Back in February what’s left of Fairfax’s three metropolitan titles — The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Canberra Times — staged a three day Festival of Hate against the Catholic church that was so preposterously biased, ignorant and misleading that it was even shot to pieces by … Crikey.
Centre of the Fairfax fictions was the proposition that the Catholic church is worth squadrillions. In the most general sense this could be asserted, but it creates a false impression (read the Crikey piece). It is not strictly true. And many of the church’s assets contribute to social capital. For example, the church (or various church entities) own a lot of land, but much of this is occupied by hospitals, aged care facilities, schools and social welfare facilities.
Other valuable land is tied up in renovators’ delights that consist of barely-attended, run-down churches and their associated facilities, ranging from residences and halls to tennis courts. That and the odd cathedral, too. Not only is the value of this property next to impossible to realise, but Fairfax would probably be the first to complain if say, St Marys Cathedral in Sydney (that’s it above in the photo) was sold off to developers for replacement by apartments with sweeping views across Hyde Park, the CDB, the Habour and over Woolloomooloo to the Cross. After all, it was less than 12 months ago that The Age threw a strop that a derelict, ugly as sin old hospital on land next to Melbourne’s Catholic cathedral should be converted to private residences. They’d even get upset if St Cuthbert of Carthage Parish Tennis Club sold up the open space now occupied by their courts for half a dozen townhouses. But we digress.
Fairfax have decreed the Catholic Church is very wealthy. Very wealthy indeed. So what did we see in The Age this weekend? A screaming headling “Catholic Church falls victim to Melbourne’s latest crime spree“.
No shit, Sherlock? What, after you’ve done your very best to create the impression the humblest parish priest wears ermine underpants and lives in luxury ever Kim Kardashian might consider over the top? The story ran:
The Catholic Church … has found itself repeatedly targeted as part of a crime spree …
The Sunday Age can reveal that 23 churches and religious buildings have been robbed in the past two months, with offenders potentially reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Mass collections, as well as electronic equipment, keys, and other small items.
A 42-year-old man from Kew has been charged with burglaries that took place in Box Hill, Brunswick, Canterbury and Camberwell … But many others churches have also been hit …. in the suburbs of Reservoir, Clifton Hill, Malvern, Ashburton, Caulfield, Melton, Oakleigh, Camberwell, Balwyn, Mentone, Coburg, Doncaster, Glen Iris and Ivanhoe West.
The crime spree has alarmed the Catholic Melbourne Archdiocese, with one email sent out to parish priests this week warning them that “all collection monies should be banked immediately …”
The high number of church burglaries over such a short period comes as crime remains a sensitive issue.
This sort of crime does not involve stealing Carravagios or jewel-bedecked chalices. It is thieving the widow’s mite. And unless they are completely culturally illiterate (a strong possibility, one must concede) the Age’s journalists should be well aware of this.
Yet their response?
Well, I trimmed the first line of the story. It actually read:
The Catholic Church, one of Victoria’s wealthiest institutions, has found itself repeatedly targeted as part of a crime spree …
Get that? “One of Victoria’s wealthiest institutions …”
A tacit nod and a wink to would-be thieves? Things that make you go hmmm!
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