This post is part two of my reflections on the Cathedral (Kölner Dom) in Cologne Germany. You can read part one here.
In this post I will focus on the Cathedral Treasury which, curiously, I had to pay €8 euro to see. No photos were allowed so I’ll have to use this stock photo. This is one section along one wall on just one of the four floors of 13th century vault rooms under the cathedral which have been updated to display millions and millions of dollars of gold, silver and jewels. The Cathedral Treasury was robbed in 1975 and so security today is quite tight.
While this wealth sits here, just outside sat a hungry beggar (who only got a measly one euro in his paper cup from me).
The Immorality of untouchable church Memorial Funds
Back in my denominational days I ruffled feathers with my suggestions that it was immoral for all our American churches to be sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in “memorial funds” (waiting for the rainy day when the church may need new siding) —all the while we had no funds to start life-giving churches that could help people in our communities. There was once an audible gasp in a room of 1000 when I suggested from the platform that all our empty dying old churches sitting on prime downtown real estate ought to pray about selling their properties and using the money to launch ten new churches and outreaches to the hurting and the poor in the city. All this came back to my mind as I toured the Cologne Cathedral Treasury.
An ornate tomb for gold-plated skulls
I briefly mentioned this in part one of this post, but here are the details… the Cologne Cathedral was built to house the gold-plated skulls of the three wise men. These skulls are consider sacred relics and this church is a shrine intentionally built to house them so people can worship them. I’ll quote directly from the literature handed out at the Cathedral;
In 1164 Archbishop Rainald von Dassel transferred from Milan the bones of the Three Magi. A precious reliquary shrine was ordered to house these relics…. the famous relics drew the faithful from all of Europe and the Cologne pilgrimage became one of the largest of the Middle Ages.
Here’s a pic of the gold box that contains the skulls – I’d estimate it’s four feet high, six feet long.
While others (hundreds) were lighting prayer candles all around this gold box I was praying that some day the church would melt the box down, bury the bones in dirt and use the money to advance the Kingdom of God. What do you think that amount of solid gold is worth? I’ll let you read this last sentence from the literature yourself…
And that is where all the wealth in this treasury came from – relic worship. Kings and noblemen throughout the centuries have come here with priceless gifts paying homage to these three skulls. I underlined the word “imprimatur” which in Latin means “let it be printed” because an imprimatur “is an official declaration from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church that a literary work is free from error in matters of Roman Catholic doctrine.” Really, do they not see any “doctrinal” error here? I just know those who brought gold to Jesus at his birth (the wise men) would reject the practice of bringing gold to their bones. Geesh.
One of the forerunners to the Reformation, Erasmus, was a satirist. He viewed these “relics” as a fraudulent fund-raising scheme to raise money for Rome. Erasmus decided one day to take an inventory of the relics of Rome and he published his findings which included two heads of John the Baptist, two bodies of St. Anne, three of Lazarus and a bottle of breast milk from the Virgin Mary. Calvin later continued the biting sarcasm in his published Inventory of the Relics which showed there were fourteen churches in Italy, Germany and France that each “had” one of the three nails that held Jesus to the cross. You get the point.
Treasure in heaven?
If you have read this blog for any length of time perhaps you are able to see a pattern in how I think – you’ll have to track closely to process this as I do. Here we have an ornate tomb built for three gold-plated skulls adorned with millions of dollars of gold and millions of dollars in jewels. While all that is still fresh in the forefront of my thinking, I then read today’s LA Times story about how hundreds and hundreds of bodies in the LA morgue are going unclaimed because poor families can’t afford funerals ($348 to pick up ashes at the LA county crematorium).
Having recently buried both of my parents and my grandmother I’m sensitive to these poor families. Only my mother had adequate insurance to cover her funeral – my brother and I split the cost of my dads and grandmothers – things were so tight when my grandmother died at age 95 in 2006 we didn’t even order a spray of casket flowers (and that offended one of her two yet-living friends).
Perhaps only a few at Church at the Gate know that we have bought gravestones, burial plots, hotel rooms, flowers and caskets for people in our church family and community who had no means. Yet here at the Cologne Cathedral, we have a highly guarded billion dollar church treasury adorning the supposed bones of the Wise Men. If the wise men were to come back to life today I’d think they’d take the gold to Jesus. And, Jesus would spend it on the poor families in Los Angeles.
Imagine the PR mileage the Catholic Church could get if just one of these priests here at the Cologne Cathedral sold just one piece from this “treasury” and used the money to pay for hundreds of funerals for poor grieving families in LA. The priest would surely get defrocked but at least he’d amass great treasure in heaven.
How much is a body part worth?
St. Mary’s College in my homestate of Kansas houses over 1200 relics, including the finger of St. Odilia. Apparently that young gal’s body part is priceless today. You’ll need to keep tracking with me here as I try to spell out the connection in my head between relics and human organ harvesting here in Europe.
One of the two main reasons I’m in Europe this summer is to work with church planters here to put on paper a strategy to establish lots of local mission outposts for the Kingdom of God all over Europe. A few days ago we were focusing on Moldovia and I mentioned our heart to start orphanages and how God spoke to me in 2004 about “becoming a blessing to women going through life alone” – widows, single moms, sex trade, etc, etc. – you know… the pure religion stuff of James 1:27). I did not know that besides poverty and sex slavery, Moldova is one of the top countries in the world for organ harvesting.
I was then told about the hundreds+ of 15 year old Moldovian girls who are taken each year and used in the sex trade and that after they’ve “served their purpose there” they are bringing a quarter of a million dollars each as they are sacrificed to harvest their organs (which are kept in cold storage and air lifted and sold to illegal distribution centers in the United States, Germany, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Israel, and South Africa).
We talked about starting a church/rescue mission there this year. I told our CATG congregation last year that one of these weekends I’m going to stand up at offering time and say… “one hundred percent of today’s offering is going to buy 13 year old girls out of the sex slave trade— so give generously.” I will do that this year. As we continued to talk about what God was calling us to do here we talked about chartering flights to the US full of these girls and Kristen and I figured we could house ten in our home.
Pardon me if this has gotten way long for you, I’ll end soon. In one of our church planting planning sessions I was asked what the obstacles are – of course money is always at the top of the list. A few days later I then find myself in this “sacred treasury” and I’m sorry if my report here is so critical and negative of what I saw there. It screams insanity to me that the “religious” are hoarding shocking amounts of wealth to adorn skulls while precious girls are being sold and slaughtered on the black market for parts.