Can someone please, please help me with this?


#1

I have a friend who says that the pope should sell the Vatican and everything in it in order to feed the world because he and other clergy are supposed to live simple, humble lives and not own anything, etc. I told her that the pope can’t sell the Vatican any more than the president can sell the Whitehouse in order to “spread the wealth” because he doesn’t own it. Additionally, I gave underground priests in China as examples of clergy who live simple, humble and often imprisoned lives and that only diocesan priests are allowed to own property. I also told her about St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai who helped lepers at the expense of his own life.
Is there any more advise or examples that anyone could give me in order to defend the Church? This is one of the first times I’ve actually stood up for anything because I’m very shy so I could use a lot of prayers, help, and support!


#2

Lord, please help kthrp’s friend to understand that the Pope is a priest who lives solely to serve Christ in the poor, needy, oppressed, etc… Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayer. Amen.


#3

=ktharp=I have a friend who says that the pope should sell the Vatican and everything in it in order to feed the world because he and other clergy are supposed to live simple, humble lives and not own anything, etc. I told her that the pope can’t sell the Vatican any more than the president can sell the Whitehouse in order to “spread the wealth” because he doesn’t own it. Additionally, I gave underground priests in China as examples of clergy who live simple, humble and often imprisoned lives and that only diocesan priests are allowed to own property. I also told her about St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai who helped lepers at the expense of his own life.
Is there any more advise or examples that anyone could give me in order to defend the Church? This is one of the first times I’ve actually stood up for anything because I’m very shy so I could use a lot of prayers, help, and support!

Hi friend,

You are correct that the wealth of the Church belongs to God Himself, not the Pope, Bishops and priest.

Suggest your friend read Exodus chapter 26 and 27 to see what God Himself mandated Moses do for “His ark” which held ONLY the Spirit of God. Not Jesus Chrsit Himself in person! Which every Catholic Church has.:wink:

Then ask him if he’d have every protestant leader do the same:thumbsup:

Love and prayers,

Pat


#4

I’m not sure how persuasive this is, because if a person wants to bash the Church he/she will, and they won’t accept it anyway.

The Vatican has preserved through the centuries many things that are of inestimable historical or artistic value. Because it has done it, it is accessible to ordinary people and, for many at least, can give them a perspective, all in one place, of the faith that has proved inspirational to artists, sculptors and metalworkers for two thousand years. There is something to knowing that someone like Michaelangelo, for example, spent a significant segment of his life painting religious scenes which, if he disbelieved and disparaged, he would have been most unlikely to do.

Also, if the Church did, indeed, sell off such things, the panels of the Sistine Chapel, for instance, would go where, and in how many pieces? Would, say, some drug lord in Nicaragua be the high bidder on the painting of the Cumaean Sibyl? And would it survive if a rival drug lord bombed his house? For sure, those artworks, religious books, and so forth, would disappear into private hands, never again to be reassembled anywhere, and lost to the view of ordinary people forever. Some would be damaged in the process; some would be lost. Some might be painted over or “improved” by some fool.

It is my understanding that if all the Vatican treasures were sold off, it would not support many people for very long. It is possible, in my mind at least, that the inspiration such things give people of faith likely inspire them to think about God and about their moral duties to their neighbors, and to perhaps be more generous after realizing how transitory wordly possessions are as such, yet how ageless faith is and how it can infuse material items with spiritual meaning that can be communicated to others.


#5

Is he planning on selling off his goods to?

If the Church sold all its assets it would not out a dent in world hunger and the the art , property and manuscripts entrusted to the Church would be available only to the elite…


#6

Ktharp, your friend has a very narrow and immature view of the world…yes there is great hunger out there in the world and that hunger is caused by people through greed and selfishness it is caused by the wealthy and the powerful in their quest for more and more wealth and power…they became like this because WE allowed them and would you like to know something more shocking…you are probably a millionnaire in the eyes of the needy because you have more than they have…let me explain…years ago I went to Africa (Ghana) to be a volunteer for 2 years, thinking I’m gonna transform these poor people’s lives…forget it, they transformed my life!! …My nights of going to bed hungry on numerous occasions made me realise what a selfish crowd of people we are in Western society…we haven’t a clue what real poverty is…yes they went hungry from time to time but those people were closer to God than we will ever be…they were hungry but they were happy with their lot and their faith in God would shame us…so who are the real poor of the world??..correct we are!
So, when you change the perspective of what poverty is, it tends to take on a different meaning…and don’t be shy Ktharp…and I will say a prayer just for you…God Bless


#7

I have re-listed here some of my best arguments on this topic from a variety of earlier posts:

Matthew 26:6-13
Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,
a woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, "Why this waste?
It could have been sold for much, and the money given to the poor."
Since Jesus knew this, he said to them, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She has done a good thing for me.
The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.
In pouring this perfumed oil upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.
Amen, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her.”

