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bongo's avatar

If Catholicism is about self sacrifice and giving to the poor then why does the Vatican have to keep so much wealth and high value assets?

Asked by bongo (4297 points ) May 7th, 2012

Just wondering why the Vatican needs all that stuff? If it because it is holy surely the poorer people would need it closer to them to help spread the wealth? Isn’t the point of Catholicism to love other Catholics and help them in their time of need and self sacrifice and giving to others? The Vatican could sell them and give the money to the poor, is that not the most ‘Christian’ thing to do with it? To me the wealth of the Vatican simply undermines the values of the Catholic church? Please help me understand this, as an atheist I just don’t get it.
I do understand that they need large buildings to house congregations of people to worship etc. I just don’t understand the pope sat there dripping in gold etc.
This probably applies to other religions too however I haven’t researched it.

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27 Answers

janbb's avatar

That is the million euro question!

tom_g's avatar

Atheist ex-Catholic here. I think I understand what you’re getting at here. But why do you think “Catholicism is about self sacrifice and giving to the poor”? That’s not what it was “all about” when I was a Catholic?

bongo's avatar

@tom_g I had a conversation with someone the other day about volunteering and not selling stuff on ebay but giving them to charity shops etc. and he was saying the core to a good Christian and the teachings of Catholicism is about self sacrifice and giving to the poor quoting me Matthew 19.21.

bongo's avatar

I didnt say it was all about it, I just said it was about it i.e. incorporates it as a section. Obviously Catholisism is about other things too like worshiping God…. I understood that that Catholisim was supposed to be at least in part about helping other people?

marinelife's avatar

You are right. The Vatican and the holdings of the church are one of the main reasons those outside the faith question Roman Catholicism.

As for the gold and stuff that’s supposed to be to reflect the love and glory of God.

Popes have always had political as well as religious power. That’s why Vatican City is a papal see, a separate country from Italy.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Remember that the cardinals are called “princes of the church”. I think that the Catholic Church is a lot like a Ponzi scheme – the guys at the top level control BUNDLES of wealth and money, and the folks in the neighborhoods control nothing.

Or perhaps look at the catholic church as a cocaine distribution cartel – priests are selling blessings instead of powder, but the profits go back up to the top.

Of course, historically, the Catholic church has a long record of killing competitors (see: CRUSADES) so they know how to be cutthroat when they need to be in the business world.

The end results is that the Church is a multi billion dollar operation with tons of real estate and hundreds of thousands of low paid eunuch slaves (the priesthood). How could they NOT be wealthy?

bongo's avatar

@elbanditoroso I didnt know that cardinals are called princes of the church, also I do love your example of comparing the catholic chruch to a drug cartel!!

lloydbird's avatar

It’s simple. They do it because Jesus was vastly wealthy and had a very opulent lifestyle.
It’s only natural that they would want to emulate him.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, the Catholics do help the poor around the world, and have many charitable organizations. I agree the church has an incredible amount of wealth, and I can’t understand the amount of money spent on some things, but I don’t understand it in general when it comes to religion, so I’m not going to criticize the Catholics more than any of the other religions I don’t think. Every time I see a house of worship for any religion I think about the money people contributed to build it, and wonder what other good could have been done with it.

The Catholics in America actually do speak out for the poor, even politically and this whole tax issue in America now, as much as the Catholics side with the Republicans on some issues (and I mean Priests and Bishops, not just Catholic people) they go up against the Republicans regarding taxes, supporting a more progressive system, aligning more with the Democrats. This stems from their teachings of Jesus wanting us to give to the poor, and help those who are least able to help themselves. Christianity in history looked down on greed (one of the seven deadly sins) and making money from other people’s money, but that has changed drastically among some Christian sects, but not so much among the Catholics, they seem more balanced than some other groups.

janbb's avatar

So @lloydbird and @jleslie are actually two different Jellies? I always got that confused.

bongo's avatar

@JLeslie yes I did say I expected it to occur in other religions too, I just dont know much about it plus the Vatican really is so big and so wealthy it is the most obvious choice to me to pick as an example of this. I am also not saying that individually they don’t go out and help the poor etc. (however atheists and all religions I know of do this too!) I am more thinking of an overall “practice what you preach” thing from the leaders of the religion.

