Is the Catholic Church too Rich?
People often ask, “Why does the Catholic Church have so much money?” Or, “The Catholic Church is disgustingly rich, they should do more to feed the poor with all the money they have.” When one sees treasures of gold, beautiful buildings, artwork, and Popes “living in luxury,” critics often attack the church saying: “The pope should just sell the Vatican, the artwork, and all the gold, then they solve the world’s problems and help the poor people around the world.”
These are honest objections by some and anti-Catholic attacks from others. But, is this true? Is the Catholic Church too rich? And should they do more to help the poor? Let’s look at what’s really going on.
Let’s begin by rewinding time for some necessary context. It was the year 317 AD. At this time in history, the Catholic Church had witnessed persecution, torture, and death on and off for 300 years. It was illegal to be a Catholic in the Roman Empire for much of that time. Because it was illegal to be a Christian, it was dangerous to profess or show signs of the faith, and countless Catholics died in the most barbaric ways.
But in 317 AD, Constantine came to power and was sympathetic toward the Christians (Catholics). He not only legalized Christianity, but he allowed Catholics to worship freely again unhindered. Because of this edict, Catholics were allowed to come out of the slave mines, were released from prisons, and were allowed to worship God freely and openly.
Another massive acknowledgement is that Constantine restored the property that was confiscated from the Catholic Church by the pagan emperors. He rebuilt Catholic churches that were burned down or taken by previous regimes, and he even donated far more glorious and beautiful buildings to the Catholic Church than ever before.
Constantine tried to rectify the long history of abuse against the Catholic Church. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the biggest Catholic Church in the world, and it was built by Constantine to reverence and honor God. He knew it was the Lord Jesus who helped him to win his great battle to win the Roman Empire, so he wanted to give back to the Church who had been persecuted for centuries.
In fact, some of our oldest, largest, and most glorious churches weren’t actually built by Catholics at all. They were built by rulers like Constantine who gave them to the Church to glorify God.
It is true that the Catholic Church has also built stunning and gorgeous churches around the world, but that is because we believe in reverencing God and giving God the best – not our leftovers. Some people say having this luxury is against God, but the Bible proves the opposite.
In the Bible, the book of Exodus, you will see that God himself told Moses to build the huge, massive temple. He likewise commanded everything to be laid in gold, including the Ark of the Covenant. Was God being overly rich and pompous by doing that? Or, was He showing the world that He deserves the best?
The whole temple was laid in gold because God is the King of kings and the Lord of lords and is worthy. So, really, it has nothing to do with “just living in luxury” or lording it over the people.
Rather, it has to do with glorifying God, not ourselves. Another important thing to understand is that while the Catholic Church does have a lot of artwork, land, and precious items, these things do not belong to the Church. Nor do churches like St. Peter’s Basilica (pictured above). None of the beauty and splendor belongs to the institution or to the pope. The pope certainly doesn’t own it. Rather, it all belongs to the world wide church, and the people of God like us, which is why the Church could never sell it all.
Any one of us can go to the Vatican today, or we can visit St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls. We can go to any of these beautiful churches and visit. Do you know who else can visit?
All of the poor people in Rome, Catholic and non-Catholic. They go visit these churches just like we do, and they can take refuge from the cold or storms. Anyone can take in the breath-taking beauty while contemplating the presence of God.
The Truth about the Catholic Church and Wealth!
The Catholic Church has been the largest charitable organization on the face of this planet who feeds more people, shelters more people, clothes more people, educates more people, and helps more people, more than any other institution on planet earth. Even if you believe that the Catholic Church is overly rich and possesses too much money, the Church uses that money for good and for helping people in need around the world.
The Catholic Church also invented orphanages and hospitals, helps single mothers, combats drug trafficking, and so much more. If we stop giving money for the work of God, that is a massive amount of people who will go without food, clothes, medical care, and more.
The fact is the Catholic Church does help the poor, and more than anybody else. When asked, most of the poor people, and especially the poor Catholics, say they would never, ever, want the artwork or the gold liquidated. Even in their suffering, they see and know the beauty and find a connection with their Creator through it.
The belief that the Catholic Church is overly, disgustingly rich is simply not true. In fact, the Vatican loses money every year. Most Catholic Churches around the world lose money year after year, and are in the red.
Consider a thriving church which serves about 4,000 families. In this one parish alone, it takes approximately $1,000,000 dollars every year to run just the Air conditioning and heating, not to mention the rest if the parish. Think about that for a moment. If we stopped putting money in the collection basket every week, and everyone stopped giving money to Catholic charitable organizations because they thought the Church was too rich, then our parishes would not exist. And the thing is, they exist for us. They are our places of worship, our place to find God. We run it, we maintain it, and we are responsible for the upkeep. That’s why giving $1 in the basket isn’t really doing much to help support a large church with so many people.
Of course there have been some priests and bishops who have abused money, and it’s evil. They will answer to God severely on Judgment Day for that. Please don’t let the small percentage of bad priests and bishops stand as the example for everyone, because the majority of priests and bishops over 2000 years have been good.
Evil priests do not define our church. They are what it means NOT to be a faithful Catholic as they don’t follow the teaching of Jesus or their own Church. It is people like Mother Teresa and the countless nuns around the world helping people in need, Catholics who are missionaries, work in hospitals, and help people in day to day life.
One anti-Catholic woman once told me (and it’s a common line), that the Catholic Church should sell everything it has and liquidate all it’s land and art, and then give all that money to the poor. Of course, she did not really care for the poor as much as she wanted to find reasons to hate the Church and feel justified in doing so. Besides giving her much of the information discussed above, I also asked her how much money she gives to the poor every month. I asked her if she had sold her house, her furniture, and everything she owned in order to help the poor.
Completely shocked and caught off guard, she started stumbling for words saying that she didn’t have a lot of money, and couldn’t make much of a difference by selling her furniture. But I told her that she should sell it anyway and at least make some difference in other’s lives.
I told her she should be giving money to the poor each month and stop telling other people to do it in her place. Moreover, she should stop telling others to sell everything they own if she’s not willing to do the same. That’s hypocrisy. Maybe the Catholic Church would follow suit if she lead by example.
But again, this was not about money, it was about demonizing a church who helps so many people.
Thank God for the Catholic Church and for the millions and millions of people the Catholic Church has helped over 2000 years. The Catholic Church has had more missionaries in more countries than any other religion, and probably most other religions combined by far. Catholic missionaries are in some of the poorest and most destitute places in the world helping to build homes, provide food and shelter, medicine and education, and so much more. So don’t believe the lies of the media and of anti-Catholics. They have an agenda.
The Catholic Church also has an agenda; to help people as Jesus commanded. This is why I give money to my parish, but I also give money to shelters for runaway children, organizations which give money to the poor and help people to live a decent life. Lastly, I also try to give money to organizations that work to save people’s souls which is also a form of charity. The highest charity, in fact, getting people to heaven.
So, the myth that the Catholic Church is overly rich and lords it over people is just that – a myth.
Please consider giving generously to your parish. You could also give to other Catholic Charities and organizations that feed the poor, clothe the naked, help the imprisoned, combat drug or child trafficking, lead sinners back to God, and more. In doing this, we will be helping to fulfill the command of Christ to help our brothers and sisters in need, and so serve Christ Himself (Mt. 25:31-46).
If you would, please consider supporting our ministry too, as we cannot reach souls without generous people who believe in our mission.