Last time I checked, there are about 1.3 billion Roman Catholics in this world. That's an important statistic, but I am not sure that it tells us much about the financial health of Christendom's largest flock.
Financial health? Say what?
There are plenty of cynical people who believe that when religious leaders look at their flocks, all they see is dollar signs. Thus, 1.3 billion Catholics equals a lot of money in offering plates. You get the picture.
However, I have never seen this concept advocated in such a naked fashion as in the transcript of this recent PBS report that ran under the headline "Catholic Church Looks to Lead Conversation on Combating HIV/AIDS."
Scan this quickly and see if you see what I saw (after, yes, a tip from a reader):
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ray, since we know that the pope is neither a physician, nor someone who holds a government position connected to health, why is what he is saying in this area of HIV transmission getting so much attention?
RAY SUAREZ: Judy, there's a massive audience for whatever the Catholic Church teaches in this regard, because you have to remember that, with over $1 billion members around the world, one out of every six people on planet Earth is a Catholic.
And the Catholic Church has been very hard at work in the hardest-hit countries in the world when it's come to the scourge of HIV and AIDS. There are, in fact, 117,000 Catholic medical facilities, from clinics in the deepest jungle to large urban hospitals in the developing world, that are involved in treating both people that are already infected with AIDS and trying to prevent the transmission to at-risk populations.
OK, OK, it's a typo. I know that.
Somewhere in the next day or two or three, there is almost certainly going to be a PBS news intern who says "oops," once someone in the public broadcasting matrix sees that wayward dollar sign.
This is proof, I guess, that -- when sitting in an office inside the DC Beltway -- it's hard to type the word "billion" without, by reflex, hitting the key that says "$."