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The Church and the Fed: Too Big to Fail?

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Too big to fail?

The banks, yes. But the church and the fed?

What do the Catholic Church and the Federal Reserve have in common? Both are big, both do important things, and both have far too much arrogance at the top. Both cry out for a cleansing.

Take the Catholic Church -- and please note that the church is not the Pope and the bishops alone. It is also the laity, priests and nuns. It is the folk at the grass roots who care for the poor, work in inner cities, go to foreign countries, and put their lives on the line. It is the staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities.

And it is the 50,000 nuns of the Catholic hospitals who supported the health care bill.

And this is where American Catholic arrogance comes in. The bishops, who have properly lost so much moral authority because of their immoral handling of the child abuse scandal, are striking out at the sisters, who are by any measure the jewel in the crown of the Catholic Church.

The nuns working in the hospitals disagreed, quite respectfully, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which argued that it would be possible for federal funds to be used for abortions. Virtually no one else agreed with the interpretation of the proposed law.

The result? The Vatican is continuing and expanding scrutiny on orders of nuns that had begun before the health care issue. The Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island has removed the Catholic designation from several hospitals run by nuns. In a recent speech, Archbishop Raymond Burke, a top Vatican official, attacked American nuns for their disobedience to the bishops who, he said, follow in the line of succession from the apostles. He called the action of the nuns a "sacrilege."

The bishops, in dealing with the religious sisters, seem more concerned with power and authority than abortion. They can't seem to abide that the sisters wanted to follow their own consciences.

Another place where power seems to have brought arrogance and the feeling of being above the masses is in the Federal Reserve.

The Fed controls monetary power in the U.S., sets the prime reserve rate, and loans trillions of dollars to American banks, most recently at rates below one percent.

How important is this role? America's six largest banks control some 63 percent of the nation's funds. That's important by any measure. And yet, despite this massive control of taxpayer dollars, the Fed does not get audited. Neither the taxpayers nor Congress know how this money is used. And the Fed is now fighting a congressional bill that would provide for audits.

The Fed's rationale is that knowing how the money is used might open the Fed to political pressure. It also might expose the specific use of funds that Fed officials have made for generations without any scrutiny.

A bank, for instance, might borrow a billion dollars at one percent and then buy a government CD paying three percent, making a large profit with no risk, and using taxpayer dollars -- all the better to give bonuses.

Bishops and Fed officials may think they are beyond examination. But for the good of the organizations themselves, the rest of us need to bring them to earth and demand accountability.