Thursday, April 02, 2009

Vatican Wealth: The myth that's contrasted with voluntary poverty

Many people accuse the Vatican and the Catholic Church in general of hording up money and retaining vast wealth. In fact, many say the reason priests are celibate is so that they do not have a family to pass down their possessions to. Many look at the large basilicas and cathedrals and wonder why they aren't being sold off to help the poor. I will analyze these questions and show how they are based on falsehoods.

One of the main proofs that the Catholic Church and specifically priests and bishops are not members of the clergy to gain wealth is the way the wealth they have is used and to contrast that with how others use wealth. When you look at the lifestyles of the rich and famous, whether it's the show or just the activity, what do you notice? They have huge houses, several expensive cars, a swimming pool, huge tvs, etc. And a major thing you will notice is that they are usually not celibate! Contrast this now with clergy. They usually live in a small place, have a utilitarian car, are voluntarily celibate, etc. They have forgone the trappings of this world in order to come closer to the spiritual life.

When Pope John Paul II, the head of the Catholic Church, died in 2005, he had very few possessions of personal property. Just a few little things. It is said he did not remember the meals he ate but could remember almost all the conversations he had with people. He was most interested in being a shepherd to the people of God. There are countless examples of saints living in voluntary povery in the Catholic Church, from St. Francis of Assisi who could have taken over his father's textiles business, or Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists and Doctor of the Church, who could have had a lucrative career as a lawyer in Italy but renouced that to follow a spiritual path. Mother Teresa gave up her life to be a nun in the poorest part of India. Ten thousand books could be written about saints who renounced a life of luxury to live a Catholic spiritual life and you would still not have scratched the surface.

As for basilicas and cathedrals, these were works of love. They were built by donations given by people. The people wanted places of worship where they could celebrate the Mass. Many times, people of the community actually helped in building these monuments. Brother André Bessette, who founded St. Joseph's Oratory, one of the largest churches in Canada and the world, was known for his harsh austerities. He had a tiny room and did many forms of penance. His aunt was worried that he would die because he was already frail. He in fact lived into his nineties.

As far as hording up wealth goes, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on the planet. Bigger than the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or any other institution or organization in the world.

If you are seeking personal material wealth, you better look elsewhere than the clergy of the Catholic Church.


  1. What is your profession sir? It must not be in business. You are expecting to convince people that the Catholic Church is poor? Look at every country that is 75% or more catholic. The people are in poverty...Why? Why? They give all their money to the Church. Poor Church... lol

  2. What is your profession sir? It must not be in business. You are expecting to convince people that the Catholic Church is poor? Look at every country that is 75% or more catholic. The people are in poverty...Why? Why? They give all their money to the Church. Poor Church... lol

  3. Sir Phil What is your profession? Obviously you need to come up out of your sand pit into 'real' life. Every nation under the sun that is 70% or more catholic is living below the poverty level... Why? Why? The 'poor' Catholic church has taken all their money though purgatory givings, offerings, donations, All as works to be saved. I totally dispute your claim that the church is a big financial giver. To What? Every time an earthquake or disaster hits a catholic country. The pope begs and pleads for help from the world. I have never seen where the church has given anything. They ONLY take from the ignorant people under the cloak of religion.

    Do some research 'sand lover' and you will find the assets of the Vatican to exceed hundreds of Trillions of dollars.

    As for (priest living without women),, They obviously like boys better. Wake up man and be a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ...


  4. Quote from Phil >
    "As far as hording up wealth goes, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on the planet. Bigger than the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or any other institution or organization in the world."

    Where you get this lie? Tell me more about their giving. When? To What? etc.


  5. Hi Gerald,

    Good to hear from you. You seem rather interested in my profession. Would you like a resume? I am in marketing. Funny you said I must not be in business, when in fact I am.

    You said to look at the countries which are 75% or more Catholic. Sure.

    The most Catholic countries, based on percentage of total, with populations of at least 1 million Catholics are as follows:


    After this, the top of the list goes to South American countries.

    The top 5 are actually quite wealthy with a high standard of living.

    South America has been suffering economically, and they are developing nations, but this is not due to their religion. If Catholicism in an absolute sense caused people to be impoverished, then the top 5 most Catholic countries would not be wealthy.

    As for Catholics giving away all their money, this is plainly false. Catholics give a lower percentage of their money than Protestants do. This has been shown with several studies. Also, I have never as a Catholic been encouraged to tithe. In fact, I didn't even hear of the word until I heard it from Protestant sources. I am an usher at my church and I take up collection. I can assure you, more often than not people will give a couple of coins rather than a $20 bill or a cheque. I believe there is a problem of people not giving enough money in the Catholic Church.

    As for "purgatory giving", that does not exist. It is illegal to "sell indulgences". The Catholic understanding of purgatory and indulgences is that we sin and ask for forgiveness, which God is only too willing to give. But sometimes there is effects of the sin we have caused. For example, if you steal money, it is not enough to go to God and ask for forgivness, you must also pay it back, and if you can't, you can do some other good work, like community service to restore that situation. Such is the case with indulgences. There is a temporal punishment due to sin which is satisfied by a spiritual act. Examples include prays, almsgiving, fasting, etc. In the past, one could make reparation by giving money to a worthy cause. Some priests abused this situation and told people to give money to the poor. But this is a bad act on the part of the priest, not in the theology of the Church. Because of the abuses and potential of abuses, the ability to make amends by giving money or valuables to the Church was disallowed about 400 years ago. A priest caught advising someone to give money for an indulgence to the Church would be disciplined.

