Friday, September 18, 2009

Why do Catholics have such nice churches?

It’s been asked before why Catholics spend so much money on the appearance of our churches, on fancy vestments and sacred vessels, candles and incense, and on and on. When a nice, but by no means extravagant, chalice runs around $3,000, isn’t that getting a bit carried away? Shouldn’t that money go to the poor or something?

Well, first let’s ask where the money that buys these things comes from. The assumption is that the Vatican is funding all these churches (note the small “c”, we’re talking about physical buildings and local parishes, not the Church). The money to build a church actually comes from the local diocese and that money is a loan, not a gift.

Where does the parish get the money to pay back their loan to the diocese? From the parishioners who attend that parish. And who decides how to spend that money? Each parish has a finance council that determines where the money collected from parishioners will go (feeding people, buying chalices, etc). This finance council is accountable to the parish council, both of which made of members of the congregation (and often the priest).

What’s the point? Well, we have people who go to the church donating the money the church spends, and we have people who go to that church determining where the money goes. If you have an issue with a church having fancy candles, you have an issue with the parishioners of that church; not the Vatican.

Why can’t they choose to spend their money how they want? Why can’t they buy nice things for God’s house (the church) when they likely have nice things in their own house? Why don’t the people who accuse the Church of wasting money that could be spent on the poor drive cars? Can’t they ride the bus and give their savings to the poor?

To denounce the Church because a church has expensive things is, first, misplaced blame; the people of that church bought those nice things, not the pope. Second, be honest, have you given every penny you can spare to the poor and needy? If not, please don’t be a hypocrite.

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