The church of the poor

By Elizabeth Angsioco

Interior of Manila Cathedral
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?

Republished with permission from Ms. Beth Angsioco

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by ~MVI~

Guest Writer

  • J_ag

    Why is everyone discussing the wealth of the RCC. Historically the RCC was a potent political force in Philippine history due to the late demised Spanish religious feudal empire. It is no secret that the remnants of the colonizers, the Ayalas, have long been in bed with the RCC. That is historical. The American conquerors of the islands recognized the titles of the friar lands.

    Obviously the RCC have parlayed their wealth into different forms of assets including shares of stock in major corporations including corporations involved in mining.

    The recent Church stand on mining is clear in light of the history of mining in this country. Sustainable inclusive development of mining interests in favor of communities that have long been cheated of their fair share.

    The sad history of exploitation and oppression led by the Spanish crown and the RCC in pillaging most of the Americas is testament to the sordid history of the RCC.

    There has never been Church dogma on the issue of avoiding conception but aborting conception at any time after fertilization till fetal development to the RCC is murder.

    Modern belief systems can make distinctions as to when it is legal to terminate life based on scientific theories as to when human life achieves legal rights.

    This debate is a small blip going forward in the process of societal evolution in the Philippines.

    A better discussion should be on whether humans actually have natural rights that emerged during the enlightenment period in Western History.

    Spain never was a party to the idea of natural rights and a liberal democracy. It came much later in their history.

    Unfortunately this historical basis for the artifical construct that is the Philippines is primarily responsible for the continuing struggles of an emerging state that has roots in friar led feudalism and colonization by liberal democracy that did not reconize the natural rights then of the natives of these islands.

  • Well, the CBCP still thinks its still the middle ages.

  • Jan


    Because the Catholic church got tons and tons of money, should we just let our government shove in our throats unpalatable sex and population programs? Should we let them teach our children that “it is okey not to tell mom and dad where you are going” because you are just practicing your right to movement and travel? That masturbation is okey, no need to worry as long as you don’t spend energy doing it (what a contradiction).

    Because you didn’t get any help from the Catholic Church nor the Iglesia ni Manalo who happens to be awash with money, should we let the government spend P200M in contraceptives and sex education in the guise of MATERNAL HEALTH?

    Why do we have to shake every time Uncle Sam say “you are too many to be fed, curve your sexual appetite; but you must buy condoms and pills from us and not rely on the natural method.”

    If that is the case, they should refrain the big pharma corporations from selling “viagra” and other “snake oils” that make you macho, virile and seductive, or the Hollywood version of perfect person.

    The contraceptive pills they push to women who wishes to have child spacing are the very reason many women now have breast lumps. I had a very bad experience with it and I wouldn’t want the same thing happen to other Filipino mothers.

    I wish you would be more responsible about the consequences of your pronouncements…go and look beyond the slums of METRO MANILA.

    • manuelbuencamino

      1.”That masturbation is okey, no need to worry as long as you don’t spend energy doing it (what a contradiction).”

      The contradiction only exists if you are using a power driven device to masturbate, like a vibrator. However, there is no contradiction if you masturbate the old fashioned way: manually.

      2. “you are too many to be fed, curve your sexual appetite; but you must buy condoms and pills from us and not rely on the natural method.”

      You must mean “curb your sexual appetite” as in control or minimize. To “curve” would mean to deviate from a straight path. I don’t think the US is telling us that the solution to overpopulation is to become deviants.

      Anyway if one curbs his or her sexual appetite then there is no need to buy condoms or pills or use any form of birth control method, natural or otherwise, right?

      3. And yes the government should spend P200M on maternal health!

      4. And I’m sorry you had a very bad experience with pills and no one wants other Filipino mothers to experience what you did.

      But not all Filipino mothers who take, or took, contraceptives got breast lumps. Many Filipino mothers had a very good experience with the pill because they were abe to plan and space their families. So I’m hoping that that’s what other Filipino mothers experience.

      5. If I go and look beyond the slums of metro manila, i still see over-population. except that it is in a rustic setting.

  • GabbyD

    i dont understand this list. why is hospicio de san juan de dios listed twice?