Selling the Vatican

I had a conversation with someone who could only be fairly described as a prodigy of Michael Moore, and it went as follows.

Him: “America needs strong leadership because capitalism is so disorganized.”
I: (not taking his oh-so-clever talking points seriously) “We should sell America to The Vatican then, they’re good at organizing.”
Him: (angrily) “The Vatican should sell all it’s gold to feed starving people in Africa.”
I: (noting with interest how the mere mention of the Catholic Church in conversation destroys and derails any logical train of thought) What gold – exactly – are you talking about? Does every bishop have a treasure chest I don’t know about?
Him: (moving hands to indicate accumulated wealth) You know the churches, and cathedrals and the Pope lives in a mansion.
I: Where do you think the Church gets it’s money from?
Him: …
I: I mean it’s not exactly like we have much material commodity to sell, besides the Eucharist, and that’s free.
Him: …
I: (getting my preach on) The Church, by definition, is all it’s members. The money the Church has is the money it’s followers have; the money they give. You’d have a poor person put his tithe in a basket for the Church, the Church would buy him a gold tabernacle, and you’d have  it melted down so he could get his money back. Your entire argument rests on the arrogant assumption that all the poor want is cash and food. Have you ever asked the Catholic poor whether he’d like the beauty of his church stripped for cash? Boy, you’d get smacked, because the majority of Catholics are poor, and know what’s important in life. Is it not enough that we are the largest charitable organization in the world?
Him: But you can’t deny the Pope lives in a mansion.
I: And you can’t deny that if he didn’t, the Catholic people would put him in one. We’re human, we like to reverence things.
His Friend: (quietly) Dude I think you lost the argument…
Him: Nah, I’m good.

Have a wonderful evening!

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  • beez

    I wouldn't say the Pope lives in a mansion by American standards. True, he lives in the "Apostolic Palace," but his quarters are relatively meager. The Papal apartments consist of ten rooms, which includes an office and a study, as well as bedroom, bathroom, etc.

  • Samantha & Frank

    I love it!

  • The Ranter

    I'm lower middle class poor – and I hate the minimalistic crap that is perpetuated in most modern churches! Give me beauty! Lift my thoughts to Someone higher than myself, don't let me wallow in the mire of ugliness of my fellow sinners.

  • looklauren

    @ The Ranter – totally agree with you!! I was so happy that our parish priest spent thousands, literally, on antique candle sticks for the altar..

  • Patrick Button

    I wish that I could get into arguments like that. The Catholic college that I go to is too conservative. I can't find anyone to argue with! Anyway, great post.

  • Libby

    It took you way too long to actually blog about this conversation.

  • Sean

    If that was the entire conversation, it seems as if you left him unconvinced that having the Pope in a fine building, as opposed to selling that fine building and donating it for charity, is a good thing. Did you get the chance to convince him of that?

  • Marc

    ^actually, no. I assumed he was wrong but didn't know anything about the pope's house, besides the vague hope that it had a papal waterslide. So I will go right on back and facebook a write-up on the pope's house.

  • Sean

    You crack me up, sir. Godspeed.

  • EadsCAP

    Such a cool blog, man. God bless you! Pray for my vocation to the priesthood!

  • Jonathan Watson

    Also, who would you sell those treasures to? To rich people, the only ones who could afford to buy them. And then who would have them to look at? The rich people.So those treasures would go from being publicly available to any poor person who wants to walk into a church, to being only available to rich people. Yeah, that's democratic.

  • Michael Lindner

    I like to point out that at $500M, the Vatican’s budget is far less that 1/1000 of the US budget. If the US can’t solve world hunger with its vast resources, what makes them think the Vatican can?

    P.S. Your blog is awesome.

  • Michael Lindner

    I like to point out that at $500M, the Vatican’s budget is far less that 1/1000 of the US budget. If the US can’t solve world hunger with its vast resources, what makes them think the Vatican can?

    P.S. Your blog is awesome.

  • Allison Kuznia

    On a sidenote, I met Michael Moore when I went to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City several years ago. He’s Catholic.

    • Josh

      So is Nancy Pelosi.

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      Correction: he’s a dissenting Catholic, colloquially known as a cafeteria Catholic. Judas was one too.

  • Tammy Schmidt

    I went to Eucharistic Adoration for the first time last week (it’s my New Years resolution) – at a neighboring church because mine doesn’t have adoration. As a result, I had never seen this particular monstrance before. Can I tell you….? SO beautiful! I’d never seen anything so fantastic in my whole life. It was like no other monstrance I’d ever seen before. Gold and silver radiating like beams of light… gleaming, shining, glowing! Where else would you put the Body of Christ?

