We need a Catholic billionaire today who follows the example set by St. Katherine Drexel. She used her personal fortune to promote Catholic social justice and education instead of living the life of a socialite.
Drexel (1858-1955) was the second of three daughters of a wealthy investment banker. When he died, the sisters shared the income produced by $14 million (about $400 million in today’s market) and pursued philanthropic efforts.
With her share, Drexel established 145 missions, 12 schools for Native American children and 50 schools for black children as well as Xavier University of New Orleans, the only historically black Catholic college in the United States.
At the suggestion of the pope, Drexel became a nun and established her own order—the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. These sisters worked in the missions and schools and alongside Drexel in supporting NAACP projects and anti-lynching campaigns.
Giving Away Money
So where is there a Catholic mega-millionaire or billionaire today? We have them, but they are either supporting charitable works so quietly we are missing their example, or they are ignoring Christ’s advice to the rich young ruler on how to gain eternal life:
Keep the commandments; for perfection, sell your possessions, give to the poor and follow Me. (Matthew 19:16-21; Luke 18: 18-23)
That guy could not let go of his money. Perhaps this is what has happened to our super-rich Catholics. They figure as long as they keep the commandments (more or less), they’re cool. Nobody’s perfect, so why spend your money on other people’s problems?
If you want to make a difference in the world, several hundred million could be culture changing, if properly applied. That’s an exciting challenge. I’m always amazed when people say they don’t know what they would do with that kind of money. I have a plan!
Tom Monaghan might laugh and say that a billion doesn’t go as far as you would think. Monaghan sold Domino’s pizza for $1 billion and has used that money to support multiple Catholic causes, including establishing Ave Maria University and Law School.
I believe in direct philanthropy, not in setting up a big foundation with highly paid executives and a large staff. As a former grants administrator, I’ve seen how much money is wasted in overhead and how much good a little directly applied money can do.
Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is dedicated to giving away her billions. She seemed on the right track when she researched the need and gave direct aid during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, Scott took a wrong turn in March and gave $275 million to Planned Parenthood. She mistakenly thinks her money will help remove racial barriers that prevent health equity.
In reality, Planned Parenthood provides very few actual health services, and it exploits minority communities. Consider the difference between what Planned Parenthood will do with that money and what a PRC could do.
There are nearly 3,000 Pregnancy Resource Centers throughout the country. A donation of $275 million would mean $91,667 each to be used to support pregnant women with medical services, counseling, training, housing, and supplies.
What is the better use for that money? Saving babies from prenatal death and changing the lives of tens of thousands of women and their families or selling abortions to minorities because it is profitable and eliminates babies of color?
It’s not just how the rich use their money, but also how they use their celebrity that is critical. Sadly, too many of our biggest Catholic influencers have fallen for abortion propaganda and think they are helping women and “modernizing” the Church by being “pro-choice.”
Stephen Colbert is famously Catholic and could do so much to propagate the faith. Instead, he proclaims he is pro-choice and tell jokes about abortion before his audience of millions. Around 60 Catholics in Congress do terrible harm by being pro-abortion.
Melinda French Gates is Catholic and has billions. Her foundation does good work, but for secular causes—no grants for religious purposes. Also, she strongly supports a misguided global contraception program, often seen as more imperialistic than helpful.
Colbert and French Gates are surrounded by pro-abortion advisors and friends whose influence is obviously stronger than that of the Church. Katherine Drexel listened to her spiritual director and the advice of the pope.
I could give example after example of prominent, wealthy Catholics who aren’t making a Catholic difference. Thankfully, there are a few like Patricia Heaton, Jim Caviezel and Mark Wahlberg who act with courage and generosity in promoting their faith.
How can we inspire others to put their money to work for God?