Wealth and the True Church

Not open for further replies.


It is with great interest that I’ve been reading the exchanges between Catholics and Protestants on this board regarding the question of the true church. I have to say you make the case well: the apostolic succession of popes up to Peter, the lack of basis for sola scriptura, the fragmentation of Protestantism to thousands of denominations, and so on.

However, there is one stumbling-block that, in my opinion, puts a dent in it all: the wealth of the Catholic Church. The problem: Jesus was the poorest of the poor, without possessions, without even a place to lay his head, and exhorted people to get rid of their possessions, whereas the Catholic Church is one of the richest institutions in the world. The Vatican is full of material treasures, Catholic priests are attired with precious clothing, and the Mass is conducted with chalices of gold. I thought the true church of Jesus Christ was supposed to be awfully poor, wearing a sackcloth rather than precious robes.

I mean no offence, and I’m sorry if any of this has offended you; my intention is to ask the simple question as to how the wealth of the Catholic Church squares with the words of Jesus—how the true church can be so materially rich. I’m not saying the Protestants, with their megachurches and financial empires like that of Pat Robertson, are any better; but I ask about the truth of the Catholic Church.
Though the “wealth” of the Catholic Church seems to be a stumbling block, it is a house of cards built by professional anti-catholics. Granted, the Vatican and other Church properties contain many priceless artifacts and works of art, the Church doesn’t consider itself as much the owner as it does the steward or custodian. The Church has always considered herself a civilizing force in the world, and the preservation of these works has come usually at great expense to the Church. Maintaining hundeds of years old paintings costs money.

Additionally, the Vatican, itself an independent country, operates on a very modest budget, usually the size of the city of Chicago, and quite regularly runs operating deficits. That means the Church is taking in less than it is spending. And mind you, it spends an enormous amount on charitable works for the poor.

In regards to your concern about the adornment of the clergy, chalices, etc… The cup and plates used in litergical service are not made of gold, but rather brass. Additionally, the personal attire of the clergy is purchased at their own expense, however the liturgical attire is purchased by the church, and is considered property of the Church.

As a counter-point, if you want to consider wealth and “religious” people, consider the fanciful attire of the likes of Benny Hinn or Creflo Dollar. Kenneth Copeland was recently seen asking his faithful followers to donate him money so he can purchase 2 brand new Citation Lear Jets at the cost of $20,000,000 each! This is so he can scoot around the world fast to do God’s work. The same case being built against us can be laid even more successfully against our Protestant bretheren, so the bottom line you should ask someone bringing this up is “What is your point?” Hope it helps.
Keep in mind the book of Acts Chapter 4:34-37

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.


The book of Revelation 21:21 (The New Jerusalem)

The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

There are others (i.e. Solomon’s temple built at the command of God)

Hope this helps…
Heathen Dawn,
First of all, this question is a legitimate one. And I thank you for posting it in the way you did.

I would like to refer to Matthew 19:16-22
**16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

***Many confuse this passage as we have to give everything we own in order to follow Christ, then they look at the Catholic Church and see all the wealth and start to wonder?

First the passage, is not what it seems, Christ only tells the Young man to sell everything and follow Him after the young man is arrangant enought to say that he had done everything he needed to do to go to Heaven. The moral of the story, is not what you have but what you do with it. The young man, would not sell everything and give it to the poor, but the Church many times gives more to the poor than it receives.

Also keep in mind the difference between assets and liquid assets.

As for the garments of the Priests and Chalice, it is up to the Priest to pay for these items themselves. A Chalice is usually made of gold, because it MUST be made of a durable material and be a precious material, it does not have to be made of Gold. After all it holds the Blood of Christ. The garments, many times, family or friends will help make these items for the Priests.

Karl Keating or one of the Apologists may be able to clarify this better.

Just to add a note to what Apologia 100 said about the Church only being the custodian of the treasures of the Church, but not the owners. You have to ask yourself if this supposed great wealth is being hoarded, to whos benefit is it? To take the most obvious example, the Pope himself lives very simply. His usual dress is a simple white garment and he lives in a relatively modest apartment. None of the pomp that surrounds the ceremonial aspect of his life is his; when he dies, he will be buried in a simple wooden box and his so-called “riches” will go back to the Church for it’s safekeeping for the people of God.
I find this topic so interesting in light of the wealth of the new wave of tele-evangelists and also in light of the “name it and claim it” gospels being spewed forth these days by some protestant denominations. Paul Crouch of TBN and his wife Jan are said to be worth millions much of which has come from his viewership in the form of “seed” money which needs to be sown so that the viewers who contribute, can reap abundant wealth. The same can be said for many of the pastors of the “mega” churches. Give them a few centuries and we will be able to say the same thing about them.
Also the Church, proportionally, is not that rich. 1 billion members. That’s 1 in 6 people in this world (roughly speaking). (Yes, millions of those are not actually practicing Catholics…but that’s not the point of this discussion).

