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Oren ben-Yosef wrote:

Hello and thank you for the opportunity to ask you a question.

Please understand I mean no offense with my questions. I myself am a believer and I ask in order to understand.

  1. How come the Catholic Church preaches about helping the poor and giving to others, when it is one of the richest institutes in the world, if not the richest?

Surely, the Church helps the community in so many ways, but it could help so much more by giving away its treasures to the needy and by practicing modesty.

  1. I understand that the Vatican holds a private library, with knowledge that is withheld from the public. I am not interested in the Da-Vinci code or similar stories, nor whether they are true or not, but the way I see it, holding information from others is, well, not very Christian.
  • Can you answer my question and comment on my views?

Thank you very much for your time!


  { Why doesn't the Church give its riches to the poor and why withhold information from the public? }

Mary Ann replied:

Oren —

The Catholic Church is the caretaker of many treasures of art and architecture, created all over the world by Christians to praise God. These goods are worth money, but they are really priceless, and by being in the hands of the Church who created them, they are available to all.

Selling all the goods of the Church, all of which are in the hands of small congregations of Christians and are the patrimony from their ancestors, would bring in some money, of course, but it would take even more money to replace the buildings, and they would have no art to inspire.

The Church does not have much money (the Vatican was in the red recently), and most of what she collects she gives to the poor. She is the largest provider of social services. Henry VIII and Elizabeth had the same idea you did, so they closed down all the monasteries and seized their treasures. As a result, the entire social welfare and hospital system of England was shut down. (The monasteries were the entire social welfare and hospital system of England.) The result was a horrible misery, which lasted through the time of Dickens, who wrote about the mean-spirited non-Christian attitudes of the Protestant society that was excessively individualistic.

In addition, the treasures that were stolen from the Church were handed out to cronies and became the basis for an unjust class system. Usually when people want to despoil the Church to help the poor (when the Church does most of the helping of the poor to begin with), they really just want to despoil the Church.

As for the Vatican Library, it is open. Many items are ancient and delicate, most are in foreign languages, and some, I believe, still need cataloguing. Some things are secret, in the sense of confidential Church records. Suppose you were a king and wrote to a Pope confessing many misdeeds and asking that a Church be built. You would not want your letter to be make public.

I guess to sum up, it is right to say that the Church is the custodian of much great art created for the service and praise of God.

  • If this art were in the hands of private individuals, it would not be available for all, or it would be destroyed.
  • If it were in the hands of states, it would be seen intermittently, and subject to political turmoil and war.
  • It is not liquid wealth, and even if the Church wanted to sell it for the poor, there would be no one who could buy it!!!

Mary Ann

Oren replied:

Mary Ann,

Thank you for your quick answer!


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