    Not a cardboard box, not a plastic soap dish, not even a glass bowl. The Body of Christ BELONGS in this beautiful vessel. It has to be as beautiful as the Body itself. If it was stolen and melted down… I would give my own money to have it restored. God is beauty. Christ IS beauty. For us.

  • Lee

    Watch your use of apostrophes in the word “its”! Just a thought. Y’know, “it’s” = “it is” and “its” = belonging to.

    • Lakotz71


      • Josh

        I’ll second that “Really?” By all means, we must have grammar and some semblance of spelling standards, but we’re talking typos here not legitimate semantic or syntactical ambiguities. Its the Internet. Have you met the Internet?
        (I’m on my iPhone, so autocorrect almost ruined my joke there.)

  • Chester

    Love the blog. Suggestion: learn the difference between its and it’s. Don’t give people silly grounds on which to dismiss your arguments.

    • Sam Ford

      I hardly think punctuation is grounds to refute actual logic, sir.

    • Roger Marine

      I actually didn’t notice this time, although I usually do. It’s weird that he used it right only once, and wrong four times. It’s = it is. Its => belong’s to it.

  • Jeffrey Pinyan

    My favorite is the “the Vatican should sell its possessions and donate the money to the poor” argument. In this argument, some very rich people give money to the Church and get something tangible and material back (e.g. priceless artwork), the poor get the money from the Church, and the Church has neither possessions nor money.

    Not that poverty is bad, but wouldn’t it be more direct and philanthropic of the very rich people in the argument above to simply donate their money to charity, rather than to get something tangible and material in exchange for it?

    • Cal-J

      Problems with this argument: The “something tangible and material” that the rich people are supposed to get never actually gets to them; the Church is for all believers, rich and poor. So your argument should run more along the lines of “some very rich people give money to the Church, which then both distributes it to the poor and uses it to pay for something tangible and material for the whole of its body to enjoy — eg. priceless artwork”.

      Also, the second part of the argument falls under this modifcation as well. The rich don’t “get” anything; their money is put to the use of the Church. As to whether or no the Church should have this, I think Marc explained this well enough.

      (If I misunderstood your post, I apologize).

      • Jeffrey Pinyan

        Cal-J, I probably wasn’t clear. In my scenario, several rich investors purchase the art (and other valuables) at the Vatican. Thus, they spend money and get artwork (etc.) in exchange, which goes into their private (or public) collections. The money they spend goes through the Church to the poor. So the Church is left without art and without money.

    • Josh

      Great point!
      I will be stealing that the next point this issue comes up in conversation.

  • Anonymous

    Yes your post clearly illustrates that the incredibly wealthy catholic church embodies the spirit of Christ. who said: “Foxes have holes, the birds have nests but the son of man hath not where to lay his head”. As well as: “lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven”. And what a great argument, that it is right to live in a great mansion knowing that those with almost no food for their children, or money for medical care are giving their widows mite to supply your immense luxuries. Because that is what the people want. What did Christ do when the people tried to crown him king? If someone loved me so and offered me money for a luxury when they had almost nothing, do you really think I would be a moral man to accept the gift at the cost of they and their children’s health? Please do not make such shallow surface arguments that do not address the vast difference between the example of the Church, and the example of Christ. Watch brother sun if you need a little better understanding.

    • Cal-J

      The people who came to crown Christ king did so because they thought he would lead them to an age of worldly prosperity and peace, possibly also that he might kick the ass of every Roman in a hundred mile radius.

      The Catholics of the world have no such anticipation of the pope. Your argument is invalid, I’m afraid.

      • Ryan

        Cal-J, you can’t pick one little aspect of alconnoly’s argument to disprove and say that the entire thing is invalid. I want to agree with the blogger here, but there is something powerful in the words and example of Jesus.

        I am not arguing that the Catholic Church receives most of its donations from the poor. But you have to admit how bad it looks to an uninitiated outsider that this institution takes from the poor to build what are, in essence, beautiful palaces. Now, that’s the worst way of putting it, but it’s hard to blame someone outside of the faith for jumping to bad conclusions.

        Who makes the decisions regarding the way in which the church spends its money? Is it the will of the mass of people, or is it the church hierarchy? Don’t forget that Luther would never have received the support he did if not for the massive resentment against the papal leadership that was gutting the poor of Northern Europe to build the masterpieces of art and architecture that we all admire so much today.