JLeslie's avatar

@bongo The Catholic church is very organized about charity and helping others, I am not talking about individuals giving. Leaders in the church write our politicians about their stand on helping the poor, taxation, here is an article. and recently in the news was the Catholic churches stand on such issues. Something like 1/6th of the hospitals in America are Catholic, because of a tradition of Catholics caring about health for all, and healthcare during crisis. Don’t get me wrong, I know hospitals now are big business, I am just talking about the history. The Catholics don’t consider someone’s religion when helping them, at least not that I have observed, maybe in history they did. My sister was a big sister with Catholic Charities and she is an atheist Jewish woman, I am pretty sure they never even asked her religion. The organization, Catholic Charities’ big sister program, tries to help young teens who are in disadvantaged homes. The Catholics have huge organizations all over the world trying to help those in need.

Believe me, I still think the opulance of some of the churches is obscene and ostentatious, but the Catholics do actively do some good from what I can tell.

Blackberry's avatar

Religion is an institution created by people, and people are flawed for various reasons. There is no actual need for the church, but the fact that they have so much power and wealth shows how poor and stupid we all are as a species. This is slowly changing, though.

mazingerz88's avatar

I can only imagine Jesus saying “Give unto the Vatican, what is the Vatican’s, losers!”

The Vatican is run by human beings. Flawed human beings. When the Pope dresses in gold, they rationalize it as glorifying God. What, God doesn’t deserve a little bling? Lol.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie Because your avatars are so similar, I always think it is you answering when it is @lloydbird.

stardust's avatar

Probably because Catholicism was created so that men could wield power over individuals, rather than the idea of self-sacrifice and giving to those who are lesser off. I’m referring to the institution of the Catholic church here, as opposed to followers of this religion. It’s a means of social control, a business if you like. Scoundrels!

sinscriven's avatar

I don’t see why the Catholic church is singled out for this, Christianity as a whole is guilty for things like this, especially the evangelical megachurches.

The visual opulence and wealth that one sees when visiting the vatican are all priceless relics, and have huge cultural and historical value. Selling it off to private parties just seems wrong to me. Plus, all that money won’t fix anything. Many of the problems plaguing the poor and suffering are systemic, and not just a lack of resources. Look at the DPRK. They’re starving down there and we send food but they never get it. Why? Cause the party is the problem, and the sole reason why their country is suffering. A vatican yard sale isn’t going to fix that.

bongo's avatar

@sinscriven I did say a couple of times that I am sure this also relates to other religions, I didn’t want to just single out Catholicism but my limited knowledge about religion has only allowed me to really give this as an example. It may well relate to other religions!

flutherother's avatar

Catholicism is about sacrifice to help the poor and I can’t think of any church that does more for the poorest people in the world than the Catholic Church. It isn’t only money; Catholics seem more ready to devote their lives to helping others than most of us.

I’m not Catholic, I’m Presbyterian, we turned away from all the pomp and ceremony and went to the opposite extreme and I don’t understand the need for it, though softer cushions on the wooden pews would have been welcomed.

Facade's avatar

Because people can be incredibly hypocritical/ignorant– like Republicans who claim to be Christians.

Ron_C's avatar

Boy, I’ve asked myself that question many times. I was an altar boy and even then I wondered why an organization with huge fortress-like churches and vestments made with spun gold needed my dollar for the Sunday collection. Later I determined that I wound NEVER donate to ANY church. The money I give to the poor and other causes goes through non-religious organizations that have a very low administrative expense.

I suggest that church property must be taxed and only the portion that the church actually gives to charity should be tax deductible. America spends billions of dollars a year underwriting religion. It must stop. Religions that build castles and fortresses should do it without my support.

josie's avatar

Same reason the Federal government awards themselves an array of perks, privileges, and exemptions and gripes that you do not pay your fair share.

Paradox25's avatar

Religion has nothing to do with morality, since it is manmade with alot of political baloney involved that was used to keep the conformist population in check by keeping them obedient, in servitude, and to avoid people questioning the powers that be. When people say that religion and politics don’t mix they’re wrong, because religion and politics are pretty much one in the same.

ETpro's avatar

Bill Maher did a great job of asking that very question in this viveo.

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