Voice From the Back

The Decline Of Religion

The fall of religious influence is so great that a grass-roots movement in 2009, the Future for Religious Heritage took shape in 2011 as a network of groups from more than 30 countries, dedicated to finding ways to keep churches, synagogues and other religious buildings open, if not for services, then for other uses. ‘Perhaps nowhere is the plight of churches more stark than in the Netherlands, where about 1,000 Catholic churches – about two-thirds of the country – are due to be shut down by 2025, a reorganization forced by a steady drop in attendance, baptisms and weddings. Those were the figures given by Cardinal Willem Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, in a report delivered to Pope Francis last December’ (New York Times, 2 June). Religion has always been a barrier to socialism so no tears here on learning churches are closing.

National Health Disserve

We have all seen TV hospital dramas where we have applauded the wonderful treatment available to the patients, but this hardly squares up to the reality. For instance, patients who had to spend a night on trolleys at a Glasgow hospital have received letters of apology. ‘Several people at the Victoria Infirmary were left on trolleys on Monday night. ……. A total of 17 planned operations were cancelled and 50 patients were found care home placements to free up beds. The BBC has been told the Victoria Infirmary even ran out of blankets and pillows, after admissions increased by 24%’ (BBC News, 4 June). Of all the shortcomings of capitalism the treatment of sick workers must be one of the worst.

Morals, Money And Swiss Bank Accounts

One of the appeals to many workers of the Roman Catholic Church is that body’s apparent disgust at the financial dishonesty of many aspects of capitalism, but behind this apparent disgust is another story. Pope Francis’s battle to clean up the Vatican’s scandal-mired bank, the Institute of Religious Works (IoR), has entered a new stage, with his removal of the entire board of the Holy City’s financial watchdog. ‘Among the recent scandals, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a former senior Vatican accountant who had close ties to the IoR, is currently on trial accused of plotting to smuggle millions of dollars into Italy from Switzerland in order to help rich friends lower their tax bills. Investigators believe he used his two IoR accounts as overseas slush funds’ (Independent, 5 June).

Powerless And Pathetic

Fresh evidence that the government will fail to hit its child goals has emerged in a report showing 3.5 million are expected to be in absolute poverty in Britain in 2020 almost five times as many as the target. ‘The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said the absolute child poverty goal was “simply unattainable” and that this was on course to be the first decade since records began in 1961 not to see a fall in absolute child poverty’ (Guardian, 9 June). Governments like to portray themselves as masters of capitalism, in fact they are but the so-called organisers of a profit motive system that cannot be organised.

Old Nick In The Middle East

Many theories have been put forward to explain the conflicts that have affected the Middle East but his holiness has come up with a different one. The Pope blamed the Devil for the conflict in the Middle East as he hosted the Israeli and Palestinian presidents for a unprecedented “prayer for peace” in the Vatican garden. ‘In remarks prepared for the ceremony Pope Francis said: “More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one has succeeded in blocking it. It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey’ (Times, 9 June). All this time socialists have been blaming capitalism for modern wars while his holiness has come up with a much simpler answer.

A Strange Sort Of Recovery

Politicians and the national media proclaim it in banner headlines. Britain is on the road to an economic recovery. The Office for National Statistics said that employment figures had surged by 345,000, the largest quarterly rise since records began in 1971 and drove unemployment down to a five-year low. There is one aspect of this surge in employment figures that politicians are a little less likely to boast about though. ‘However, pay fell below inflation. Average annual wage growth dropped to 0.7 per cent in the three months to April, less than half the 1.8 per cent rate at which prices are rising’ (Times, 12 June). It is an economic recovery for the owning class. More workers to exploit, less unemployment money to fork out – but for the working class it is a drop in real wages.

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