Yet Another Reason to Leave the Church


In what will surely rank as the most controversial encyclical since Pius XI's Mit brennender Sorg, Pope Benedict XVI, according to Vatican sources, is set to declare tax evasion "socially unjust." Years after denouncing Liberation Theology as inimical to the church's teachings, Herr Ratzinger is starting sound like the lost Berrigan brother. From the London Times:

In his second encyclical—the most authoritative statement a pope can issue—the pontiff will denounce the use of "tax havens" and offshore bank accounts by wealthy individuals, since this reduces tax revenues for the benefit of society as a whole.

It will focus on humanity's social and economic problems in an era of globalisation. Pope Benedict intends to argue for a world trade and economic system "regulated in such a way as to avoid further injustice and discrimination", Ignazio Ingrao, a Vatican watcher, said yesterday.

The encyclical, drafted during his recent holiday in the mountains of northern Italy, takes its cue from Pope Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples), issued 40 years ago.

Italy, a model of social democratic generosity, is apparently brimming with tax cheats:

This week the Italian centre-left Government of Romano Prodi began a concerted crackdown on tax evaders, saying that it would target individuals with second homes and other signs of "conspicuous wealth". If the black economy is included, unpaid taxes amount to 27 per cent of Italy's gross domestic product.

Mr Prodi, a devout Catholic, urged church leaders to speak out on tax evasion, telling the Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana that a third of Italians heavily evaded taxes, which were needed to plug Italy's huge budget deficit.

Perhaps Mr. Prodi should investigate the conspicuous consumption of der Pontiff, who finger-wags at the masses from his holiday home in "the mountains of northern Italy."

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