So it’s been a year, why has Pope Francis not moved to do so? Why not in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, which surely has plenty of precious real estate and sacred vessels and furnishings, was he not celebrating Mass in a mud hut with wooden chalice and home-baked bread?
Perhaps because the Holy Father deep down also realizes that he is a steward of the goods which have been given to his care. The Church may “own” property in a legal sense, but this is only so because the laity have contributed money or the property itself in charity. The community is the true owner of this property, and the Church has a sacred duty to care for this property, make it available to all the people, and ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.
Just as a piece of real estate with a building on top of it may be a profitable asset in terms of money, a chalice is a profitable asset in that it continually nourishes the faithful with the Eucharist, and it is a source of pride for priest and assembly alike when it is used and displayed at Mass. A chalice is often a treasured gift from a donor or family member to a priest. Likewise, sacred art and vestments may not directly earn money, but they uplift and edify the faithful. More to the point, all of these items keep people employed.
Sometimes it may seem like an expensive project is a waste of money for the Church, but we have to look at the wealth being redistributed and where it ultimately ends up. I don’t know about you, but my parish likes to employ Catholics. 100% of our staff is Catholic, we patronize Catholic companies for our goods and services, and the majority of our contractors are also. In fact, a gardener came in the other day to book a Mass intention. That is $10 that came right back into the parish after we had put it into his paycheck. I personally tithe 10% of my gross income right back to the parish which employs me. When the Church commissions a work of art, when she undertakes a rewiring project, when she builds an Archbishop’s residence, she is putting money into the pockets of working people. People think that only volunteers do the heavy lifting in the Church but she is in reality a huge employer, when you consider her worldwide reach and all associated organizations, including schools and hospitals and the like.
Take a look at an English manor house, like the one portrayed on Downton Abbey. It’s easy to point and say that this filthy-rich family should take care of the poor by selling their things, but they too are mere custodians of a legacy. They manage a network of businesses that keeps all kinds of people employed. There are servants right in the house, farms on the estate, and an associated village with all kinds of businesses, all which depend on the manor itself to survive. And part of the drama in that show is about the money troubles encountered by the heads of the estate and how they fight to keep the lights on. They are fighting not just for family dignity and a good glass of wine and a cigar, but for a legacy they have been entrusted with, a legacy that they want to last for future centuries, and for the lifestyles of hundreds of people who depend on them.
So I predict that in the years of Francis’ reign we will not see a lot of assets being sold off by the Vatican and turned into handouts for the poor, but we will see a lot of demands for this kind of behavior worldwide, based on the Francis Effect, which is the successor to the Spirit of Vatican II. The Francis Effect is one which is manufactured by liberals and their mainstream media, the same kind of Effect which led us to believe that Saint Francis of Assisi was a bird-loving bunny hugger, when even poor St. Francis argued for precious sacred vessels and the fitting grandeur of church furnishings and buildings.