How to respond to charges that some Churches are to lavish, rich, and that the money that the churches cost could go to the poor?
First of all, how would the asker know that the Church in question is not also giving significant amounts to charity? Answer: the asker does not, because the fact is that the Catholic Church (usually the accused in these ‘too lavish and rich’) provides substantial charitable work … hospitals that treat uninsured/underinsured (and quite frankly, the high deductible insurances are little better than being uninsured) and write those charges off to charity, run food pantries, shelters for the homeless, etc.
Second of all, why should we worship God–who created all this infinite variety and beauty in the world–in a barren, bare-walls, plain, unadorned, warehouse? The decorations are provided by members of the parish, over time … and if someone donates $50k worth of Italian marble (as happened in my former parish about 40-some years ago) to be fashioned into an altar and railing, then it becomes an altar and railing. And because it is marble, it is going to last for a very long time. Someone else gives a stained glass window. Another person gives a statue. Another person gives vestments for the priest. Another person gives a monstrance. Another person gives a chalice. The Church has been around for a very long time, and these gifts accumulate over time.
Third, who would buy the decorations? These things are considered priceless for a reason–because there is no buyer. And perhaps there should not be. What is the value of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? The answer is not dollars and cents, or any other currency … it is in the uplifting of the souls of those who view that ceiling.
Fourth, there was another person who once was very concerned about the extravagant expense on a jar of perfume. He was not commended for that position.
In my very humble humble humble opinion we can’t spend too much money on the house of worship where Jesus is kept in the tabernacle, and the sacrifice of the cross is sacramentally renewed.
Now if we are discussing assemble halls where people gather to pray, then that is a different matter.
The “lavish church” attack is just a smokescreen for a deeper issue that they have against the Church. Even if the Church sold all of its possessions they would have some other superficial problem.
Ask them if tomorrow the Pope liquidated all of its possessions and gave it to the world’s poor would they immediately become Catholic? And see what their answer is.
It would likely be some other reason why they would not become Catholic! :shrug:
That’s the point. You want to find out the real reason why they reject the truth of the Church and not dwell on the superfluous.
Ask them first what to do about the thousands and thousands of ‘lavish Churches’ that were built and still exist. The people who bought and paid for them are long gone. So, who’s responsible? Who for example is going to ‘buy’ Notre Dame? How do you put a price on things like relics which are part of such ‘lavish’ places but not exactly things like 'gold?" If you are buying Notre Dame, and you’re paying prices for AD 2014, what about the fact that what you offer might not reflect what it cost to build then, adjusted for inflation? Who is going to be responsible for upkeep for such old places? Keep them up to the codes demanded for today? Who gets the money if Notre Dame is sold? Just the people of Paris? Just the people of France? Why should somebody in say Muslim Iraq get a ‘share’? And how much exactly would all the so-called ‘wealth’ of these churches bring?
Notre Dame is a ‘one of a kind’ church. But if you have Chartres Cathedral, St John the Divine, St Marks in Venice, St Peter’s in Rome, all the Cathedrals throughout the world not to mention the ‘lavish’ churches throughout the U.S. (almost every county has a parish church from the late 19th century with stained glass and beautiful carvings, statues, gold chalices, etc., i.e., “LAVISH CHURCH”) and every other Christian or mission country, then you have a real glut on the market. So the prices are going to be a lot less because there will be quite a lot of ‘lavish’ stuff on the market. People would bid millions for a stained glass window from Notre Dame (“Look, Henry, my house has a real stained glass window from NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL”) but if there are going to be hundreds of thousands of stained glass windows on the markets from various churches, they’ll be a ton of supply and face it, not all THAT much demand.
So maybe, just maybe, after ‘selling off’ (and having to pay for appraisal fees, lawyer fees, bank fees, moving costs, etc) all this ‘wealth’, the entire item might be, let’s be very generous here, and say 5 billion dollars. (Remember, despite the ‘myth’ of huge wealth, most Cathedrals won’t be able to make back the cost of their construction and a lot of them will wind up destroyed after the moveable ‘wealth’ is sold off).
One billion dollars. the world has 7 billion people. At least 70% by estimates from the world economic commission are poor; that would be about 5.5 billion people.
5.5 billion people, 5 billion dollars. Gee, just under a dollar per person. . . given ONE day. And. . .that’s it. No more people going to see Notre Dame. No more beauty that belongs to ‘everybody’ but rather, beauty belonging to a handful of people, few of whom would appreciate it as an offering to God but would instead hoard it for ‘money value’ and ‘prestige’.
Seems like a pretty bad bargain, all told. . . Especially for the poor. Instead of feeding their souls with beauty and timeless worship and love for God, they’ll get a few cents on one day of their lives. And their children and children’s children etc forever will be denied the right which their ANCESTORS had given to them and which one small group of people in one year of recorded time decided to ‘take away’ from all forever. . .to have Notre Dame and all the other churches as part of their Catholic Christian heritage, part of their offering to God along with all those from the time of its building through today. . .
LOVE this answer. Number 4 especially, because that’s what was going through my mind as I was reading the original post.
Well said Melissa!
And if you’re wondering what this is a reference to, see Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12. Cheers!