"... ye have made it a den of thieves."
Oddly, or not, this article comes from Australia, and hasn't appeared in this country at all, except at Occupy and foreclosure sites:
Father Robert Rien, of St Ignatius at Antioch, a Catholic church east of San Francisco, speaks with a crisp buoyant voice that belies his 65 years. When he is angry it fairly crackles. ....
'Jesus went to the temple and he challenged the banking system of his day. He said, 'you are thieves and marauders, you are wrong in what you are doing'.'' On Ash Wednesday this year a group of San Francisco clergy spilled ashes outside a Wells Fargo ATM and called for a foreclosure sabbatical [debt jubilee], invoking the Biblical term for the ancient practice of forgiving debts.
It is hard to exaggerate how poorly America's banks have treated their customers throughout the financial crisis that saw about 4 million homes being foreclosed upon, and Father Rien's voice crackles away as he discusses it.
The banks helped precipitate the financial collapse by selling mortgages to people who could never afford them. When the financial system collapsed they accepted a $US205 billion ($199.2 billion) bailout from taxpayers, but once refinanced they refused to help homeowners by modifying their mortgages....
But it was the outright fraud by America's big banks that finally made Father Rien an activist for the first time since he was ordained 40 years ago.
As the crisis snowballed through 2007 and 2008, parishioners started coming to Father Rien for help, saying they had dutifully filled out and filed mortgage modification applications with the Bank of America, only to be suddenly evicted. Time and again the bank, equipped with their own legal documents, said their customers' paperwork had been lost and their applications were too late.
''I had 24 or 25 families just in my parish saying the same thing; it was untenable.''
When Father Rien approached the Bank of America to plead his parishioners' cases the bank told him he had no connection to the families and no right to speak on their behalf.
He did not know it then but Father Rien was seeing early signs of what became known as the robo-signing scandal, in which four American banks admitted forging signatures on untold thousands of documents to speed up foreclosures.
In February this year they came to a $US26 billion legal settlement over the issue, but Father Rien says they are still failing to help many of their struggling customers.
The priest seems stunned by what he says is the corporate and personal greed that has led to this situation.
''Look at how much money some of these people [in finance] earn; no one needs to be that rich, no one.'' So Father Rien joined PICO (Pacific Institute for Community Organisation [could be worse, though their health policy is horrible]), the faith-based network that launched the bank divestment campaign. ''I am angry,'' he says.
About six hours' drive up the Californian coast, in a suburb of Hollywood that over the past few years has transformed itself from near slum to thriving family neighbourhood, Pastor Ryan Bell found his way into PICO and the divestment campaign for the same reasons. ....
He, too, turns to the gospels to explain his protest, but for him it is the parable of the unforgiving servant that sheds best light on the banks' role in the crisis.
In this story a merciful king forgives the debt of a servant, who later chokes an even more humble servant to extract a debt owed to him. ''The taxpayer is the merciful king,'' says Pastor Bell. ''And the banks are choking my parishioners even though they have had that bailout.''
Pastor Bell has also targeted the Bank of America, which his church had banked with for 50 years. When he closed the church's accounts an executive did get in touch, but declined to help modify mortgages.
An assistant professor of law at Albany Law School, Ray Brescia, echoes the clergymen's frustration.
Two years ago he wrote in The Huffington Post, ''Isn't it high time to admit that mortgage lending in the United States and the foreclosures that have followed are so tainted by fraud, abuse and illegality that a moratorium on all foreclosures, everywhere, is the only just response?'' He described filing of falsified documents to facilitate foreclosures as ''likely the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the courts of this country''. ....
''I can see why people are angry. There is a disconnect between how the government extended the banks a lifeline and then the banks turned around and pulled up the same lifeline that could have been extended to customers that are underwater.''
And so the campaign against the banks goes on.
''This is a season of repentance and looking inward; we ought to be asking our institutions to do that,'' Pastor Bell says.
Fat chance. Anyhow, it's a non-story. Move along, people, move along.
NOTE Quote from Mark 11:11-19.