Pope Runs One of America's Biggest Firms

A blog about business and economics.
March 13 2013 3:46 PM

The New Pope Runs One of America's Largest Businesses

French proto-deacon cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (center) announces the name of the new pope, Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on March 13, 2013, from the balcony of St Peter's basilica at the Vatican.
French proto-deacon cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (center) announces the name of the new pope, Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on March 13, 2013, from the balcony of St Peter's basilica at the Vatican.

Photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

An Economist article last year estimated that institutions run by the Catholic Church—mostly hospitals and educational institutions—spent $170 billion in the United States alone back in 2010.

For comparison's sake, Apple had $157 billion in revenue in Fiscal Year 2012. In fact, just 16 companies had more than $170 billion in revenue. But that's global revenue and obviously the Catholic Church has extensive operations in Europe and Latin America alongside its United States branch and smaller Asian and African outlets. One interesting issue is that, legally speaking, there is no Catholic Church. In the United States, each diocese is a separately incorporated entity with no formal linkages between the different diocese or the Vatican. The underlying spirital organization is different, but not reflected in the legal org chart. And religious institutions aren't subject to normal nonprofit accounting or reporting rule, so really understanding the underlying financial structure is difficult.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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