The Church of the Poor
by Elizabeth Angsioco for the Manila Standard
This is something that only few of us know: the Philippine Roman Catholic Church is a multi-billionaire religious and business organization. Yes, the Church is mega-rich.
We have always known that the Church, to which at least 80 per cent of Filipinos belong, is rich. Its properties like cathedrals and other big churches, expensive private Catholic colleges and universities all over the country, private hospitals, big buildings and huge tracts of land for their seminaries, etc. are there for people to see. We have always thought this as a given, normal. After all, the Church has been here longer than any of us.
No one really cared to approximate how rich the bishops really are and what the church can do if it really wanted to help poor Catholics.
We know that Catholic schools are the most expensive that only children of the rich can attend. And, yes, Catholic schools are among the best in the country. In effect, children belonging to rich families generally receive better quality education than those of poor Catholic families.
We also know that Catholic hospitals are good. Though they are not the most expensive, still, these are private hospitals that ordinary Catholics can hardly afford. Thus, these hospitals care more for those who are better off than the millions mired in poverty.
Quality education and healthcare are two of the most urgent needs of the people, and we are, as the Church claims, mostly Catholic. Yet, we never question why the Church mostly serves those who are, in the first place, able to fend for themselves.
On top of these properties and service-oriented institutions that earn by themselves are the business holdings of the various Catholic organizations in the country’s biggest business corporations. This, I think, is something that people do not know about. After all, churches are not expected to be business corporations at the same time.
Very recently, news organizations have bannered Catholic Church holdings in at least two big corporations —Philex Mining Corporation and the Bank of the Philippine Islands.
Chamber of Mines head Jerry Brimo said that as of March 31, Catholic entities owned a substantial number of shares in Philex. The Archbishop of Manila owned 3,221,135 shares; the Religious of the Virgin Mary-B with a total of 4,216,804 shares; and the Archbishop in Zamboanga owned 1,116,147 shares.
According to the Philippine Stock Exchange, as of 27 May 2011, each Philex share is valued at P20.45. This means that the Catholic Church’s holdings in the company are valued at P65,872,210.75; P86,233,641.80; and P22,825,206.15 respectively, or a total of P174,931,058.70.
In BPI’s list of its top 100 stockholders as of 31 March 2011, at least eleven were obviously Catholic entities. The worth of these stocks amounts to many billions of pesos (computed at P57.05 per share according to the 27 May PSE Market Information). These were (according to ranking and number of stocks owned):
• 4 Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila with 222,843,681 shares worth P12,713,232,001;
• 8 Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila (Real Casa de Misericordia) with 41,408,841 shares worth P2,362,374,379;
• 13 Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila (Hospital de San Juan de Dios) with 22,072,182 shares worth P1,259,217,983;
• 15 Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila (Hospicio de San Jose) with 6,016,624 shares worth P343,248,399;
• 17 Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila (Hosp de San Juan de Dios) with 4,285,572 shares worth P244,491,882;
• 21 Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila (Mayordomia dela Catedral) with 2,664,266 shares worth P151,996,375;
• 26 Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila (St. Paul’s Hospital) with 1,772,418 shares worth P101,116,447;
• 49 Carmel of the Divine Infant Jesus of Prague, Inc (Filipino) with 726,819 shares worth P41,465,024;
• 60 Superior dela Corporacion Filipina de Padres Agustinos Recoletos, Inc. with 551,382 shares worth P31,456,343;
• 64 Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jaro with 491,385 shares worth P28,033,514; and
• 74 Corporacion de Padres Dominicos with 380,307 shares worth P21,696,514.
The staggering amount of RCC money in BPI alone totals P17.3 billion pesos. Add its Philex holdings and the total is 17.5 BILLION PESOS. This huge amount in only two corporations! It will not be surprising if the Catholic Church has a lot more money in other big corporations.
With this alone, the Roman Catholic Church already becomes the 9th richest in the country dislodging Emilio Yap, Manila Hotel and Manila Bulletin owner and Oscar Lopez of Benpres Holdings Corporation.
Let’s imagine what this kind of money can do.
P17.5 billion pesos is more than half of the total budget of the Department of Health which is P31.8 billion. The department’s budget is supposed to serve more than 90 million Filipinos. We can only guess how many hospitals can be better equipped, how many doctors and nurses can be hired, and eventually, how many lives can be saved if only the Church decides to put this money in people’s health —even only in Catholic people’s health.
The National Statistical Coordination Board estimates that there are about four million families living in poverty and each needs P7,017.00 monthly to stay out of poverty. Instantly, the Catholic church is in a very good position to remove about 2.5 million families from poverty!
The Church positions itself as the vanguard of morality. Yet, while it sits on at least P17.5 billion, it continues to solicit donations from the poor instead of helping them have a better life. The Church proclaims itself as the protector of life. Yet it doesn’t use its billions to save the Catholic poor from hunger, sickness, and death.
Why don’t we see anything wrong with the bishop in all his finery standing beside the Catholic beggar? Is it really acceptable that cathedrals are in the same community of Catholic slum dwellers?
When will the Roman Catholic Church realize that as the multi-billionaire church of the millions of poor Filipino Catholics, it is its moral responsibility to substantially help its flock?