  1. The Catholic Church always has been, and remains, the largest charitable organization on the planet, by a wide amount. Much of the Vatican’s wealth has been donated to it by the great artists of the world for the glorification of God. Even that art which has been commissioned by the Vatican was still done for the glorification of God, because as Christians, we realize that the things of this Earth are fleeting. We give our best to God, but in the end, money doesn’t really mean anything. It’s our relationship with God. Jesus is saying in the passage from Matthew above that one can honor God with fine things AND help the poor at the same time.

  2. The people actually living at the Vatican are not living a magnificent lifestyle. In fact, the pope’s apartment is quite modest. It consists of just ten rooms. The layout includes a vestibule, the library, a small studio for the papal secretary, and the pope’s private studio, from which he blesses the crowd every Sunday. The other rooms include the pope’s bedroom, the medical studio (which has surgical equipment, in case he’s attacked, just like Air Force One has), his private chapel, a small living room, a dining room and kitchen. Further, the pope does not actually own any of this. It’s no different than asking the question of whether the President of the United States lives in too much opulence because he gets to use the White House, Air Force One, Marine One, Camp David, and so on. All of these things serve a purpose, and NONE belong to him. They belong to the people, which let him use it.

  3. The Vatican also serves as a museum for many of the world’s great treasures. As such, it protects them in museums. In reality, these objects have no objective value, because they cannot be sold. For example, let’s say the Vatican was to give up all of it’s wealth. How, precisely, would you sell off the Sistine Chapel? Is there really anything else you can do with it? You can’t give it to a private collector, or build a Starbucks, or something. That said, let’s do an experiment. Let’s say that the art that it WOULD be possible to sell at the Vatican is worth, say, a trillion dollars. That would indeed be a large sum of money. Now, let’s sell it all and donate the money to the poorest one-third of the world. The Catholic Church would then be able to give those two billion people exactly… $500. That’s it! Now, while the average income of those 2 billion impoverished people is around $300 per year, and while this would help them for a very short time, in about a half a decade, they would all likely go right back to being poor, and the world would have lost access to many of the world’s greatest treasures, as they’d be in private hands. Is the United States of America fabulously wealthy because it has the treasures of the Smithsonian Institution? I mean, wouldn’t it be better if they sold off all of those artifacts and donated the money to the poor? Of course not.

continued…


#8
  1. You must also remember that while Vatican City is an independent nation, most tiny countries like Monaco, Luxembourg, and Lichtenstein are far wealthier due to their tremendous banking industries, and they are comparable in size… Granted, the Vatican is probably slightly more wealthy than Andorra, and I’ll grant that it is definitely more wealthy than San Marino. That said, even many tiny Caribbean nations are wealthier than the Vatican. In fact, it operates on a budget smaller than Harvard University. It simply happens to have an abnormally large amount of museums.

You also must remember that the Vatican has only been a tiny principality since around 1860. Before then, the Vatican was part of the “Papal States”, which was a fairly substantial nation, consisting of much of the middle of Italy. It was probably larger and wealthier than Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg put together. Much of what remains was inherited from this much larger, more substantial state. It could never afford to build such buildings today.

This is typical of all European nations. For example, the French government did an investigation into insuring the palace of Versailles a few years back, as it is such an important national heritage site. After various insurance agents looked at it, they determined that Versailles is uninsurable, and it’s value is $0. Why? Simply put, if anything were to happen to the palace, it would be irreplaceable. The building is so expensive, that if even a fraction of it were to be destroyed, it would be impossible to replicate without bankrupting the whole of France. Now, does this mean that France is irresponsibly wealthy? Not at all. It’s simply a part of it’s cultural heritage. ALL relatively old countries have this problem. It has nothing to do with the Vatican per se.

