Donald MacInnes: A church that pays a living wage? Don't make me laugh


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The Independent Online

It may cue a nationwide gasp of shock, but I have never set up and run my own religion. No altars exist to some shonky deity prescribed by me; I have no cassocks, bells, dirgy songs or dodgy youth leaders.

Having said that, were I to set up a religion, I would definitely make sure that all of the people who were employed in the service of, let's call it Donism, received the minimum wage, at least.

So does that mean that my mildly heretical, theoretical (and ideologically bereft) theology is better than the Church of England? Possibly, because at the beginning of this week the C of E admitted that it was advertising for staff to fill positions which paid less than the £7.85 per hour minimum wage for working outside London. The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the revelations in the Currant Bun are "embarrassing", especially since the Church has previously and very publicly urged all employers to pay at least that amount.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby (who, by definition, couldn't be more pious if he tried), said the Church was "getting there as quickly as we can". Apparently, each C of E cathedral, parish and diocese exists independently of Lambeth Palace and decides its own finances. The Archbishop said the situation was "something we don't like".

Yeah, well, I don't like it either. It doesn't take much for religions to ignite a fire of righteous anger in my soul. As far as I'm concerned, between dusk and dawn, every church, mosque and cathedral in the world should be turned over to those people who have no home. The church would also give these folk a hot meal and in the morning a little breakfast, before sending them off into the world with a couple of quid.

Does that sound ludicrously naïve? Unworkable? Bollocks. Do you have any idea how much money the big religions have? Why, the Church of England itself has an investment portfolio worth around £7bn, generating over £250m a year. It also gets more than three times that amount through donations and other services.

Then there are the Mormons. At the start of this century, assets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stood at some $30bn (£19bn). Its annual revenue just about tickles $6bn. With that kind of spending power, the Mormons could not only give the homeless a roof for the night and a bowl of soup, but also throw in a buttered roll and maybe even a Muller Corner for pudding.

Then there is big Daddy of them all: the Catholic church. If you don't believe the Vatican could do more to appear less of a grasping, soulless conglomerate, go to St Peter's Basilica in Rome, with its solid gold canteen and diamond-encrusted parking meters.

It's enough to make you go Buddhist.

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