The average money donated to the Church by an American family is only around $400 a year…so proportionally, that’s not a lot of money. (Though the average, I’m sure, is brought down my poorer families, and those Catholics who do not actually practice their faith).

Since very ancient times, the chalice and other objects used to hold the Eucharist have often been made of precious metals, whenever possible…this is to honour Christ. Christ Himself, the King of Kings, is present on the altar in Catholic Churches.

*3 Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.
4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, that should betray him, saith,
5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred shillings, and given to the poor?
6 Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein.
7 Jesus therefore said, Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying.
8 For the poor ye have always with you; but me ye have not always.
  • (From John 12). This is a precedent, I think, or lavishing Christ with costly materials, in His honour. Yes, there are excesses that are not always necessary, but no one said the Church is perfect…but I think we need a balance as well. Much is given to the poor, and much more would be if more Catholics fulfilled their Christian duty of giving 'till it hurts.
I think we should remember that when Judas complained about the cost of the oil used to annoint Jesus, it was noted that he said this because he was a thief, not because he wanted to help the poor. Under the pretense that the Church was too rich, it has been stripped many times of material wealth: by the followers of Luther, by Henry VIII, by the Jacobins, by the other secularist revolutionaries in Italy in the nineteenth century and Mexico in the twentieth (just to name two places where this happened), by the communists (especially in the Ukraine), on and on. Can anyone argue that this really was done for noble reasons?

Also, what is the mission of the Church? If the Church could actually relieve all poverty in the world (which it does not have the resources to do), would this fulfill it’s mission, which is to bring all souls to heaven? One does not follow the other.
SO how much is the Sistene Chapel worth? If Bill Gates could buy it, how can he ship it home? So much of the wealth was done for the Church to the greater glory of God. It cannot be sold (who can asses the price) or moved at all. It is a little of a false statement to say that the Church has too much wealth. Now about the Chalice. Are we to put Jesus into a dixie cup? Paper plates for our Lord? If the Body and Blood are truely present in teh Eucharist, then even gold is not precious enough.
Having attended baptist services during my years of spiritual wandering, they use little plastic cups filled with grape juice. One per person please, no sharing, it isn’t sanitary. And oyster crackers for the “bread”. I felt like I was at a reception for a kindergarden graduation. I have also been to Greek Orthodox services where the eucharist is in the form of bread and wine together, served from a common spoon by the celebrant. Imagine, everyone in the church taking the body and blood from the same spoon! Regardless, the wealth of the church issue is smoke to make people feel bad about the church when there is nothing to feel bad about.

In the town of my birth, Lewiston Maine, there is a beautiful church called St. Peter and Paul, once considered to the the diocesean cathedral. It was built on the donations of dirt poor canadian immigrants. They were not forced to give up the money. They did it because they wanted a place as beautiful to worship as they could, even if it ment cutting back on food money. Imagine that, people actually making sacrifices to create a communal place of worship that is as functional as it is beautiful.
I would not want the Vatican to sell off the artworks and museum pieces that are in the Vatican archives and museums. After it was sold, it would end up in private hands, unavailable to the public as it is now, and the money raised would not put a dent in world poverty. The Church does much in the way of helping the poor, but she also has an obligation to preserve these treasures of Western civilization.

Most of the priceless artworks and the like housed in the Vatican are available for viewing by the public. Museums do this, yet no one accuses them of hoarding wealth. Also, one point that hasn’t been addressed is that the Vatican aquired many items as gifts from artists, done for the glory of God and given to the Church. Would it be right of the Church not to keep them? If someone gave you a family heirloom, would it be right to sell it off or give it away? The same goes for the Church, which as has been stated, is the steward of these gifts, not their owner.
<<<<Granted, the Vatican and other Church properties contain many priceless artifacts and works of art, the Church doesn’t consider itself as much the owner as it does the steward or custodian. >>>>>

Also these priceless artifacts and works of art, some of them go as far back as the early Christians, relics of the True Cross, the Saints, etc. which prove that the Catholic church is the True church since it alone possesses these treasures. If the Protestants existed at that time they would possess them too. To admit the roots of the Protestants churches do not go back to the apostles is proof enough they can not be the True Church.

Also remember God gave the True church 4 visible marks that we can recognize Holy Mother the Church. What church has possession of those marks? The marks are One, Holy, Catholic or Universal and Apostalic. One in Faith and Baptism or unity, Holy in our sacrifice of the Mass and the making of Saints, Catholic that is the Church is for ALL MEN, and Apostolic it goes back to the days of the Apostles.
Not open for further replies.