After CNN’s Daniel Burke posted about the lavish lifestyles of some Catholic archbishops, Catholic blogger Kathy Schiffer decided to tackle the inevitable question: Why don’t we just sell the Vatican? Or how about just St. Peter’s Basilica (below)? Or anything, really, since the Church has so much?
Her answer might be what you’d expect: The Church shouldn’t sell anything.
But her reasons are appalling:
Wouldn’t you seem ungrateful if your parents had scrimped and saved to give you a pricey wedding gift, only to have you cast it aside? Likewise, past generations of the faithful — grateful for God’s beneficent care, and eager to share their appreciation by giving of their blessings — have donated the funds, or contributed the artwork, or supported the artist, with the expectation that their gift will be appreciated and will serve as an inspiration to prayer for future generations.
Of course, there’s a difference between keeping an heirloom… and flat-out hoarding everything that comes your way. There’s no reason the artwork couldn’t be given to a museum. Hell, there’s no reason the Vatican couldn’t become a museum itself. No one’s asking Church officials to burn the artwork. But not every building is a historical artifact. Not every painting is priceless. And there are better uses for all the space the Church has.
Here’s another reason Schiffer offers:
Beauty Leads Us to Holiness
… As we appreciate the beauty of a flower, we begin to understand a little more of the beauty of its Creator, and we are drawn to love Him more. Likewise, when a stained glass window enraptures us with its shimmering color and its profound imagery, we appreciate the creator (the artist), and the Creator of the creator (God).
That’s what you say when your logical reasons for believing in God fail: Look at how pretty we are!
And another reason:
The Poor Deserve Beauty, Too.
Sure they do. I’m just saying they’d like a roof over their heads even more. Maybe some food while we’re at it.
The commenters on Schiffer’s site who agree with her bring up a couple of points worth responding to:
- Even if you feed the poor, they will be hungry again tomorrow.
- Should the United States sell the Smithsonian Institute to help the poor?
So the solution is to let them starve…? The money from the Church could easily pay for the education of many poor people (so they can get out of poverty) or food sources that replenish themselves.
Of course not. There’s an educational purpose to the Smithsonian that’s absent from the Vatican. The goal of the Smithsonian isn’t to indoctrinate you. (And they usually don’t ask for any money, either.)
I don’t want it to sound like this is an attack on the wealthy or that I’m ignoring every other rich institution. I can freely admit the Catholic Church does plenty of charity work already. And every one of us could probably sell some of our possessions, help others with the money, and not even notice anything’s missing. (Ariane Sherine‘s recent experiment is a prime example of this.)
The problem with the Church is that it doesn’t even seem to acknowledge its excessive wealth. It’s not like they’d need to sell off the Vatican to make a significant change. Even downgrading archbishops’ opulent homes to something much smaller wouldn’t cramp their style — the Pope manages just fine in his small bedroom — and the money they’d get could actually do a lot of good. That’s true for all of us, of course, but we don’t all have billions of dollars in assets just lying around.
It’s also a PR problem. Mother Teresa, for all of her faults, was generally well-regarded by the public because she wasn’t just helping the poor; she was right in the trenches with them. But you’re not going to take very seriously a Church official who says he’s all about helping the poor, as he wears fancy clothing and walks out of his lavish home.
The Church won’t sell its assets, though. It’ll continue building up its wealth. Too bad the Bible never said anything about rich people.
(Image via Wikipedia)