  1. The Vatican, like many great churches, dates to the late Middle Ages / early Renaissance. A cathedral was actually one of the best investments a medieval town could make. Despite their great expense, a large cathedral could take hundreds of years to complete. It could become an industry unto itself. Large cathedrals employed thousands, and generated huge amounts of highly skilled jobs… jobs that were sorely lacking in the period. When the cathedral was complete, they would still need to be maintained, so many workmen would still remain. The pilgrims that would come to visit the cathedral needed to be fed, clothed, and housed, and this provided a virtual tourism industry, bringing in much needed revenue to both the church and the community. Churches were also the only medieval centers of learning, and every major university in Europe split off from a cathedral. If you had a cathedral school in your town, opportunities for trade would skyrocket, since learning about math, geography, cartography, astronomy, business, and law was all required by merchants. Further, most towns only even needed to have one large church, since there were no denominations. Everyone was Catholic, so all the effort could go into one splendid building rather than many smaller ones. Almost all medieval cities with a cathedral were FAR better off than their counterparts without them. This is why the cathedral is often called the greatest innovation of the Middle Ages.

  2. There is an old legend (which is probably true) that in the late 10th century Grand Prince Vladimir, seeking a national religion to help unify his lands and peoples, sent out envoys to inspect the various faiths of the surrounding nations. Accordingly, they attended the Muslim rites of the Bulgars, the Catholic mass of the Germans, and the Orthodox liturgy of the Greeks. When they returned and were questioned by their Prince as to which of the religions they thought the best, they answered boldly that whereas they found neither joy nor glory in the ceremonies of the Bulgars and the Germans, when they entered the sanctuary of the Greeks, they did not know whether they were in heaven or on earth. “For on earth,” they explained, “there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty” (the Primary Chronicle). Vladimir accepted their testimony, and the Russian Orthodox Church (which in 1988 celebrated its Millennium) was born.

clarionreview.org/templates/print.php?article_id=1

That idea of splendor, awe, and the sacred (more successfully accomplished by the Orthodox in the story above since Germany was a backwater at the time) is what is trying to be captured at the Vatican. If you come away with “it’s almost as if God is dwelling among men” at the Vatican, then you got the point.

By the way, have you ever noticed how the Orthodox Church NEVER receives this same question, and yet has churches equal in opulence to the Catholic Church (and in many cases, more opulent)?

The Biblical basis for this idea comes in part, from Revelation, as discussed above. It also is the successor to the Levitical priesthood, which also had splendid things, such as the Temple of Solomon.

continued…


#9
  1. This issue (the wealth of the Church) has been addressed in one way or another at least four times in church history already. First was the Iconoclastic controversy. People asked, “Why do we have all these expensive graven images in our churches? We should do away with them!” Well, this was in the Dark Ages, and statues, stained glass, and paintings were necessary because people couldn’t read. Priests had to teach the Gospel orally, using the images as aids. This heresy (and it WAS declared a heresy) was shot down pretty fast. A painting of Jesus is NOT the same as bowing down before a golden calf. Granted, the expense was not the ONLY issue, it was primarily about graven images, but this WAS a factor. The second time this was addressed was around the year 1000. Many Catholic priests were married, and they were living opulent lifestyles with their families, using nepotism to promote the ecclesiastical careers of their children, and building large houses by taking from the collection plate. A small abbey in the French city of Cluny began a highly successful reform movement that cleaned up most of the corruption in the Church. They used the twin principles of vows of poverty for religious orders, and mandatory celibacy for priests, which became SO popular, that the pope eventually mandated it for the Western branch of the church. (Eastern Catholics can still be ordained priests even if they are married. They are not bound to celibacy.) The third time was during the Council of Trent. During this famed council that dealt with the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church was attacked for its wealth. Many churches in Europe were gutted and stripped by Protestants, although the money didn’t go to the poor, but to line the coffers of kings like Henry VIII. As a result, the Catholic Church came up with the Baroque style, the over-the-top, almost gaudy style of decorating you see from that period, which used paintings, statues, gold, marble, stained glass, and almost anything else they could find, crammed it all together, and covered every single conceivable inch of free space in a church in an intentional political statement to show that there was nothing wrong with it. Since the Vatican dates from this era, that’s why you see most of this type of thing there. Some of the world’s greatest Christian art dates from this period as well. Finally, there was Vatican II. This council changed some things, partly with the intent of encouraging ecumenism with Protestants. They reduced the number of statues within churches (generally no more than one per saint, except where already present) for example. Some changes that occurred later cause things like altar rails which separated the congregation from the sanctuary to be ripped out. Some things were simplified. The results of this ecumenism have been mixed at best, since it hasn’t really brought any of those groups much closer to reunion with the Catholic Church. In fact, I would argue that we’re nearing a new interpretation of Vatican II, the “reform of the reform” so to speak. Like any church council, it takes about 100 years or so to implement. Most change comes like a pendulum. You want it in the middle, but it tends to swing to the extremes from time to time. Many believe that we’ve reformed TOO much already, and given up too much. The pendulum seems to be swinging back now, first with John Paul II, and now with Benedict. The ecumenical talks that have been having the most success have actually been with Orthodox groups, so I think that’s one reason why you’re seeing a return to tradition (like the Extraordinary Form of the Mass). I would predict that you’ll actually see MORE opulence, not less, in the coming years, as Catholics are becoming less concerned with what outside groups think of them, and are becoming more confident in their own tradition. This return to tradition and splendor would go a long way at repairing the damages between Catholics and Orthodox, and if those groups united, it would send a HUGE signal to the Christian world, as 2/3 of Christendom would be together. Already this has borne fruit, as an entire diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East, including the bishop and all the parishoners, recently reunited with the Catholic Church. The rest of this Orthodox group is also very close to reunification. A couple of other groups are also in talks. It is indeed a hopeful time!

