Is the Church really hording wealth?

My 21 yo daughter is wavering in her faith. One reason is because some of her fallen away friends have convinced her that the Church has tremendous wealth in the form of gold and jewels and priceless artwork that it could sell to use to help the poor, but instead the Church insists on “hording” this wealth. I told her that the Church does have art, etc. that has great historical value, but I’m not sure the Church is “hording” it. I have never been strong in my apologetics. How would any of you respond to this? Are there any sources I can go to for information? I need to be able to present another side of the story to her soon. Thanks!

mary ann

Ask her:

“Which is better for humanity at large?
A. Church retains its holdings of priceless art and religious treasures and makes them available to researchers, filmakers and sometimes even the general public so that all humanity benefits from the artist’s genius.
B. Church auctions off all “non-practical assets” and uses said money to aid the poor. The priceless art treasures of history end up in private collections.”

IMO, criticism of the Church’s art wealth is not a cause of loss of faith, but a symptom of it. When people have a vibrant faith they easily understand that the God of the universe deserves the best man has to offer in terms of art, worship and praise. When they don’t, they cast about for sticks to beat believers with.

Exactly. If this is her only beef with the Church, then there is something else she’s not telling you. That is a feeble attempt of hers as an excuse to not be Catholic.

Ask her what’s REALLY keeping her from the Truth. :slight_smile:


[quote= some of her fallen away friends have convinced her that the Church has tremendous wealth in the form of gold and jewels and priceless artwork that it could sell to use to help the poor,

We should also note that this same argument was used by Judas when a “Sinful woman” anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment.

Wealth is a trap in many ways but one needs to point out that the Church is rich in Holdings that are not Liquid assets in the market, but treasures held in trust for all humanity.

I’m really glad you brought this up because over the Christmas break I had a little dust-up with my sister, a fallen-away Catholic who now attends a Methodist church (albeit rarely). She objected to my donation to a charity for retired religious because the Vatican was “the richest country in the world” and I should be angry that I was even being asked to help with these retired religious given the wealth of the Vatican.

I was a bit sideswiped by the charge and haven’t really thought of a good response (except for pointing out the charities that the Catholic Church runs worldwide, which I did). Am I supposed to deny that the Church has assets? How much is too much? And what qualifies my sis to be the judge of how the Church allocates its resources? I have a feeling as long as we talk about the Church’s “treasures”, I will be on the losing side of the argument b/c it confirms her impression that the Church is drowning in loot.

As for my charity, I did some research and apparently it is for religious orders that are independent of any dioceses. At one time they had enough vocations that caring for their older and frailer members wasn’t an issue, but with the vocations shortage that is no longer the case. None of this would probably convince my sister that she’s wrong, however.

No the Church is not wealthy in a financial sense. The Vatican does have assets but these priceless items belong to the deposit of faith and the Church is in no place to sell them.

The modern Church is not the the temporal power as it was in the Middle Ages or Renaissance.

Furthermore much of the churchs art was gifted to her. Seeing that catholic charities is the worlds largest charitable organization I have a hard time lending credibility to such accusations.

i dont know the financial status of the church, but from what i see from the vatican, it most certainly isnt a humble organization.

Just think about the question economically- without even considering the ethical considerations of the Church depriving the faithful of seeing these works of art firsthand by “selling” them to private investors who would, at best, offer very limited public access.

In a sense, these artifacts are a type of capital. If you’re running a business, capital is what you use to make profits- it is the wealth generating component of any business. Businesses don’t sell off their capital unless they are planning on going out of business because they have no way to make any more money once the capital is gone.

Economically speaking, the Church generates revenue over the long term by maintaining these collections and charging a modest admission fee. This revenue is then used to support various projects in service to the poor. Over the long term, the revenue generated by modest admission fees is much greater than the one time profit from the sale of these artifacts.

Sure, the Church COULD sell these artifacts to private collectors or other museums, and that would generate a large influx of money which the Church could distribute to the poor. But once those artifacts were sold, then the money would dry up, and the poor would be right back where they started.

On top of that, future generations of the faithful would be deprived access to seeing, firsthand, the history of the Church as expressed through artistic masterpieces created by the faithful over the last 2000 years.

You might want to read this article about the Church’s financial holdings…

“In 1981, Pope John Paul II had ordered annual financial disclosure as part of his efforts to debunk the idea that the Vatican is rich.”

In 2007 “The financial report, released by the Holy See’s press office, listed revenues of $371.97 million against expenses of $386.27 million.”

That means that the Vatican was running on a deficit.