        • An Orthodox Sympathizer

          Is that why Luther was supported? Sort of a grass-roots campaign, was it? All proletariat, no princes involved or anything. Sounds like Authentic History to me.

          Regarding the other post –

          The basic premise is that the priests/bishops/whoever should not accept money from the poor with the understanding that it is to be spent on ‘beautiful palaces’ (as Ryan put it). It would be more Godly of them to refuse. And you would be right, except the benefit isn’t so much to the presbytery (incidentally why ‘do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth’ doesn’t apply) as the people themselves. The people want to worship with beauty. They want the chief leaders of their faith, as symbols of that faith, to be adorned with beauty. That’s the assumption you, the OP, and I all share in common, so let’s just keep on assuming it for now. Consider that the poor get something very substantial out of this which has nothing at all to do with bishops and priests living in the lap of luxury (hint: they don’t). The Church isn’t something cut off from the community, as OP rightly observes. If they want beauty, they should be able to get beauty. It’s their religion. It would all be well and good to refuse them, if not for the fact that the Church isn’t an alien, outside cause, but something the people are a part of and participate in. They SHOULD get what they want, because what they want concerns what is theirs (the Church and the money both). It’s theirs. The Church doesn’t belong to the Pope, or your bishop, or your priest (if you had one). They do not have the /right/ to refuse. It is the refusal which would be inhuman and inhumane, not to mention extremely patronizing. I suppose at the end of it, we should find the poor would be best served if the Church took their money and appointed a Committee to spend it for them. That strategy has a terrific track record.

          • Ryan

            Okay, a few misinterpretations or misrepresentations of what I was saying in my reply. I never depicted the Reformation as a proletarian, proto-Marxist phenomenon. Neither did I assert that a “Committee” should be appointed to spend the money of the poor. I’m not a Marxist in my reading of history or in my political inclinations.
            When I said what I did about the “beautiful palaces,” I was trying to describe how church spending often appears to outsiders. What you are doing is projecting an image that you hold of those who disagree with you onto a post that wasn’t intended to be an assault on tradition or church-building or anything like that.
            I genuinely do want to know who decides how to spend the money donated by the poor. Is it the poor themselves? Is it the bishops? Is it a committee? Have the poor mass of Roman Catholics declared that they want the building and preservation beautiful houses of worship to be a priority? If so, then to criticize the way the Catholic Church spends its money really is patronizing, but here’s the thing – I don’t know who makes the decisions and sets the priorities. That’s why I asked, friend.

          • Wilberg Sibug

            Whenever a parish has a construction / renovation project, it informs the people and asks their support. If the parishioners supported it, it logically shows they want it. If they did not support it, then these beautiful churches would not exist. Whenever I see a beautiful parish church, I am sure that it is because the faithful decided that they should have one.

          • Ryan

            Thanks for the info!

      • Jamesbrown

        You talk of a mythical figure like he was real and you call someone elses argument ”invalid” , I bet you believe in the tooth fairy as well.

    • IWishIwasABetterCatholic

      In the bible, Jesus allows the sinner woman to use an entire alabaster jar of expensive perfume to anoint his feet. Some things are worth the expense.

    • LizbethG13

      The Church does not refuse money from the poor because often the Church does not know who exactly the money comes from. They don’t go to parishioners and say, “you haven’t given anything, why not?” They take what they are given because those who give it obviously wanted to. They do not ask questions about where it comes from. They thank God for sending people who are willing to support the cost of running their buildings, feeding the poor, running their other ministries, and of course making their worship space that which draws us, body, mind, and soul, closer to Christ and closer to Heaven. Simple as that.
      And in some circumstances, priests are actually aware that some parishioners will give knowing they will eat less that month. And those priests sometimes DO go to those parishioners and specifically request they give very little because the priest knows their generosity will cause them to go hungry.

      • Alconnolly

        The point I made was that the church example in almost every aspect of the way they live and accumulate wealth and power are far removed from the sample and priorities Jesus lived and preached. Watch the movie “brother sun” about saint Francis of Assisi and you will get it. There is also a significant pressure to give to the church. I have never heard of a priest give a sermon about how the church did not want the money of any people who’s physical circumstances were very harsh, only from those whose abundance was greater than that the church owns. If you really feel that if Jesus were alive today he would spend the energy and resources to accumulate billions in wealth and vast worldwide power than support the church. But if you cannot square that behavior with the barefoot Nazarene who just wanted people to show love to their fellow man and condemned the behavior of the rich man with Lazarus than do not support the church. The choice as they say is yours.

