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Luke Coppen's Catholic Herald Blog

Sarah Silverman: How she can set an example

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So, does Sarah Silverman have a point?

According to the trusted Vatican reporter John Allen, probably not. In his brilliant book, All the Pope’s Men, he has a chapter called the “Top Five Myths about the Vatican”. Myth four is “Vatican wealth”:

To put it bluntly, the Vatican is not rich. It has an annual operating budget of $260 million, which would not place it on any top 500 list of major social institutions. To draw a comparison in the non-profit sector, Harvard University has an annual operating budget of a little over $1.3 billion, which means it could run the equivalent of five Vaticans every year.

But, Silverman might say, what of its artistic treasures?

From the Holy See’s point of view, they are part of the artistic heritage of the world and may never be sold or borrowed against. In 1986, facing a $56 million budget deficit, the Vatican put out a statement saying the artworks and cultural artifacts owned by the Roman Catholic Church constitute “a treasure for all humanity” and cannot be sold.

OK, but how does Allen respond to those who still refuse to accept the plain evidence that the Vatican is not wealthy? Can he prove there isn’t a horde of gold hidden away somewhere?

No, I can’t. I also can’t prove there’s no invisible monster under your bed. What I can say is that if the Vatican is sitting on a secret stash of riches, there’s little evidence of it in the way the institution functions. While there are a few black Mercedes limousines to ferry VIPs to and fro, and some cardinals do have fairly nice apartments, for the most part Vatican personnel do not live especially large.

I’ve got an idea. I don’t know if Sarah Silverman is a millionaire. But I think we can assume she is comfortably off. Why doesn’t she set an example by giving her wealth away?

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 15, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Vatican

Tagged with , , , ,

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