I am by nature wary of religious leaders, but I have to say that I admire Pope Francis on this one.
ROME — On the eve of a trip to the United States, Pope Francis has called himself a “son of immigrants” and confirmed the point by issuing a blunt warning to any religious orders in Europe that spurn his recent call to open their doors to refugees because they want to make money off their properties instead.
Go ahead, the pope said, but be ready to pay taxes just like everybody else.
“Some religious orders say ‘No, now that the convent is empty we are going to make a hotel and we can have guests, and support ourselves that way, or make money,’” the pontiff said.
“Well, if that is what you want to do, then pay taxes! A religious school is tax-exempt because it is religious, but if it is functioning as a hotel, then it should pay taxes just like its neighbor. Otherwise it is not fair business.”
I have long held that religious institutions should pay taxes no matter what — and yes, that includes the Quakers — but I’d settle for making those that make money off their property for non-religious uses pay up. As John Oliver pointed out rather convincingly, religious exemption from taxes is a huge racket.
I wonder if the Pope is as good as his word when it comes to the Catholic Church and their massive holdings, but we’ll have to hold that one in the Light.