Monday, July 13, 2009

Sell the Vatican!

The other day I was speaking with an "ex-Catholic" friend about faith. There were a number of things we discussed, which I will blog about as time goes by, but one thing was his statement that he can't believe in Catholicism because the Pope doesn't. According to him (and others), if the Pope really believed in Catholicism he would sell all the billions of dollars of art work, all the buildings and land, etc. and give all the money to the poor and ed world hunger once and for all.

There are two aspects of this logic that are mistaken. First off, the notion that "I would believe in 'X' if you did 'Y'" when you know darn well the person isn't going to do "y" is simply making an excuse. If you believe you believe. If you don't you don't. If someone else's actions affect your entire world view, you have a seriously fragile world view, and it will just as easily change next week when someone else does something else. Either an argument is logical or it isn't. The actions of the person who tells you about it doesn't make it any more or less compelling. So right away there is a barrier of insincerity in the question.

Secondly, there are number of reasons for the Pope not selling all the art work and giving the money away and ending world hunger. Before going over them, let's make an analogy. If he cares about poor people, why doesn't the president of the United Stated sell all the monuments and art work and stuff in the Smithsonian, and all the buildings in Washington and give the money to the poor and end hunger and provide health care, etc. for all Americans. Same issues, pretty much.

First off, those things are not the president's (Pope's) to do with as he pleases. They belong to the country (world) and many of them serve good uses, like the stuff the in the Smithsonian (name your favorite place here) that is used for teaching.

Secondly, how effectively could the US (Vatican) conduct its business with no buildings, no staff, no way to communicate or educate? A certain amount of money, and yes, even grandeur is needed to be a "player" in this world.

Lastly, and sadly, all the money in the world would not end world hunger. Throwing money at a problem doesn't make it go away (and often exacerbates it). Let's say you did sell everything off and wanted to use the money to feed the hungry. You'd be getting that money from the very rich, and then turning around and giving it back to buy food. the glut of art work on the market place would make it worthless, and the demand for food would drive food prices up so that you'd wind up doing nothing except lining the pockets of speculators. In a day, or a month, or a year, the food would be gone, the rich would still be rich, and the hungry would be hungry again.

Ultimately the problem of the poor and hungry is caused by the attitudes and actions of billions of people, and cannot be solved by a single act by a single individual, or even a single country. The solution is an economy based not on greed or personal gain, but on justice and charity.

Which brings us to Benedict XVI's recent encyclical, "Caritas in Veritae", or "Charity in Truth." Of course I've only read the first couple of pages (it is quite long), but I have read the blogs and heard others analysis who have read it. No, I'm not being hypocritical, I have started reading it and have preordered the book. I just haven't had time yet to spend reading it online, the only form in which I have access to it right now (and I hate reading things online - as you know I prefer books).

In Caritas in Veritae Pope Benedict XVI discusses how in order to have an economy that is just and vital it must be grounded in respect for human beings. It doesn't describe economic practice, more economic philosophy.

For years I've heard people complaining that the Pope can't tell them anything about sex because he is a virgin. The same people complain that the Pope is one of the richest men in the world. So now that he's talking about money, do you think they'll listen?


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