continued…


#10

I guess what it boils down to for me is this:

I have no problem with the church receiving by donation, or even buying, beautiful things that are going toward worship. In other words, ceremonial garments, church buildings, things used in the liturgy, and church decoration. The church should inspire us, make us realize that we are experiencing something otherworldly, and demonstrate that we are willing to offer our best to God. If we read the Old Testament (and study history), we learn that the Temple of Solomon was fabulously and sumptuously decorated. In fact, according to historical evidence, it may have almost bankrupted ancient Israel! The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old, and we read in Revelation that the Holy Mass (and the Divine Liturgy) are direct reflections of heavenly worship. We are actually present with Christ on Calvary, eternally, out of time, witnessing the same sacrifice re-presented! The Mass really is heaven on earth!

Long ago, the Church instituted policies to prevent abuses regarding the personal wealthy of the clergy. This is what most people have a problem with. Before the Reformation (and during the time of the Cluny Reform Movement), many priests were corrupt, spending lavishly on themselves and their families, and out for power. Most of this has been corrected by the Church, although there will always be the occasional exception. This is the kind of wealth that is dangerous to the faith.

The amount of money spent on ceremonial items, even with their high cost, is only the tiniest, tiniest fraction of the Church’s budget. These items have a high up front cost, but usually last for hundreds of years. For example, in 2007, the Vatican had a budget of just 236 million Euros. (A little less than the US public university I went to school at). The city-state, which has a separate budget, had just a 6.7 million Euro surplus. Vatican financial investments brought in another 1.7 million Euros (they were hit hard by the economy). It had 36.3 million Euros in real estate investments. Their media operations LOST 14.3 million Euros. The Peter’s Pence collection (the worldwide donation from parishoners that goes to the Vatican’s budget) was 50.8 million Euros, including a single donation of $14.3 million dollars. Most of this money doesn’t go to charity; this is the money that directly goes to the operation of the Vatican, with the exception of Peter’s Pence, which is used to respond to natural disasters. Of this budget, much goes to restoration, the pope’s travels, day to day operations of the Vatican, operation of the museums, and so on. Only a few million dollars every year goes to new wardrobe and new liturgical items. Frankly, the Vatican doesn’t need many new things, when it has so many wonderful old ones.

Now, compare this to the Vatican’s charitable operations. In the US alone in 2007, Catholic Charities brought in over $3.6 BILLION dollars. Worldwide donations were far higher yet. Catholic Charities in the US is so large, that only the federal government provides more services. In some areas, Catholic Charities actually surpasses the government itself (and keep in mind, the country is only 22% Catholic, but Catholic Charities is open to all). It spends billions a year to help people in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It spends millions per year spreading the Catholic faith in the media and with missionaries (and much of that does come from the Vatican budget mentioned above). And… none of this takes into account donations that are given by local parishoners to their local parish, which are indeed used for the maintenance of the Church, but also go to stock food pantries, help immigrants, and fund Catholic schools, which have their own separate budget. Given what a TINY amount of money goes to the splendor of the Church… no, it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s literally a drop in the bucket. I think its wonderful, and I think the Vatican has it just right, though I respect everyone’s opinion to disagree.


