12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer
by Deal Hudson
#6. “If the Church truly followed Jesus, they’d sell their lavish art, property, and architecture, and give the money to the poor.”
When some people think of Vatican City, what they immediately picture is something like a wealthy kingdom, complete with palatial living accommodations for the pope and chests of gold tucked away in every corner, not to mention the fabulous collection of priceless art and artifacts. Looking at it that way, it’s easy to see how some people would become indignant at what they think is an ostentatious and wasteful show of wealth.
But the truth is something quite different. While the main buildings are called the “Vatican Palace,” it wasn’t built to be the lavish living quarters of the pope. In fact, the residential part of the Vatican is relatively small. The greater portion of the Vatican is given over to purposes of art and science, administration of the Church’s official business, and management of the Palace in general. Quite a number of Church and administrative officials live in the Vatican with the pope, making it more like the Church’s main headquarters.
As for the impressive art collection, truly one of the finest in the world, the Vatican views it as “an irreplaceable treasure,” but not in monetary terms. The pope doesn’t “own” these works of art and couldn’t sell them if he wanted to; they’re merely in the care of the Holy See. The art doesn’t even provide the Church with wealth; actually, it’s just the opposite. The Holy See invests quite a bit of its resources into the upkeep of the collection.
The truth of the matter is that the See has a fairly tight financial budget. So why keep the art? It goes back to a belief in the Church’s mission (one of many) as a civilizing force in the world. Just like the medieval monks who carefully transcribed ancient texts so they would be available to future generations — texts that otherwise would have been lost forever — the Church continues to care for the arts so they will not be forgotten over time. In today’s culture of death where the term “civilization” can only be used loosely, the Church’s civilizing mission is as important today as it ever was.
Next: Myth 7
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