Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vatican Wealth in perspective

To begin with, the legendary wealth of the Vatican is to some extent more myth than reality. The Vatican has an annual operating budget of under $300 million, while Harvard University, arguably the Vatican of elite secular opinion, has a budget of $3.7 billion, meaning it's 10 times greater. The Vatican's "patrimony," what other institutions would call an endowment, is around $1 billion. In this case, Harvard's ahead by a robust factor of 30, with an endowment of $30.7 billion.
The Vatican bank controls assets estimated at more than $6 billion, which is nobody's idea of chump change, but most of that isn't the Vatican's money. It belongs to religious orders, dioceses, movements and other Catholic organizations, and is managed by the Institute for the Works of Religion to facilitate moving it around the world.


nickbris said...

Good to see it's in Dollars and not Euros

Physiocrat said...

$6 billion would pay for quite a lot of altar rails. Get up a modular design for an IKEA-style self-assembly flat pack and place a bulk order. In fact the Vatican could probably do a nice deal with IKEA so parishes could collect them from their nearest store and they could all be in place within a week. In fact, there may already be something already available that could be adapted. Children's play-pens or that kind of thing.

momangelica said...

My father always said that if they took the Vatican wealth and sold it, spent the money on bread for the poor the poor would still be poor.
If someone presented a "thanks be to God" gift to the Church for favours granted and wanted to esteem Her then, when people put a price of these gifts it then seems to be up for grabs and "the church has no business to have these precious items," which is a form of covetousness, isn't it?

A Reluctant Sinner said...

I showed some family around Westminster Cathedral a few weeks ago. (They're not Catholic.)

They were obsessed with what they perceived to be a 'wealthy' church. When I explained to them that, in fact, the parish was far from being wealthy, they chose to disbelieve me - even though they must have known I would know a bit more about it than they do. I had the feeling they didn't want to hear the truth, or have their beliefs about the Church challenged.

Of course, they pointed to various sacred treasures (those things that could never be sold as they are 'owned' by all and none) and exclaimed: "These should be sold and given to the poor." I told them that, on the whole, it was the poor who had donated them -- so giving them back wouldn't be a very gracious act. Many, if not most, people who use the church and attend Mass are relatively poor, I said. The sacred objects are, therefore, enjoyed by them. If they ever ended up in a museum, they would probably be seen only by an unappreciative - or relatively comfortably well-off - audience. My family didn't want to know.

Then I took them outside and showed them The Passage, which is one of the biggest homelessness outreach centres in Europe. It is, I told them, supported by the Cathedral parish. One sneered, "Oh, so Catholics look after Catholics. Typical!" When I explained that the Church didn't discriminate when it came to helping those in need, and that most of the users of the Passage probably weren't Catholic, the subject was changed.

When Cardinal Heenan sold off many of church treasures 'to help the poor' in the early 70s, the exercise ended up not helping many people at all -- whilst the actual poor of his diocese were very upset by his actions. So upset, in fact, that many petitioned the wealthier members of the congregation to buy the treasures back -- which they, in turn, gladly did!

The myth of the wealthy Church exists because her enemies are always looking for ways to denigrate her. With these types of people, it is sadly often the case that when it comes to facts 'they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they cannot hear.' Some, of course, are just ignorant of the facts and, when it comes to organisations that they were taught to hate, rely on face value judgements.

JARay said...

I so understand what "A reluctant sinner" is saying!
When I give to the Church I am giving to almighty God.
When the Jews sacrificed hundreds, even thousands of lambs, they were making an offering to God. The thousands of lambs could have been sold and given to the poor, but, as Jesus said, when the woman poured out expensive oils upon his feet and Judas protested, Jesus explained that the poor are always with us, but what she had done was done to express her repentence of sin and to honour God. The cathedrals of the world were built to honour God. The support of the poor is another entirely different, but necessary, concern.
The two are not mutally exclusive. Both have their rightful place.

Nicolas Bellord said...

$300 million is roughly £200 million pounds. Our district council - Mid-Sussex - has a budget of £57 million whilst the County Council spends some £400 million.

I wonder what the GDP - gross domestic product - of the Church is. One could start by valuing the contribution made by orders of nuns. Throughout the world there are roughly 700,000 - suppose that half are actively engaged in teaching, nursing, social services etc and value the individual annual contribution at a modest £10,000 - that makes three and a half billion.

The Bishop of Lyons worked out that the French public spent more on astrology than they did on the Church!

Colonel Mustard said...

Also, ecclesiastical 'treasure' is not particularly valuble outside the ecclesiastical world, and such antiques are very unfashionable as 'secular' decorations. I found a set of black gothic dalmatics for £10 in an antique centre a few years ago - the vendor didn't know what they were.

Has anyone considered the possibility that selling off ancient treasures to other churches - that aren't worth much in themselves outside such a context except as scrap value - is a bit like robbing Peter to pay Paul?

And if everything is sold for scrap, then that one almighty middle finger to the poor whose pennies paid for these things in the first place.

viterbo said...

