How do I respond to questions about the wealth of the Catholic Church?

After having visited the Vatican treasures in Rome, some in-laws are very critical of the Church for the wealth of treasures displayed there. They feel some of these treasures should be sold to provide for the poor and needy. How do I respond to this?!
Thanks.

[quote=meg]After having visited the Vatican treasures in Rome, some in-laws are very critical of the Church for the wealth of treasures displayed there. They feel some of these treasures should be sold to provide for the poor and needy. How do I respond to this?!
Thanks.
[/quote]

When people complain that churches are too fancy (“Quick Questions,” January 2003), I wonder what kind of homes they live in. As Haggai asked, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this [God’s] house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4).

I remember that liberal talk show host Phil Donahue claimed the reason he left the Church was that he couldn’t see spending on a church money that could have been given to the poor. Some years after that, he complained that conservatives kept him out of a yacht club he wanted to join.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the vocation of sacred art is “evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God—the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ, who ‘reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature.’. . . Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God” (CCC 2502). Churches are like art museums in that they provide art and beauty to people who can’t afford a rowboat, let alone membership in a yacht club.

source: catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0304ltrs.asp

Q: I’m sure you hear this all the time, but I’m looking for a concise and convincing way of answering objections to the wealth of the Church.

A: Most objections about the Church’s alleged wealth is in regard to the art in the Vatican. Most of the art represents the work of Christians who wanted to place their talents at the service of God through the Church. The artwork is an example of their religiosity and is not for sale. Had the Church not preserved the art, much of it would have been destroyed through the ages. Such art is part of our heritage as Christians and indeed as human beings, and few people of any persuasion who appreciate such world culture would truly prefer that these treasures have been put into the control of secular commerce.

In Matthew 26:6ff we read, “A woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For the ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”

Likewise, many of the great cathedrals of Europe were built with donations and labor from the poor, who wanted to build such monuments to God’s goodness and sovereignty. The Vatican does not control enormous liquid wealth, and its annual operating budget has been compared to that of a large archdiocese such as that of Chicago.

In spite of this, the Catholic Church is still one of the most giving institutions on earth, running and supporting countless charities, relief organizations, hospitals, and similar enterprises at great cost to the Church.

source: catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0301qq.asp

Thank you for that excellent and very concise reply!! How did you do that — I mean find the quote and reference so quickly!? I want to be able to do that.

[quote=meg]Thank you for that excellent and very concise reply!! How did you do that — I mean find the quote and reference so quickly!? I want to be able to do that.
[/quote]

I’m a subscriber to This Rock magazine, so I remembered the story about Phil Donahue, so I typed “Donahue” in the Catholic.com search box. That also led me to the 2003 quick questions article.

I’m sure if you search around some more, you’ll find even more articles on the subject or other subjects that interest you. Have fun. :thumbsup:

A similar question was asked on Marcus Grodi’s EWTN radio show. A number of people called with great answers, some of them similar to what was answered by DeFide.

Another response would be to direct them to the Old Testament where God gave explicit directions as to how the ark of the covenant should be built using gold and statues etc., beginning with Exodus 25.

Personally, I’m glad that the ‘Pieta’ and other art treasures are at the Vatican for everyone to see, rather than being sold to say, Donald Trump’s personal art collection.

To advocate selling off all those treasures of Western civilization would be equivalent to an environmentalist advocating the selling of all Federal lands to private industry.

[quote=meg]After having visited the Vatican treasures in Rome, some in-laws are very critical of the Church for the wealth of treasures displayed there. They feel some of these treasures should be sold to provide for the poor and needy. How do I respond to this?!
Thanks.
[/quote]

A similar charge is that dioceses from all over the world send their collections to Rome. Where did this come from?

If it is a fallacy, why do ex-priests and nuns who should know better about Church operations make the same charge?

I remember reading, on these forums I think, that the art work the Vatican owns is listed under its assets for $1 (don’t know if that’s $! for each or the whole thing). Its not about the money as some people want to always focus on.

Even if the Vatican sold everything and gave all the money to help the poor, we’d still have the poor with us (as Jesus told us). All of those great works of art would belong to private collectors who probably wouldn’t open their homes to the masses to be able to view them.

The artwork and buildings etc. belong to** us **the Vatican preserves it for us.

Yes, what do you expect, the Vatican to put the naming rights for the Sistine chapel up for sale? Would you prefer a sign out front advertising the Sistine Chapel - brought to you by Coca Cola?

And should the church put the Lateran Basilica up for sale, so some developer can gut it and convert it into a shopping mall and food court?

The church has great wealth in property, art, and some prime real estate, but none of it is particularly liquid - there’s nobody who could really put a price, let alone buy any of those things. And if they did, what a shame!

There’s more to poverty than lack of food and clothing. There’s also spiritual poverty. I think the church’s stewardship of these great treasures helps to lift the human spirit toward God. People who would deny the value of this, and focus only on the material needs are basically forgetting the spiritual dimension of human existence.

[quote=DeFide]When people complain that churches are too fancy (“Quick Questions,” January 2003), I wonder what kind of homes they live in. As Haggai asked, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this [God’s] house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4).

