Bp. Williamson’s message and its timing calls to mind the practical wisdom in Frank Capra’s film, It’s a Wonderful Life. It seems a fitting time to juxtapose the celebration of the Incarnation of the benevolent, self-sacrificing God of all creation against the god of this world who destroys men’s souls through temptations of temporal gain.
From the time that Jesus cleared the money changers from the Temple of Jerusalem until not too long ago, suspicion of money men was characteristic of Christian culture. But 17 years before the Hollywood(!) release of It’s a Wonderful Life, the Vatican had brought in Bernardino Nogara to manage its finances in 1929 on his condition that he would not be restricted in any way by Church teaching. This was only an echo of the Renaissance Vatican’s use of Judaic bankers unrestricted by Church teaching and permitted by Orthodox Judaism to employ predatory economics. And it seems this tradition from the supposedly utopian pre-Vatican II era is upheld by traditionalist Bishop, Bernard Fellay of the SSPX, all much to the detriment of the Gospel of the Lord who execrated mammonism.
There’s a scene in It’s a Wonderful Life which imparts a lesson of great value. With the Bailey Building and Loan Association near collapse, George Bailey visits the town moneylender and slumlord, Henry Potter who makes a proposition. Potter offers George Bailey an ‘opportunity’ to work for him in exchange for a large salary, the biggest house in town, business trips to New York and Europe with a three year contract. The Bailey Building and Loan Association–the only obstacle to Potter controlling the entire town–would, of course, be allowed to collapse and its shareholders would become victims to Potter. At this realization George Bailey, a man of responsibility and self-sacrifice only momentarily cajoled by Potter’s temptation, rejects the offer in disgust.
It’s not said explicitly what would happen at the end of the three year contract proposed to George Bailey, if the contract was even honored, but the rest of the story makes clear that if the Bailey Building and Loan was broken, and Potter’s control of the town was consolidated, the best George Bailey might hope for would be to assist Potter in the predation on the people he once defended from it–for a pittance.
One can’t help but see how this once commonplace wisdom was lost to the Irish who recently squandered their birthright for a few years of illusionary prosperity. But this is only a stark example of the same story being played out throughout Europe and the world. When the house of prayer becomes a den of thieves it can only follow by necessity that the rest of society will be taken by the same thieves.