    As for your perjorative comment about the sex abuse scandal, of course this was a major disappointment. We pray for the victims of this tragedy, but it is also important to put it in perspective. Catholic priest abuse is no greater than abuse from other denominations. But no denominations are close to the size of the Church and the Church speaks with authority so people attack it. All the abuse you heard about occurred over a 40 or 50 year period, but was revealed in the news in a small space of time, causing it to look much greater. It is estimated that between 1 and 4% (with 2% being the most reasonable) of priests abused peopel sexually. In comparison, teachers have statistically abused 4 times this number.

    Also, most of the cases of priest abuse involved a priest abusing a single person, and virtually all cases did not involve boys, but rather post-pubescent males, therefore they were not cases of pedophilia, but rather hebephilia. Usually the victim was a teenaged boy. Of course, this is not right in the least, but I want to clarify.

    Another point is that most priests take a vow of poverty. This is important. Treasures which represent the pinnacle of human endeavor such as the Vatican and the amazing Cathedrals of the world are built for the people, by the people. Priests and bishops do not "own" cathedrals and lock the doors for their own personal use. Anybody, rich or poor can enter a cathedral or basilica and draw closer to God.

  6. And finally, I want to assure you I am Christian. I am a part of the Church which Jesus Christ established in 33AD. The church he promised would be with us for all time. A church which is visible and of which Peter is the rock. I invite you to explore the Catholic Church further my friend. :)

  7. If there was a real all powerful, all knowing all seeing God. Which is fair and compassionate, it is illogical that a God would create an earth quake which has killed and trapped 10s of thousands of people, innocent children, woman and men. Did these people deserve this? of course not. There can be no such powerful God.

    So that means that the Church exists as a means of gathering power and wealth by people in the church. It is clear that the pope lives in a luxurious huge palace, to the glory of himself.

  8. Hello there,

    I would just like to comment that I find your apologia for child abuse appalling. "Oh, but they weren't *that* young", etc. Stop a minute and think about what you're trying to soften the image of here.

    As far as I'm concerned, the pope is a fraud who hasn't even begun to understand Christ's message. Sitting there in his huge palace state -- can you please point me at the part of scripture that says "gather loads of money and set up a city state"? Does the pope's current setup remind you of 'humility' in any possible meaning of the word? How about the high-ups in churches in the UK who live in palaces/mansions (not necessarily catholic)? "Humility"? How about the archbishop of Canterbury? He has not one but two palaces in the UK. Can I visit that, please? Oh no, I can't, can I? How about the Archbishop of York? Oh, lives in a palace. Really getting the message of jesus there.

    Some food for thought:

  9. Jesus, the SON OF GOD, was born in the manger. That's a heck of a message he is giving us. He told the rich man that the only thing separating him from eternal life was possessions, "Drop everything and follow me." When did it become okay to use gold to glorify God? God is in relationships, not bejeweled temples and golden chalices.

    I believe that if Jesus saw these huge sums of money spent on gorgeous buildings, he would be wondering why it hadn't been spent on helping the 18,000 children that die a day from hunger (

  10. Your explanation doesn't explain the thing you said you were going out to explain. It says individual catholics are not wealth hoarders. The fact remains that the church is and has used their wealth of gold to conquer and divide nations economies the world over. Do you guys really think everyone is this stupid?

  11. Phil, good article. I'm not Catholic, but I hope to be in the coming 40 days. I was evangelical, but I became really tired of angry biblical fundamentalists who created their own interpretation to fit their own agenda. No wonder there is somewhere around 40,000 protestant denominations. It's a wonder that they all think they are right in their interpretation of scripture, and when they disagree, they go and create a new church and appoint themselves pastor! Oh joy. Because of their "witness" I decided to become agnostic and remained so for many years, until last year when I discovered in the Catholic church the authority granted to it by Christ in Matthew 16:16 and the discovery of the Eucharist in John 6. I'm really over simplifying my 2+ year journey of deeply researching the 2,000 year old religious history of the Christian Church, but I think you know what I mean... as Cardinal Newman said "to be deep in history is to cease to be protestant". It's amazing to me that someone can be so devote in their Christian faith and hate the Catholic church from which nearly all of their beliefs come from.

    Anyway, I got what you were saying about the terrible abuses that occurred in the Catholic church. I'm very encouraged by the numerous apologies and pleas for forgiveness from the Church, especially the ones from the pope himself. The reparations were very important too. I don't know of any other organization that has gone to such lengths to repair the damage... and they are continuing to do so!

    Sometimes we get angry at the Catholic Church because it's an easy target in America... it's sport. But if we are TRULY living a Christ-like life, we would be doing everything we can to love our Christian brothers and sisters (Catholics, Evangelicals, etc...)

    Anyway, whenever you talk on such topics, you expose yourself to people who do not love like Christ asks us to love. Thanks for stepping out and trying to clear things up.

    Tim in MN USA

  12. Disgusting.. I went to my mothers village in the Philipines. I went to a Sunday church service with her. I asked the Priest where does all this money go to? He said the Vatican. The crumbling church needed approval from them before the could proceed with any renovations. My family loves the church.. and in some ways so do I. But watching the poor give to a multi billion dollar corporation under the facade that you will be saved. That is all fine with me because if there really
    is a hell.. Enjoy. :) PS. Read your history about previous Popes and their involvement with the Nazi's and who financed Hitler? Hell, I believe may already be in full capacity.

  13. Why is everyone so angry at the Catholic Church?
    Maybe because it is the only and first True religion, we do not judge people, we welcome all people who believe in Christ no matter your color, culture background or language. We are the First and only Universal church.