I remember that liberal talk show host Phil Donahue claimed the reason he left the Church was that he couldn’t see spending on a church money that could have been given to the poor. Some years after that, he complained that conservatives kept him out of a yacht club he wanted to join.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the vocation of sacred art is “evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God—the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ, who ‘reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature.’. . . Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God” (CCC 2502). Churches are like art museums in that they provide art and beauty to people who can’t afford a rowboat, let alone membership in a yacht club.

source: catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0304ltrs.asp

Q: I’m sure you hear this all the time, but I’m looking for a concise and convincing way of answering objections to the wealth of the Church.

A: Most objections about the Church’s alleged wealth is in regard to the art in the Vatican. Most of the art represents the work of Christians who wanted to place their talents at the service of God through the Church. The artwork is an example of their religiosity and is not for sale. Had the Church not preserved the art, much of it would have been destroyed through the ages. Such art is part of our heritage as Christians and indeed as human beings, and few people of any persuasion who appreciate such world culture would truly prefer that these treasures have been put into the control of secular commerce.

In Matthew 26:6ff we read, “A woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For the ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”

Likewise, many of the great cathedrals of Europe were built with donations and labor from the poor, who wanted to build such monuments to God’s goodness and sovereignty. The Vatican does not control enormous liquid wealth, and its annual operating budget has been compared to that of a large archdiocese such as that of Chicago.

In spite of this, the Catholic Church is still one of the most giving institutions on earth, running and supporting countless charities, relief organizations, hospitals, and similar enterprises at great cost to the Church.

source: catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0301qq.asp
[/quote]

Beautiful, beautiful, right-on response!!! Thanks so much!!! I had one person tell me that is why he could never be a Catholic too!!!

[quote=Aris]If it is a fallacy, why do ex-priests and nuns who should know better about Church operations make the same charge?
[/quote]

Perhaps for the same reason that they are FORMER priests and nuns.

If you search the archived threads about Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI, someone posted the factoid there that the annual budget of the Vatican is approximately equivalent to that of The University of Wisconsin. Not bad for a central office that handles a billion people.

Yeah, awesome job folks. Meg, the thing you have to remember is sometimes the people making these observations have a very shallow view; they see “something” and they jump to a conclusion w/o thinking it through. For example, I had someone point to all the “gold” in Catholic Churches. Uhhhh, most of that stuff was brass. Gold in color, but brass.

Many Catholics just roll over on this sort of thing. So you are as awesome as DeFide for taking the time to post the question!!! I’m sure we all learned a little. And grew. Isn’t the church awesome!?!

Jim

and a protestant friend of mine says she likes the art found in the Catholic Church.

Tell them Americans have no power to sell Vatican assets so instead, why don’t we sell off the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Guggenheim Museum and the Library of Congress.

Imagine what Monticello or Mount Vernon would bring on Ebay!

Priceless works of art should not be sold, and relics should not be put out on Ebay or any other sales forum. It’s interesting to read about how either Benedict XV or Pope Pius XI after WWI used up so much of the Vatican treasury to help the poor in Germany, that there was not enough money to pay for the coronation ceremony of his replacement.

The Vatican had to borrow money from the Italian government to pay for it.

I’m sure the Vatican can get a few million for the Pieta, or auction off the Sistine Chapel for a bundle, but would that be enough to feed all the poor ?

Much of the so-called wealth of the Vatican are antiquities of a religious nature, or great art donated from patrons who commisioned the master craftemen of the day. How much would a piece of the original cross of Jesus be worth ?

Some things simply should not be sold at any price. They belong to the whole Church and to all humanity, both to the poor and rich alike. IF these items were sold to some rich fat cat, it would get socked away into some private collection, and we will all be far poorer than we are now.

it is up to us to feed the poor, one jperson at a time!

Tell the truth. Cardinals don’t need silk robes. However, this does not affect the divine status of the Catholic Church, nor infallibility.

I was once told (by a non-C) that the Catholic Church was more wealthy than the US government. I waited a second and asked why the Vatican had never put a man on the moon then. He didn’t have a response. We as Catholics shouldn’t worry about responses to every absurd statement we hear. If you are worried about a serious reply to this type of question then just state that even if the Vatican sold everything then it would feed every poor person in the world for only a few days then the money would be gone and so would the artwork. Maybe some of these TV preachers could sell their houses and cars!

The Catholic Church itself as an institution may have alot of wealth tied up in real estate, art, etc…but what I always find interesting is the people who always bring this up to me usually Protestant. The fact is a Catholic Priest for instance gets paid very little and usually doesn’t even own the car he drives the individual parish owns his car and house (or rectory). I know that many Protestant preachers are extremley wealthy and it’s the money they have collected from their flock. One particular TV Evangelist here in Houston where I live has a multi-million dollar home and his new church is actually where the Houston Rockets used to play after a multi-million dollar renovation. So how is that OK…The Catholic Church has always been a church of giving. I have heard that we have all this art worth millions deal before. Our church is old the oldest circa 33 AD. Of course we have priceless works of art its old…would you sell your old family photos for a quick buck?

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