- Politics and Social Issues
H.O.W. Can The Catholic Church Help The Poor: A Moment With Bill Reflection
Since its early days, the Roman Catholic Church has been one of the largest landowners in the world, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when discussing the wealth of the Catholic Church.
In addition to real estate, the Church owns billions of dollars in gold, stocks, bonds and physical property other than land. Because of the secrecy of the Church, it is practically impossible to even guess at an exactly figure of its net worth, but experts agree that it is quite possibly a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, or trust in the world, and most definitely greater than most nations.
To illustrate this point, let’s take a closer look at just one archdiocese in the United States, namely the Boston Archdiocese. The estimated real estate value for the Archdiocese of Boston is $1.4 billion. Meanwhile, there are 2.069 million members in that archdiocese and they give an average of $438 every year in contributions, which literally generates hundreds of millions per year.
And that is just one archdiocese among 2,795 dioceses in the world, with countless parishes residing within those dioceses and a total of over 1.2 billion Catholics.
You do the math.
The Catholic Church defines its purpose as three-fold: To spread the message of Jesus Christ; to administer the sacraments; and to exercise charity.
Blessed Are the Poor
Poverty is defined as a lack of a certain level of possessions and money. It is a somewhat nebulous determination that changes with each nation. Absolute poverty, however, refers to people who are lacking necessities for life, namely food, shelter and the like. The World Bank estimates that there are currently 1.29 billion people, or slightly over one in seven, living in absolute poverty in the world.
This, of course, raises an interesting question.
There can be no doubt that the Catholic Church is involved in charitable activities. The following is a list of charitable organizations sponsored and/or owned by the Church in New York City alone:
- Astor Home for Children
- Cardinal Hayes Home for Children
- Cardinal McCloskey School and Home for Children
- Hayden House
- Eight other nurseries and homes for children
- Carmel Richmond Nursing Home
- Ferncliff Nursing Home
- Francis Schervier Home and Hospital
- Jeanne Jugan Residence
- Kateri Residence
- Nine other homes for the aged
- Benedictine Hospital
- Bon Secours Community Hospital
- Calvary Hospital
- Good Samaritan Hospital
- St. Anthony Community Hospital
- St. Francis Hospital
- St. Joseph’s Medical Center
- St. Vincent’s Hospital
- Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center
In addition, the Catholic Charities, located in Alexandria, Virginia, is the second largest social service provider in the United States, providing services to over eight million people each year in the United States, surpassed only by the United States government. A full 90% of donations goes directly to those in need, an admirable percentage in this day and age.
Catholic Relief Services, founded in 1943, provides aid to 90 different countries and over 130 million people each year.
Caritas International, a confederation of 164 relief agencies, services over 200 countries and territories and has been in existence since 1891.
The Bigger Picture
So, H.O.W. can the Catholic Church help the poor? The title of this article would appear to be misleading since obviously the Church does more than its share already, but I think, on a certain level, a central point is missed.
While I fully support feeding the hungry and providing clothing and shelter to the poor, I can’t help but wonder if more could be accomplished by putting the poor to work so that they can provide for themselves.“give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”
The ancient proverb quoted above holds the key, I believe, to ending poverty in many nations around the world. Teach a man to fish….teach a man to support himself….give a man a means of providing his own basic needs.
Although I have always had problems with the Catholic Church, and although their recent scandals are certainly upsetting, there is no denying that they have done wondrous things to help the needy. That does not, however, mean that they cannot do more.
It is time for the Catholic Church to put the past behind it and move forward as a new leader in the world with regards to humanitarian issues. It is my hope that the new Pope Francis realizes this fact and acts as a spearhead for change. With strong, determined leadership I believe the Catholic Church can rise above the ugliness of the past and truly be a world leader in helping the poor.
Sit with me awhile
Here Is What I Would Love to See Happen
First, I want the Pope to do a world tour, and I want him to cast aside politics and forcefully denounce injustice in this world. I want him to travel to nations that are predominantly Catholic and I want him to be a beacon of transition. Meet with world leaders and demand change. Considering the fact that one in seven people are Catholic, this could be a meaningful action in the political arena.
Second, I want the Church to begin selling off land and using the proceeds to establish businesses that will put people back to work.
Third, I want other lands owned by the Church to become low-cost communities for the poor and homeless. I have no doubt that every major diocese in every major city has land that could be donated and restructured as low-income housing. It is time at least one civic leader in the world do something constructively to end homelessness, and who better to do that then the Catholic Church, which preaches charity?
Fourth, I want the Catholics of the world to start acting like Catholics. What would Jesus do? Well, what he wouldn’t do is turn his back on those who are suffering. What he wouldn’t do is speak one thing but live a different thing altogether. What he wouldn’t do is practice apathy and complacency when faced with enormous societal problems.
What he would do is use love as his guiding principle.
Putting five bucks in the collection basket does not absolve one of their sins, nor does it make one a good human being. Those things can only be accomplished by walking the talk.
Do you believe the Catholic Church could to more to help the needy?
So There You Have It
Pope Francis, there is no need to thank me. I know you are appreciative of my suggestions and that’s good enough for me.
I will say that I believe you are a good man. You are burdened by tremendous responsibility and I’m sure it weighs on you daily. I am also sure that you want to do the right thing. I’m just helping you along in case you have forgotten that Jesus didn’t have a penny to his name and yet managed to leave a legacy that has lasted over two thousand years.
Imagine the legacy you could leave with the resources that you have at your disposal.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”