Given that most 1st world countries maintain billion dollar budgets, I hardly think the Vatican’s annual budget of $371.91 million justifies the common misperception that it is exorbitantly wealthy, particularly when you consider that the primary aims of that budget are evangelization and charitable work.

you mean a whole defcit of about 12 million dollars?
and then you want to compare 1st world countries maintaining billion dollar budgets with TRILLION dollar deficits?

yeah, i dont think that works out in your favor man…

Its true, the Church is hording wealth… Apparently they are gonna throw a killer Christmas party in 2010…

Sure the Vatican has lots of “wealth”…Does your daughter want them to sell the Vatican or St Peters Baslica…

The funny thing about priceless artifacts, is that they’re priceless…lol

Yes, it does, Because you can only run deficits if Banks are lending you money, and banks will only lend you money based on your financial “health”…Therefore being able to lend billions in deficit is showing that those countries have far larger asset bases…

The fact that the Vatican runs a deficit of only 12 million just shows how tight the finances are :wink:

does the vatican include all chritable donations in its finances, or is it held seperately?

Charitable donations should be part of every level of Church finance… The general practice is to make seperate donations (which wouldn’t be part of teh Vatican’s finances) for specific charities…My priest has always made it clear that our money should go first to the charities and secondly into the Church finances…

On a macro-scale, I am unsure of the Vatican’s charity policies…Maybe someone else on here knows?

How so? Since when is having a balance budget a bad thing? What the article is showing is that the expenses, revenue, and monetary resources of the Vatican are really quite small for a worldwide operation. In fact, IBM generates about 10 times the revenue as the entire Vatican nation in a given year. Further, the Vatican operates almost exclusively off of endowments, donations, and the sale of merchandise (much like a college or university). There’s no tax system to exploit people with, as there is in other nations.

So, let’s do a little experiment. Let’s say that we actually DID want to have a fire sale at the Vatican and sell off everything. Firstly, you have the problem that some things are simply unsellable. Obviously, no matter what you do, you can’t sell the Sistine Chapel to become the latest Starbucks. A building like that will always be a church, as will St. Peter’s Basilica. What else would you do with it? The only other option is for it to become a museum, and you’ll face the same expense problems anyway. So… there’s all that art! Is it wrong to preserve it in museums and keep the wealth from the poor? If so, then the Smithsonian better open up it’s vaults during these tough economic times, and so should the Louvre, the Pinakotek, the British Museum, and so on. But, that’s besides the point. For the sake of argument, let’s sell it. Let’s give it an estimated worth of $2 trillion. Once it’s sold, let’s divide up the wealth and distribute it to the poorest half of the world (about 3 billion people). That will give each of those poor people… are you ready… about $667 dollars total. Now granted, given that the average yearly wage around the world is about $300, this would indeed help out those people for about two years. However, most of those people would then go right back to being poor, and all of that art would be behind closed doors in private hands forever. The net gain would be very little. It would have about the same effect as last year’s economic stimulus check from the federal government. Add to that the fact that the Catholic Church is already, by FAR, the largest charitable organization on earth, and there’s not much of an argument at all.

The best argument, however, comes from Jesus himself. Not only did He state that the poor would always be with us, but He scolded the Apostles for complaining about the woman wasting precious oil on washing His feet. In the end, our wealth has no real value at all, and Jesus knew it. If that art (much of which was donated to the church, btw) can help to inspire people to worship, why would we be against that? We should give our finest to God, just like when we dress nice for church, and Jesus tells us as much.

And another point… most cathedrals actually generated huge amounts of money for their towns, both in the Middle Ages and still today! Aside from donations to the church, thousands were employed in the construction and eventual maintainance of the buildings. Towns developed tourist industries, which required taverns, inns, hotels, restaurants, and so on. Schools were almost always attached to cathedrals (virtually every important university in Europe was originally attached to a cathedral). Having a cathedral in your town was like an economic engine that, added up over the life of the town, helped make everyone’s lives better.

im only addressing this, because the res basically sounds like speech to the senate about how the church needs some bail out cash.

as an artist, i agree art is meant to inspire, evoke and illicit many things for many people, but they should be allowed to do it on their own neutral terms. the vatican may give shows to us lil folk, but they should just give it to a museum, where it will be shared with so many more, people who would otherwise never see it. and while WE should give our finest, its in my personal opinion that the church should be humble.

but again, reading your post, it just seems like church is at least in meium, if not big business…

well, i was mainly thinking in their yearly finance report, if the charity money they get, yknow, money and things given to the vatican, is listed seperately, or is it part of the , im trying to think of the word, bottom line?

It would be part of the bottom line, because, as per general accepted accounting practices, all expenses / cash outflows should be reported… i.e. show in the bottom line

ok, thanks.
i really know nothing about the way that stuff works.

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