Occasionally, the Media Invokes St. Judas Iscariot

Sitting in their glittering multi-billion dollar skyscrapers, run by such humble Franciscans as Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, multi-millionaires like Piers Morgan will wring their hand and ask of Rome “Why were these things not sold and given to the poor?”

By this, they mean “Why are art treasures, specifically dedicated to God by the artist so that any Roman beggar can see them for free to uplift his heart, not made the private property of one rich man and hidden in his villa?”  They also mean, “When will the Church start shoveling out the Scrooge McDuck swimming pool full of gold dubloons in the basement under the Vatican?”

Some reality:

Putting Things in Perspective

One often hears of the proverbial wealth of the Vatican.  An interesting comparison was made of the operating budget and the “patrimony” of the Vatican by John L. Allen, Jr.

  • Operating Budget:  (Vatican) $300 million  Harvard ($3.7 billion)
  • Endowment/Patrimony: (Vatican) $1 billion; Harvard ($30.7 billion)

Americans really need to focus on the fact that we are no longer an agrarian Protestant country who can whisper darkly about them rich sinister fancy pants Eyetalians vs us humble, hard-working po’ folk.  We are now the corrupt rich Byzantines whose ruling class hordes its wealth to buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes.  The spectacle of watching some manicured Talking Hairdo “confronting” the Vatican about its wealth while investing in Goldman Sachs and being paid a gazillion dollars to pontificate on he knows not what is one of the more sick-making pieces of hypocrisy on display in our media culture.  We Americans pay 1/300 of the Vatican’s annual operating budget to cover two nights of Joe Biden partying in Paris and London.  Joe, meanwhile, gives a whopping $369 to charity.

  • http://Www.SaintLouisAcupuncture.com Dr. Eric

    I’ve read that part of the treaty between Vatcan City and Italy is that there is a clause which states that The Vatcan Museums will not sell the artwork as they are part of the Italian Patrimony.

  • Dustin

    When discussing the wealth of “the Vatican,” terms get confused. When Mr. Allen references the Vatican’s assets, does he mean the budget of the Vatican City-State or the budget of the Curia? When, however, people in casual conversation discuss “the Vatican,” they usually mean the Church as a whole. Add up the assets of every Catholic parish, school, college, hospital, monastery, convent, etc. in the world, and that’s a staggeringly large amount of money. That’s what people mean when they discuss the wealth of the Church. Not the curial payroll. Not that I disagree with your point. The last thing I’d want to see happen to the treasures in the Vatican Museum, a glorious patrimony held in trust for the enjoyment of all humankind and future generations, is to have them hidden away forever in some rich asshole’s mansion.

    The Biden thing doesn’t bother me. Funny, though, how you characterize it as “partying,” as if that bill were for Cristal and strippers, when the article specifically points out the cost of all the particulars of a foreign trip by an important dignitary. It’s weird how official excursions by the President and Vice President became this huge scandal as soon as Obama and Biden entered office. “How dare they represent our country abroad! How dare they think they need a security detail and an advance team! Can’t they fly solo on Southwest like the rest of us? What do they think they are, important or something?” Could be you just don’t like him.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Then we must add the wealth of all those Harvard alumni, too.
      I sure wish my old parish had gotten a taste of all that wealth found in the parishes. Alas, the cost of repairing the building outstripped the parishioners’ ability to donate.

      • Dustin

        Please don’t think I subscribe to the argument about the church’s assets. I only mean that people who posit it are thinking in the aggregate.

    • Susan

      One thing you may have no idea of is that the Church does not own all the Catholic churches of the world. It comes as a real shock to people to discover, for example, that so many of the churches in Italy belong to the ITALIAN GOVERNMENT and they only allow the Church to USE THEM. This is true of many countries. It is very, very easy to find this out – it is not some hidden secret. But it’s a better media spin to go on and on about the Church’s property wealth.
      Also a huge number of “Catholic” hospitals and universities are owned by lay corporations (and many are “Catholic” in name only). Selling them wouldn’t give the poor a penny. But keep lying, if it makes you feel better.

  • dpt

    If the secularists in the media are concerned with the poor, they need to ask Americans why they waste $150B to $200B in food?

    Why they spend $50B or so on sporting events?
    Why they spend $30B on soft drinks?
    Why they spend $50B on pet care?
    Why they spend $40B on legal gambling?
    Why they spend $60B on cable TV?

    Yes, the poor are suffering because of the bad old men in the Vatican, not the consumerism of Westerners.

    • Rachel K

      For that matter, why were X-million dollars spent on making “The Avengers”? Surely that money should have been spent on the poor instead.

    • u3

      Bad old men in the Vatican?? As the Economist publication points out The Catholic Church donated $4.7 billion…let’s repeat that $4.7 billion on charity in 2010. Every year the number is around that same mark too. So, yes, those from the West are suffering due to losing their souls to both consumerism and materialism.

  • Sam

    Ummm, I didn’t think Judas was considered a Saint???? In Dante’s Inferno, is he not condemned to the lowest circle of Hell?

    • Mark Shea

      I’m speaking ironically.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

    Sam, turn on your sarcasm filter.

    • Sam

      Hrm… normally it works very well; I guess it’s on the fritz today. :-P

    • Michael in ArchDen

      A sarcasm filter? Like THAT would be helpful…

      • Harpy

        Baaahahahaa .. that was pretty funny!

  • philabest

    “Why are art treasures, specifically dedicated to God by the artist so that any Roman beggar can see them for free to uplift his heart”

    not likely, since it costs 16 Euros to get into the Vatican Museum

    • Mark Shea

      It costs nothing to walk into St. Peter’s. A museum requires upkeep and its staff have this weird need to feed their families. Go figure. But do keep up those prayers to St. Judas Iscariot.

    • Patricia

      Michelangelo’s Pieta, for example is located right inside St. Peter’s…no charge. The same is true of countless other priceless works of art. I enjoyed the museum, but not nearly as much as the exquisite art found in the Basilicas and churches of Catholic Rome….like Bernini’s famous sculpture of St. Teresa in ecstasy, located in a small Carmelite church accessible to anyone.

  • Betsy

    Free admission on the last Sunday of the month.
    http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/z-Info/MV_Info_Biglietto.html

  • philabest

    If you meant the free attractions, then you should have said so. I don’t have any problem with a museum charging admission. I’m just pointing out that not many Roman beggars get to see the great artwork, because they ain’t going to pay the 16 Euros.

    • Mark Shea

      I would have thought “any Roman beggar can see them for free” was sort of the clue that I was referring to the free stuff, such as, oh, St. Peter’s. If you don’t think there is great art in St. Peter’s you should probably just stop while you are behind.

    • astine111111

      Even the Vatican Museum has free admission days.

  • IB Bill

    $1 billion endowment. That’s not much for a 2,000 year old institution. Who has been treasurer all this time?

    Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that in 100 AD someone put $20 (one piece of silver, aka, one denarii) in an 2% compound interest bearing savings account for the Church in Rome’s endowment. The church would have 566,446,080,698,193,900.00, or $566.45 quadrillion today.

  • IB Bill

    And btw, that’s like $80M for each of the $7 billion inhabitants of the world.


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