How about we sell the Vatican instead?

I have a feeling Catholics won’t like my solution to their monetary problems. But you see, times are tough. The LA Archdiocese alone has lost $660 million to those pesky victims of child rape. This is their solution:

The non-profit Guidance in Giving lists the Los Angeles-area Catholic Church among its “diocesan accounts” and says it is exploring a campaign to raise $200 million for the diocese to meet “a variety of needs,” including “priests’ retirement, seminarian education, Catholic schools, Catholic Charities and parish needs.”

The archdiocese did not respond to NBC queries in time for publication, but a church spokesman acknowledged the possible campaign to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported it.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to a $660 million settlement with 562 victims of abuse by priests and other church personnel. According to the Times, financial reports show that the church remains $80 million in debt.

Yes, a $200 million fundraiser. Presumably these funds would be donated from Catholic constituents, who obviously have no better way to spend their money than giving it to a church that’s been covering up hundreds of cases of child rape by priests. Food? Clothing? Housing? Education? Meh, what’s more important than avoiding the threat eternal damnation in a lake of fire?

Not coercive at all, nope.

But here’s an idea. Instead of relying on poor and middle class Catholics to save your child-molesting ass, why not get help from the head honcho? The Vatican’s worth is somewhere between 10 and 15 billion dollars. To save the Los Angeles diocese, the Vatican would have to sell a couple pieces from their mind bogglingly enormous art collection or maybe melt down a couple of the solid gold objects that are just lying around St. Peter’s Basilica.

Oddly enough, the Vatican seems more interested in hoarding its wealth than sharing it. They’ve previously been exempt from about a billion dollars of taxes annually, though that might soon change. And if you’ve ever been to the Vatican, seeing the wealth is amazing. I was lucky enough to visit Rome when I was 12, after visiting my aging Greek relatives in Athens for the first time. When I went to the Vatican with my parents, my main reactions were:

  1. Huh, the Sistine Chapel is smaller than I expected.
  2. Why do I have to wear a stupid dress when the guys get to wear pants?
  3. This is beautiful, but do they really need this much money when there are homeless people begging for food right outside the doors?

I must be missing something.


  1. says

    An observation:

    It’s not just Vatican City that is part of the Vatican State. They own something like a dozen buildings in Rome and an estate, larger than the City, at Castel Gandolfo (which houses the Vatican Observatory, the papal gardens, and some interesting archaeological sites including Emperor Domitian’s home theater).

    And there is also a large amount of real estate owned by the Church worldwide, most of which is not of particular historical significance.

  2. says

    @myself: Those dozen buildings in Rome are the ones given extraterritorial rights by the Italian government. There is obviously much more real estate owned by the Church within Rome’s city limits.

  3. hotshoe says

    Actually, we could start with selling the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Just the land alone should net multiple millions of dollars – the catlicks bought what used to be a five-acre parking lot in downtown LA for more than 10 million to build their cathedral on. It’s just a couple blocks from the City Hall and Civic Center complex and it’s worth way more than 10 million nowadays.

    Cost about 190 million to construct and furnish; includes many million-dollar features (bronze doors, custom tapestries, artwork, fountains, etc). Sell it all to the bare walls and then see if there’s a market for the building itself, or let some corporation tear it down and put a tax-paying business in its place.

    Yeah, I have no problem with selling the Vatican as well. I have no problem with nationalizing every single property – school, hospital, monastery, work of art – owned by all Catholic agencies everywhere.

    If the people want, they can have their governments hold the historic buildings and art in trust for the public, turn them into public schools, public hospitals, and public museums, or whatever is appropriate to the community. But the priests, bishops, cardinals,and pope should be begging for food on the streets, not resting in sin and working amidst untold luxuries.

  4. Trebuchet says

    Ten to fifteen billion? I’m actually rather surprised the Vatican’s wealth isn’t substantially more than that.

    Couldn’t help noticing this “justification” included in the Time article:

    Dividends help pay for Vatican expenses and charities such as assisting 1,500,000 children and providing some measure of food and clothing to 7,000,000 needy Italians.

