural workers.

“The huge income from all this property, not to speak of the property itself, is imperiled by the rising revolution. This constitutes the explanation, the whole explanation, for the ‘moral crusade’ of the Vatican against Communism and Bolshevism. It explains the intense hatred of the Vatican for the Soviet Union, the first country successfully to breach the system of capitalist private property.”

Recent disclosures in the French National Assembly, resulting from a scandal involving Vatican agents in the illegal manipulation of French currency, have thrown light on the Vatican as one of the most powerful institutions of finance capital in the world. The May 29 La Lutte Ouvrière, organ of the French Trotskyists, reports these disclosures.

Mussolini’s Adviser

The Treasurer of the Vatican is Bernadino Nogara, former adviser to Mussolini. His most important associates are Marquis Schetti, Prince Giulio Pacelli, nephew of the present Pope, the Christian Democratic deputy Montini, and the former Fascist Oddasso, who resides in Switzerland and directs the flow of profits of the Church.

The Vatican Treasury directly controls the Bank of Rome, the Bank of the Saintly Spirit (!) and the Italian Commercial Bank. These Vatican-controlled banks in turn control a whole series of subsidiary land and credit banks in Italy, one Of them, the Ambrosian Bank in Milan, directed by Count Franco Ratti, nephew of the late Pius XI.

One third of all Italian savings – 400 BILLION lire – are under the control of the Vatican.

In France, the Vatican owns a third of the shares in the Bank of H. Worms & Co., which financed the Nazi-collaborationists during the last war. It controls outright the Italian-French Credit Bank – which financed the Cagoulards, the French fascist terrorists – and the French-Italian Bank for South America. The Vatican likewise owns the most notorious gambling resort in the world, the Casino of Monte Carlo, and the Demouhy, Galicier and Lehideux banks. Various Catholic orders have enormous capital investments in the Lyon Credit, Northern Credit and Industrial Credit banks, and the French Dupon & Co. These banks in turn control numerous industrial enterprises.

The total financial investment of the Catholic hierarchy and Vatican in France is estimated at more than 30 BILLION francs. Similar huge sums are invested in Belgium, where the Church in addition receives state subsidies.

In the United States, the Vatican alone has millions of dollars in real estate and industrial stocks and bonds, and collaborates closely with the House of Morgan.

These facts – but a brief glimpse into the capitalist interests of the Vatican – show the real reason why the Roman Catholic Church, the ancient feudal enemy of the rising capitalists, now whole heartedly collaborates with Wall Street – the main bulwark against “godless Bolshevism.” It also explains why American capitalism, which adopted at its birth the doctrine of the separation of church and state, is now cementing its political ties with the Vatican, the second most substantial prop of capitalism left in the whole world.

(This is the third in a series on the political role of the Vatican)

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