  • Rgreletski

    That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Poor people want a lavish church in Rome rather than food or clothes. LOL

    • cdapp9

      if they didn’t, why did they give the church their money? couldn’t they have decided to buy necessities with that money instead? they didn’t because they consider their religion to be more important.

  • Anonymous

    What ryan said. Please respond to the whole point about the example words and spirit of Christ and how the worldy wealth of the church either embodies or repudiates the examples and message. Thank you.

  • Josh


    Your assuming the Catholic churches/dioceses the world over are like the church here in America now: funded through the generosity of members. However, this is unfortunately not the case. Many dioceses in other parts of the world and in different points in historysupport themselves through business endeavors. (For the terrible side of this, see the recent scandal about the massive book distributor owned by German dioceses that was selling massive amounts of porn/erotica.) So replying “the people wanted it and gave the money” to “why does the church seem so wealthy?” isn’t always accurate. (I’m clarifying here, not disagreeing–and you are 100% right that if the pope didn’t live in a mansion, we’d build one for him. Hell, I’d evict myself, wife, and 5 kids six-and-under if that’s what it took to find that saint a bed with a roof over it.)

  • Busterbus2

    The Vatican intakes 7000000000 a year. 50000000 is spent on charges defending their child molesters. The vatican is rich beyond belief. Some of those bishops drive 100000 dollar crs or have 30000 watches. The place is COVERED in gold. So i disagree with you.

  • The popes wife

    I bet the pope is loaded.

  • churchoffools

    You lot of cretins have no idea of poverty, do you really believe that it is the poor who donate to the church? You have no idea. Go to Africa , Go to Samalia, ask them for money for your church. Tell them it will save them from evil or whatever else BS the church sells to people nowadays, it used to be fear but you cannot get away with that anymore, even though in some places you try.
    You have no idea.

  • ben

    yesterday you could have replaced “Him” with “ben” because I held the same belief. You sir have a great argument and I love learning about myself through another persons logic! Well done!

  • Peter


  • thecherrypicker

    You sir, did not win that argument. You were just too stupid to respond to, which also is pretty clear is you friends last response “Nah, I’m good “.

    “And you can’t deny that if he didn’t, the Catholic people would put him in one.” – The flaw in this argument is that the popularity of an idea has absolutely no bearing on its validity. Also you avoided having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser – you answered criticism with criticism. Well done.

    “The Church, by definition, is all it’s members. The money the Church has is the money it’s followers have; the money they give.” – You assumed that one part of something has to be applied to all, or other, parts of it; or that the whole must apply to its parts. If it did, then the Earth would have made itself flat for most of history to accommodate this popular belief. (IE Donations aren’t the only income of the vatican, they hold shares in some of the biggest multinational companies on this planet, such as gulf oil, GM and so on.)

    Your entire argument rests on the arrogant assumption that all the poor want is cash and food. – This might be the worst part, seeing as the defenition of being poor is not having enough money to provide food and shelter for yourself or your family. The arrogant assumption is coming from you, thinking food and cash isn’t what poor people need.

    This “Have you ever asked the Catholic poor whether he’d like the beauty of his church stripped for cash? Boy, you’d get smacked, because the majority of Catholics are poor, and know what’s important in life.” Might just be the stupidest thing i’ve ever read, EVER. Ask any rational human what is most important in life and they won’t tell you it’s a beautiful church. You guys really need to get over yourselves. People need food, clean water, accsess to meds, love and roof over their heads. Now, granted a church would fulfill the roof over your head part, but not much else.

    Lastly I would like to say that the philosofical and moral values that you can extract from christianity(and other belief-systems) are great. I think they are needed in todays society. Think it over, if you agree with my last point, you really don’t need any gold or nice artwork. If you don’t, well then you’re better off working in a bank where you don’t have to get on your knees and pray, pretend to drink hIS blood before you can lick the gold.

    My proposal, get off your high horse, and get real. The only logical train of thought that crashed, was yours. The reason your friend didn’t answer was because your counterarguments are stupid, illogical. Your buddy probably realized that your opinions were set in stone, and that he would rather not piss you off (like a true gentleman) by arguing a point you’d never agree upon.

    Of course, I could be wrong about all of this, my version of reality could be totaly offset to the actual reality. This is a point that i really wanna make. We could ALL be WRONG. This is an understanding any logical person should have. I hope you do too. PS THIS IS NOT A PERSONAL ATTACK, AS FAR AS IM CONCERNED THIS COULD HAVE BEEN ARGUMENTS MADE BY AN ATHEIST (IN A DIFFERENT SCENARIO)