#11

By the way, you’d be surprised how much money it takes to run even a moderately sized university. Let’s look at a few for comparison:

Penn State 2008-2009
Total University Budget - $3,607,444,000

Harvard University 2007
Total University Budget - $3,210,506,000
Total University Endowment - $36.9 billion

Notre Dame University 2008
$7.41 billion in assets
(Just this single Catholic university has a larger budget than the whole of the Vatican!)

University of Alabama 2008
Total University Budget - $682.9 million

Just to remind everyone again, the Vatican’s TOTAL budget, converted into American dollars (as of today, and rounding up), is only about $327 million. And that’s million, NOT billion like some of the universities listed above. In fact, a lot of the larger individual Catholic DIOCESES in the US have bigger budgets than the Vatican!


#12
  1. This issue (the wealth of the Church) has been addressed in one way or another at least four times in church history already. First was the Iconoclastic controversy. People asked, “Why do we have all these expensive graven images in our churches? We should do away with them!” Well, this was in the Dark Ages, and statues, stained glass, and paintings were necessary because people couldn’t read. Priests had to teach the Gospel orally, using the images as aids. This heresy (and it WAS declared a heresy) was shot down pretty fast. A painting of Jesus is NOT the same as bowing down before a golden calf. Granted, the expense was not the ONLY issue, it was primarily about graven images, but this WAS a factor. The second time this was addressed was around the year 1000. Many Catholic priests were married, and they were living opulent lifestyles with their families, using nepotism to promote the ecclesiastical careers of their children, and building large houses by taking from the collection plate. A small abbey in the French city of Cluny began a highly successful reform movement that cleaned up most of the corruption in the Church. They used the twin principles of vows of poverty for religious orders, and mandatory celibacy for priests, which became SO popular, that the pope eventually mandated it for the Western branch of the church. (Eastern Catholics can still be ordained priests even if they are married. They are not bound to celibacy.) The third time was during the Council of Trent. During this famed council that dealt with the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church was attacked for its wealth. Many churches in Europe were gutted and stripped by Protestants, although the money didn’t go to the poor, but to line the coffers of kings like Henry VIII. As a result, the Catholic Church came up with the Baroque style, the over-the-top, almost gaudy style of decorating you see from that period, which used paintings, statues, gold, marble, stained glass, and almost anything else they could find, crammed it all together, and covered every single conceivable inch of free space in a church in an intentional political statement to show that there was nothing wrong with it. Since the Vatican dates from this era, that’s why you see most of this type of thing there. Some of the world’s greatest Christian art dates from this period as well. Finally, there was Vatican II. This council changed some things, partly with the intent of encouraging ecumenism with Protestants. They reduced the number of statues within churches (generally no more than one per saint, except where already present) for example. Some changes that occurred later cause things like altar rails which separated the congregation from the sanctuary to be ripped out. Some things were simplified. The results of this ecumenism have been mixed at best, since it hasn’t really brought any of those groups much closer to reunion with the Catholic Church. In fact, I would argue that we’re nearing a new interpretation of Vatican II, the “reform of the reform” so to speak. Like any church council, it takes about 100 years or so to implement. Most change comes like a pendulum. You want it in the middle, but it tends to swing to the extremes from time to time. Many believe that we’ve reformed TOO much already, and given up too much. The pendulum seems to be swinging back now, first with John Paul II, and now with Benedict. The ecumenical talks that have been having the most success have actually been with Orthodox groups, so I think that’s one reason why you’re seeing a return to tradition (like the Extraordinary Form of the Mass). I would predict that you’ll actually see MORE opulence, not less, in the coming years, as Catholics are becoming less concerned with what outside groups think of them, and are becoming more confident in their own tradition. This return to tradition and splendor would go a long way at repairing the damages between Catholics and Orthodox, and if those groups united, it would send a HUGE signal to the Christian world, as 2/3 of Christendom would be together. Already this has borne fruit, as an entire diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East, including the bishop and all the parishoners, recently reunited with the Catholic Church. The rest of this Orthodox group is also very close to reunification. A couple of other groups are also in talks. It is indeed a hopeful time!

continued…


#13

Praying for the conversion of your friend …

Hail Mary,
full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of our death.
Amen.


#14

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