NB said 'The Bishop of Lyons worked out that the French public spent more on astrology than they did on the Church!' momangelica said..."My father always said that if they took the Vatican wealth and sold it, spent the money on bread for the poor the poor would still be poor." the world, the life we know, is the proverbial dying porcupine with the quills the wrong way round. that's us from day one - in poverty of mind, body and spirit. how many baptised human beings might that Catholic $3.7 billion odd be associated with(of a statiscally relevant generation)? Stats tell us as of 2012, there's a little over One billion catholics on the planet (God only knows how many non-catholics benefit from catholic ground floor charity - remember Mother Teresa seemed to be proud of how many hindus she had 'helped' but not converted in the reign of jpii). Given how much the average westerner puts in the pot each Sunday, overall, seems impossible for the task, given the misery of the world, the greed of the world, and the suspectness of those administrating the pot, bu then there's the unstoppable goodness of what those carrying the 'yoke' of Christ for the sake of others achieve, day in day out. compare with monsignor mykrowsopht gayts worth near $US70B; or a Czech investor worth $10B before he's fifty, a mexican telecom magnate worth over $73B. who can say when it comes to the sheikhs (could find no stats) - but I don't think a pope has ever commissioned a solid gold toilet seat. Been reading recently Yves Chiron’s Pius IX: The Man and the Myth. (happening round the french revolution/Napoleon) I mention it because it's good to be - i need to be constantly - reminded of how, throughout every given year AD the Catholic Church have been givers and carers of all, ensuring food and shelter, education and elevation for those with nothing - in this case homeless children - but alllways offering the most important to those who 'had ears to hear' - the means of eternal salvation. Ropespierre and his clique and their bequest of 'Liberty, Egality, Frateblahlahblah' (which meant nothing for the Jews under the Vichy thing and still means nothing for the 'gypsies') 'save' the world from Christly compassion. 'Liberty, Egality, Fraternity'...'Expedience' should have been added, a forth color to the flag - grey maybe, with a masonic square and compass looking all sophisticated-like.

Amfortas said...

And who will help the poor once all the treasures have been sold off? The Catholic Church, of course!

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Like A Reluctant Sinner I had an experience outside Westminster Cathedral about eight years ago when I was doing a mission appeal there. After one of the Masses I was approached outside by a young man whose accent showed that he hadn't lacked schooling and wasn't from a poor family. He had with him a man who was selling The Big Issue.

The young man went on with a tirade about the Church's buildings, etc, etc. The Big Issue man said nothing. I'm afraid that after abut ten minutes I began to lose my patience.

I met The Big Issue man later, by himself, and gave him something. He gave me a copy of the magazine and asked me to keep it. I still have it somewhere in my house here in the Philippines. he was kind and courteous.

But when we're young, though our hearts may be in the right place, we can sometimes be obnoxious with our black and white views. I hope that the young man has acquired some wisdom along the way. I sometimes pray for him.

Do we want to use the Taliban approach and blow up Westminster Cathedral, St Peter's, etc? And if we did sell them to some super-wealthy individuals would we ask first how they had acquired their wealth?

I've visited Rome only twice but each time I went into St Peter's I felt that it belongs to all of us.

Some years ago I read about a priest in a run-down inner-city parish in the USA who organises festivals in honour of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He doesn't see poetry and all that is beautiful as not being for everyone, including the poor.

My late father, born 100 years ago, loved the High Mass. He was a carpenter. He loved listening to Grand Opera on the radio, even though he didn't have a word of Italian.

I was at a couple of graduations the last few days in a public elementary and a public high schools. I was there because some of those graduating live in a home for girls, most of whom have been abused, and who are under the wonderful care of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family. The pomp and ceremony wasn't quite the same as that yesterday in the Vatican. But it was as joyful - and the music played at graduations throughout the Philippines is the Grand March from Verdi's Aida. and at the two graduations I attended Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 was also played. (Though I'm an Irishman I take a secret pleasure in that!)

My point is that those who are poor deserve only the best. And The Passage next to and supported by the Cathedral parish shows what we are about as followers of Jesus.

Pablo the Mexican said...

"...My point is that those who are poor deserve only the best..."


That's the most Catholic statement I've heard in years.

By the way, I just spent Saint Patrick's Day in Mexico City.

Viva Los San Patricios!


blondpidge said...

To put it in British terms, the Curia runs on an annual budget which is just under half that of the University of Manchester. said...

It's good to see this in black and to copy and keep for future use. Thanks for posting Father.

Thomas JD Travers said...

There remains a concern about perception – how we as Catholics are perceived and how we perceive ourselves. Jesus went without money (though was diligent to pay his taxes) and said to his followers they should take 1 tunic not 2. I’d agree to give 5% of my post-tax annual salary to the Church to use as it wishes if it could show me it was not attached to wealth. I think if the Church had the courage to get out of the financial services business it would find that a lot of common Catholics would come up to the stump.
The amount that is given to priests does not reflect the times in which we live, and I’d like to hear the clerical leaders tell us a bit more about the labourer being worthy of his hire.
Comparisons with the US universities are interesting, but they like the universities in England are obsessed with endowments – a permanent source of richness enabling them to live off their interest/dividends. As Catholics we don’t need any endowments. Our endowment is our children and the living faith passed from father to son, mum to daughter. As regards the Vatican treasures, give them to an international museum for the benefit of mankind. We don’t need them. If we were truly courageous we'd give up the churches as well and rent space for worship. God is not physical yet all the implements of our faith are rooted in physicality.

Physiocrat said...

@Thomas Travers,

I would like to see the Catholic clergy and hierarchy practice and re-emphasise what the church has always taught about usury eg in the Encyclical Vix Pervenit issued in 1745.

To do so would earn the church some much-needed respect, especially seeing that the underlying causes of the present ongoing financial crisis are usury and other sinful acts referred to in Chapter 25 of Leviticus, and therefore 100% relevant to one of the most pressing contemporary problems.

Kevingtonbeare said...

A member of my former parish who migrated from Malta many years ago confronted critics of beautiful Catholic churches (beautiful, therefore the Church is wealthy) with the fact that the beautiful churches in Malta and their furnishings were provided from donations of the very poor. The generous giving over generations allowed the churches to be built and refurbished. The people regarded the churches as God's and their house.
Kevin B. G. Luxford