    According to them, of course.

  5. chrislawson says


    My moment of conversion from “I don’t really care what religious believers do amongst themselves” to “these malignant bastards need to be reeled in” was during one of Pope John Paul II’s Easter sermons in which he (i) blamed atheism for most of the problems in the world, and (ii) demanded political leaders do more about poverty *while a 4-foot high solid gold cross was standing right behind him*.

  6. glodson says

    I like the idea of the Pope having a yard sale.

    I really like it. Too bad it will never happen, and people will tell the church that has been protecting child rapists to “shut up and take my money!” Because god.

  7. benjaminsa says

    I wonder what happens if the Catholic church fails to raise the funds? Not impossible. The Vatican is not very popular ,even amongst Catholics, right now, and with the tough financial times I don’t see many Catholics forking out lots of money to pay off lawsuits for child rapists. If it becomes clear that this is where Church donations are going, they will probably start losing money if anything and the more schools, charities, soup kitchens etc. they are forced to close, the more regular Catholics are going to start asking exactly that question, why does the Vatican get to keep all that wealth?

  8. TGAP Dad says

    James Randi has an interesting story about visiting a catholic church in a very poor area of Mexico. The people thee had virtually nothing to their names, were clothed in rags and mostly went without shoes. The church, however, was filled, FILLED, with gold artifacts that had been bought with donations or been donated themselves. So while the people barely managed to survive, the church was bursting with treasure. I’ll see if I can find the reference, but this may have been the church where the virgin of Guadeloupe was reported to be seen.

  9. Carlos Cabanita says

    I am from Portugal. Here the liberal governments in the 18th century were anticlerical and they threw out all the religious orders (monks and nuns) and confiscated their convents. So the government got hold of an enormous quantity of buildings (they left the churches). For two centuries, almost every government office and military barracks was an old convent. Even today, the Parliament sits in an old convent building.
    The situation have reversed somewhat during the fascist dictatorship (1926-1974) but the power of the Catholic church never returned to any semblance of it’s previous level.
    I’m ambivalent about the sale of the Vatican. I think it would make an outstanding museum instead. I’ve studied Art History and never fail to visit any church in my travels through Europe. I’m a special fan of the Baroque style, although it stands to everything opposite to my political views. I think most of the Vatican assets are not in stone, art and gold, but in in a network of bans managed by the very corrupt “black” aristocracy of Rome, with links to every criminal organization in the world.
    Thinking about Baroque, not a mile from the Vatican, there is a statue of a woman having an orgasm, inside a church, Teresa of Avila, by the immortal Bernini.

  10. Carlos Cabanita says

    I had almost forgot: I also studied Architecture in an ancient convent building. Half of it was the Arts college, the other half was the Lisbon police HQ!

  11. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    The Vatican owns an extensive international property portfolio, acquired on the basis of funds originally supplied by Mussolini as part of the Lateran Treaty of 1929, which established the Vatican City state and gave fascism the Papal seal of approval. It’s now reckoned to be worth some £500,000,000. Not vast by the scale of modern financial operations, but no need to sell off the Papal tiara, or even the truly astounding quantities of vulgar but presumably valuable kitsch in the Vatican museum, quite yet.

    According to the most popular interpretation of the prophecies of St. Malachi, the next Pope is the last, “Petrus Romanus” (Peter the Roman) at the end of whose reign the city of Rome will be destroyed.

  12. im says

    First, there is a real question as to who would buy that…

    Second, for all my utilitarianism, for all my atheism, for all my secularity and humanism, for all my disdain of Catholic abuses, for all my desire to destroy the fears of the poor, I feel kind of horrified at this prospect and I cannot desire the extinction of that sentiment.

    Third, beware you who live by the wealth redistribution, lest ye die by the wealth redistribution.

    I would note that these kinds of things seem not all that big compared to what a desperate effort by i.e. the US budget can provide.

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