Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day February 24, 2012

“The world of finance, while necessary, no longer represents an instrument that favors our well-being or the life of mankind, instead it has become an oppressive power, that almost demands our adoration, mammon, the false divinity that truly dominates the world.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, continuing a theme laid out in Caritas in Veritate, and echoing Pius XI’s concerns about the financial sector in the 1930s.

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  • Bruce in Kansas

    B16 is a wise father.

  • Bill Wilson

    This from an absolute monarch who’s sitting on two metric tons of gold, a priceless collection of art and untold real estate holdings. Give me a break!

    • To a certain extent, I agree with you. Poverty is a sin. On the flip side, for a long time the Vatican needed money so that it was not squashed by the other countries in Europe. Acquiring some art along the way is not hard to believe. Also, people want to give money to churches. It means a lot to many people to give what they have for the glory of God.

  • JL Liedl


  • Mr. Wilson, the art treasures are SO priceless, and so much the national treasures of Italy that they can be neither sold nor given away. The gold and the “untold real estate holdings” protect the autonomy and independence of voice of the “oracle in the Vatican.” Meanwhile, however, I do agree with you that Benedict XVI and his cohorts in the curia COULD do more, on a local level, to help the poor of the Roman urban district. All those Prada shoes and ermine capes ARE a little bit too much in the vein of a crass German bourgeois; at least Wojtylwa had the good sense to know he had no taste, and Paul VI Montini was an an art connoiseur par excellence.

  • Bruce is veridical. Bill has a point. Obliged MM

  • “The gold and the “untold real estate holdings” protect the autonomy and independence of voice of the ‘oracle in the Vatican.'”

    @digbydolben —

    So the Pope is protected not by God, but by Mammon. As a staunch Anglo-American liberal capitalist, I can relate to that!

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Ah, canny types always knew they would get around to condemning usury again. The Sephardim have a long memory.

    • Indeed, I often now propose the idea that among the social teaching principles of the Church should be added the proposition: “Credit is inherently a social rather than a private good.”

  • Per Signum

    The Papacy and the Vatican are ancient institutions that are part of the cultural patrimony of millions and therefore belong to us as much as to the pope. Excuse me if I like to leave behind a banal life once and a while and see some things of real, enduring grandeur that also happen to serve as a transcendental symbols which, among several things, have traditionally bound together the imagination of my community in its reverence of God.

    The Pope does not spend his days in leisure simply doing as he wishes. It is not his wealth. He was elected to that position. It’s well known he would rather have had a quiet retirement in Bavaria. But he is now the head of an institution that surely does not represent his own individual desires, and is not even free to give these kinds of things away.

    I can walk into St. Peter’s for free and see some of the most marvellous sights created by human beings. I can not so easily walk into a Wall Street investor’s mansion and watch the latest movie in his private theatre.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs

      Per Signum,

      In response to your ideas, I would say that it is silly for people to suggest that the Pope should do a garage sale to benefit the poor. First of all, given the absolutely bizarre priorities of the art-world, a lot of half-baked modern artists like Cy Twombly (who is famous for having created many works in Rome) are worth a lot more than the second-tier old masters who make up the bulk of the Vatican Collections. So ironically, they would not raise nearly as much money as people think, and surely not enough to justify all the scandal and hand-wringing that would come with it.

      What is a more realistic expectation is that they would “get with the program” in the art world a bit and use their collections for the edification of the public, and to raise money. It just so happens that one of the priests in my college seminary, one Fr. Terence Hogan, was involved with a little-known group called the Patrons of the Arts of Vatican Museums. Naturally, like all such groups it is basically an excuse for having parties. But ostensibly they were supposed to help maintain the collections, and help plan traveling exhibitions to raise money and share the wealth with the public around the world. But when they have actually had exhibitions, they instead provided something along the lines of the “dregs of the Vatican Museums” . Surely, Fr. Hogan, an organ enthusiast and arts maven, could have seen to it that more was done. But apparently later they got another priest steward involved from the recently scandalized Legion of Christ. Thus, you can see how vexed the whole thing was!

      I just saw a fine show at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art of selections from the Uffizi Museum. They charged a pretty penny to get in, but we didn’t mind because the distinctly second-tier works. mostly very fine by artists I only vaguely had encountered before, was very enjoyable. It may not be realistic to to demand that the Vatican sell off its holdings. But it is realistic to demand that they spend their time doing shows aplenty to raise money. That they are not doing so is the real scandal, and just a sign of deep laziness and lack of real responsibility for their cultural position. There’s the scandal.

      • My information, Peter Paul, is that since the time of Paul VI Montini, the arts scene in Rome has been pretty dismal. Papa Wojtylwa, “poet” though he may have been, was a rather straightforward philistine, with a lot of personal emotional baggage regarding the dubious sexual orthodoxy of so many artists, and His “Fluffiness”–Papa Ratzinger, with his ermine capes and Prada shoes–I doubt his taste in art goes beyond poorly executed Mozart concertos and kitsch Baroque church ornamentation from Bavaria. Sensitive connoisseurs these curial wheelers and dealers and inquisitors, they ain’t!

      • Per Signum

        Thanks Peter,

        Those are points I’d never considered (neither do I have any experience in that area), I agree the Vatican should always strive to make the best of its position to benefit the poor. I just grow tired of the implication that the Church should be shorn of all its splendour and earthly glory- often criticisms voiced by a middle class who sit comfortably before large LCD screens in their living room each evening. That is not culture, history or meaningful identity.

        As for me, I don’t want to worship in a barn if it can be helped. This is another paradox of Christianity I suppose, whose tradition contains both the mandate for the grandeur of the temple cult and that very cult’s criticism and surpassing from within.

        Really, I could care less about the politics of the papal court, like who gets a red hat or whatnot, but my touring of Rome’s virtual theme-park of Catholic devotionalism, including spending many hours in St. Peter’s in worship, papal audiences, museums, a papal Christmas Mass, are some of the most treasured moments of my life.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        digby and Per Signum,

        I have written several times online about my terrific luck in having actually attended the now famous sole appearance of Herbert van Karajan at the Vatican doing Mozart, so I won’t go on about it again. I just can’t remember if I discussed it here. So, given that, I don’t think JPII really would in any way fairly be labeled a “philistine”. But there is some substratum reason to digby’s comment. The hyper-orthodox position today is somehow suspicious of great art. That this continues under a Pope who is a verifiable music lover, is a mystery I cannot parse. But then truly, one of my weaknesses, if it is really a weakness at all, is that I cannot fathom popular culture at all. My husband jokes that I should offer my services as a “consultant” of sorts. Whatever I think is going to happen in pop culture, one should just do the opposite and you would surely achieve the right course. Someone else will have parse the mysteries of modern Catholic “aesthetics.” When I consider all the time spent as a child singing the most awful music in church, accompanied by strummers on guitars, it all just seems like a nightmare survived.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Had to look up “verdical” Thanks.

  • Thales

    Bill Wilson,

    You’re insulting all the poor people who want their widow’s-mite donations to the Church to be actually used by the Church for the beautiful buildings and vestments, in order to glorify God in a manner that all people — rich and poor alike — can enjoy and appreciate and participate in.

  • Rodak

    @ Bill Wilson —

    That’s right. Just think of Pope, et al., as so many “lilies of the field.”