Should the Vatican Sell its Treasures…

by Steve Ray on May 15, 2015

… to feed the poor?

Geez, I used to say that myself in my former life as a Protestant – when I was an anti-Catholic. Actually, if you added up all wealth and property of the Protestant churches and organizations it would FAR exceed that of the Vatican or all the individual dioceses around the world! Since it is often Protestants who make this challenge, do they ever suggest Protestants should sell all their land, buildings, pastors’ fancy cars and the mega-church $ millions?

Most people don’t realize that most of the Catholic Church’s “wealth” is in property, hospitals, schools, social services and churches. We are the largest health care provider in the world. To learn more about this, watch the fantastic video put out by www.CatholicsComeHome.com here. Click on “Epic Commercial.” This video make me PROUD to be a Catholic!

But, should the Catholic Church sell everything to feed the poor? No, first it shouldn’t and second it can’t. To find out why, read this article from Zenit (provided below). It was written several years ago but it is the same cogent argument and needs to be repeated often.

Pope Cannot Exchange Vatican Treasure for Food: Cardinal Explains Complications of Facebook Proposal

By Jesús Colina

The president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum … commented on the online petition titled “Exchange the Vatican’s Treasures for Food for Africa. Do You Want to Sign a Petition?”

The cardinal noted that, apart from the ideological aspect of the proposal, the Pope cannot consider it because he is prevented from doing so by international law…

Alberto Juesas Escudero of Spain launched the initiative, which now has more than 40,000 supporters. Escudero claims “it is a shameful to see the Vatican’s riches and then watch the news.” He explained that what motivated him to issue this invitation was that he believes the Vatican “does not admit its errors. […] It does not preach by example. Jesus was born in a cave and lived in poverty.”

The youth concluded: “The Vatican is a disgrace! The Catholic religion is a disgrace!”

In answer to ZENIT’s questions, Cardinal Cordes explained that he has heard similar proposals for the past 40 years, and that before it was even much more frequent.

When John Paul II called him to Rome to work in the Curia, he observed that “the climate against the Vatican was very strong.” He explained, “I had looked into [the status of the Vatican’s holdings] and found out that the Church cannot do what it wants with the works of art that are in the Vatican.”

"Going once, going twice...sold! How much for this Pieta?

Duty of the Church

In reality, he said, the Church “has the duty to conserve the works of art in the name of the Italian state.” He affirmed, “It cannot sell them.”
 
The prelate recalled an incident in the 1970s when a benefactor made a donation to renovate the Collegio Teutonico inside the Vatican, and the residence director wanted to give this person a small statue — of a meager value compared to the others in the Vatican Museums — as a gesture of gratitude. 

The German benefactor had a lot of problems with the Italian state, as he was accused of taking goods that Italy was charged with safeguarding. “In every country there are a lot of measures for the defense of works of art, because the state has a duty to maintain them,” Cardinal Cordes added, noting that the Holy See treasures are also part of Italian cultural history.

The Cor Unum president underlined the work of the Catholic Church in health services and education in various regions in Africa. “When they come to meet the Pope, the African presidents recognize this,” he said.

Without the Church, he affirmed, a huge part of those afflicted with AIDS would be abandoned, because the Church, with its network of hospitals, is the organization that cares for the largest number of people affected by the virus.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim March 30, 2009 at 4:00 PM

We often hear this.

I just tell them that all the Church’s assets would equal what the USA spends on armaments in a long weekend.

Mike Sanders March 30, 2009 at 6:45 PM

An excerpt from the story of St. Lawrence:

The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church’s treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: “This is the Church’s treasure!”

Just don’t want to forget about the most valuable of the Church’s treasure!

Barbara April 2, 2009 at 11:28 AM

It was estimated that if the Catholic Church were able to sell everything it had, and give the money away, everyone in the world would get exactly 2 dollars. So a better question would be, what are we doing with our $2?…..Buying a cup of coffee, or giving it away to the poor?

R Fitzgerald June 13, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Hi,
Im Christian (born-again persuasion) raised Catholic…have been so blessed with Both sides of the same coin…that Jesus is our Lord. In that, I do wish unity among the brethren. Selling church assets to feed the poor? How bout everyone giving up one Starbucks a month. Im sorry–just some things seem trivial. Jesus has come that we might have life and life abundantly!

Tom Govern May 15, 2015 at 3:21 PM

The Church assets are true history to be enjoyed by all for as long as they exist. Why not ask the Louvre to sell all art or ask that of every museum in the world to sell off pieces? The Church’s status because of its majesty, raises much more money for the poor than selling assets one time. Besides, who would buy them? Where would that money come from and end up?

earthlyTreasures May 15, 2015 at 8:11 PM

I don’t know. Am I missing something here? Every time I hear this argument about the Church should sell her treasures to feed the poor, a huge question pops up in my head; and I would say: OK, so the Church sells her treasures, raises xyz number of dollars, and finally spends the xyz number of dollars to feed the poor; then what???????? What would the Church have to sell after that to feed the poor?????

Charles October 24, 2017 at 4:49 AM

STEVE RAY HERE: I would have to disagree with this comment below and most of the assertions made. I think there are in accuracies in the statements and miss information as well. These gifts have been given to the Vatican is a sacred trust in the Vatican has responsibility to keep them for the church in the world of the future.

I might suggest that we put the pressure of protestant churches to sell their properties and treasures and all of the things that they own including some of the ministers with multimillion dollar states.

Why is it always the Catholic to get pointed to know whenever suggests the Muslims for the Protestants are other groups. Mormons are vastly wealthy.

But I do disagree thoroughly with this comment but I put it up for the sake of discussion.

***********************

It seems to be that everyone addresses this question with an "all or nothing" response when, in fact, I think there is middle ground. I have read that of all the 70,000 art treasures housed in the various Vatican museums, only about 20,000 are actually on display. Now, perhaps there is some movement of artwork into and out of storage and, of course, some pieces may be greatly valued and others not so greatly valued. But, if 75% of its artwork is in storage at any given time, some of it could be sold. Now, I think it rather "unthinking" to argue that none of this artwork could be sold because of international law. I suspect that, if the Vatican put up a sound argument for a limited sale of some of its artwork, and it were done in a way to benefit the public, the Vatican would have international support. For the person who argues that such valuable art should not sit in the private homes of only the wealthy, there are many art museums who would have an interest in such artwork for display in national galleries around the world. Then, there is the argument that you could never feed the poor through such a sale. Agree, but the Vatican could make a dent, and what about the thousands who have suffered from priest abuse. Perhaps there is a way to contribute there. Again, the amount would be small, but the gesture great. Of course, it is not only the Vatican in the whole of the church that has stored wealth of art treasures. Think of the gold and gems that adorn many of the cathedrals in the world. No. don't sell the cathedral or all of the riches, but some of what we see when we walk through the doors of these great churches was built on the backs of the poor who died in these creations of these sites. I am not saying sell off the church. What I am saying is why does it have to be an "all or nothing" proposition? I hope Pope Francis will strike a proper balance.

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