Traditional Vatican bonuses for staff an “unforeseen extra expense”
Well, what else should people expect from a Jesuit Pope who took the name of a famously ascetic saint? He has called on the church to be “a poor Church for the poor”, shuns the limos for minibuses, wears plain black shoes rather than handmade red Italian leather, and declined the papal penthouse to live with his fellows in a Vatican residence.
He left the Vatican to go to a juvenile detention center to wash the feet of poor, incarcerated youths before Easter. He wears the plain white papal cassock, rather than robes embroidered with gold. He takes his meals in a communal dining hall in his residence.
This is not a Pope who is going to allow for unexpected and unnecessary expenses. While the Vatican bonuses upon the death of the old and election of the new pope may be traditional, they certainly are discretionary. Aware that the Vatican posted a deficit of €15,000,000 in 2011, Pope Francis has decided that there will be no bonuses celebrating his election this year.
This is certainly understandable. In 2005, when John Paul II died and Benedict XVI was elected, Vatican employees (both lay and religious) received €1,500 apiece. There are approximately 4,000 such employees now, so with no increase in the amount, that still would come to €6,000,000. That’s a lot of money from an already cash-strapped treasury.
The tradition of a bonus or gift upon the death of a pope is quite understandable. It has long been a practice, at least amongst the generous, for a master to bequeath a gift to his servants upon his death. It is seen as a final thank you for their service.
Pope Francis may well allow them upon Pope Emeritus Benedict’s death. However, bonuses upon getting a new Master? No, that has no real parallel in the outside world. Out here, servants who are retained by a new master are usually just grateful they get to keep their jobs.
The entire Roman Catholic Church, from top to bottom, may want to remember that most of them, like their new pope, took vows of poverty. Pope Francis I takes his vows quite seriously, and it looks like he’s going to hold them to theirs.
If the Catholic churches in New York had been truer to their calling to care for the poor in the early 20th century, my father would have been raised Catholic, instead of the fuzzy Protestantism he wound up with. Why? Because my grandmother was a single mother with four sons and a daughter, who scrubbed toilets in the Empire State Building. She would take the kids and bend her knees at whatever church in their neighborhood had the best assistance program for the poor.
Pope Francis is determined that the Church is going to return to its true calling, spreading the Gospel and serving the poor. In fact, he redirected the money that was going to the bonuses to various charities instead… to serve the poor.
He recognizes that the old trappings of wealth and power are remnants from the centuries that the Church ran roughshod over the secular monarchies in Europe. He sees that spending inconceivable amounts of money to “glorify God” is worse than useless. He knows, in his bones, that the Carpenter drank from a plain, clay cup…