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Austin Cline

Pope Condemns Pagan Love of Money; Catholic Love of Money OK?

By September 29, 2008

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Is that a Cross of Gold? Pope Benedict XVI, September 14, 2008; Lourdes, France
Is that a Cross of Gold?
Pope Benedict XVI
September 14, 2008; Lourdes, France
Photo: Carsten Koall/Getty Images
Christianity has always had a schizophrenic relationship with wealth and power. On the one hand, a significant part of Christianity's origins lie with the sayings of an itinerant preacher who believed that the apocalypse was near and people should stop worrying about material goods. On the other hand, Christianity's survival is due in large part to its union with the Roman Empire, a union which necessarily led to a close relationship with power, money, and wealth. Defense of the status quo was inevitable and became part of Christianity's very nature.

As a consequence, we can witness throughout history constant contradictions and conflict within Christianity over wealth and power. Christian leaders have regularly preached against greed and wealth and on behalf of the poor and powerless, but they have done so from richly apportioned churches and only rarely make any overt moves against the status quo -- moves which would have threatened the power of political and social leaders they heavily rely upon. Pope Benedict XVI doesn't break any new ground here, continuing in a long and depressing tradition.

Paraphrasing from the New Testament, Benedict decried “insatiable greed” and said “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

“Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?” the pope asked.

Benedict blasted modern society’s thirst for these new “pagan” idols as a “scandal, a real plague.” The pope urged the faithful to “shun the worship of idols. Do not tire of doing good!”’

Source: MSNBC
Humble Surroundings? Pope Benedict XVI Christmas Night Mass, St. Peter's Basilica, December 24, 2007
Humble Surroundings?
Pope Benedict XVI Christmas Night Mass
St. Peter's Basilica, December 24, 2007
Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

To be fair, the Catholic Church probably isn't quite as wealthy as some people seem to assume. There surely aren't any vaults in the Vatican basement, filled with gold and silver that's being hoarded. There aren't billion-dollar Swiss bank accounts just accruing interest. On the other hand, there is a tremendous wealth of property, art, and related items. Popes don't live in "luxury" in the sense that we think of when we think of rich people in America, surrounded by the latest electronic gadgets, but they do live surrounded by inimitable architecture and art.

This means that there is a strong impression of contradiction and hypocrisy when such a powerful, well-off organization presumes to not only tell others that they should stop loving wealth and power so much, but actually dares to describe such attitudes as "pagan." Love of wealth and power is human, not pagan, which means that it can be found in every religious, political, and economic system. Benedict's denunciation might as well have been of "Jewish" idols, but how would that have gone over?

Comments
September 29, 2008 at 6:11 pm
(1) MikeC says:

From their own ‘holy’ book:

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)

October 3, 2008 at 8:17 pm
(2) John Hanks says:

The Pope is just another weakling leading other weaklings. He is against birth control. As for money, the implication is that Catholics would be better off if they gave all their money to the church. Most moralists do start on some solid ground somewhere however. When life has lost all meaning around age 14, people start to pursue money, power, status, and virtue as ends in themselves. They don’t realize that sociopaths use these ends as means to control people.

March 15, 2009 at 6:12 pm
(3) Steve says:

Austin, you just don’t get it. The beautiful artworks of the Vatican aren’t there to exalt the Pope. Rather, they are there to give glory to the Lord. The Pope rightly condemns those who use money to exalt themselves while their brothers and sisters suffer.
When done with humble hearts, loving and honoring God and loving one’s neighbor are not at odds with each other. Christians are actually specifically instructed to do both.
God Bless,
Steve

September 28, 2009 at 9:07 am
(4) Ateizam says:

@Steve, I think that god would be more exalted if he didn’t allow this kid to starve to death and be eaten by vultures.
“bogatstvo Vatikana i glad Afrike
That’s actually all I have to say. Look at the pictures and tell us here what do you feel. Or better say nothing, I am afraid what might come from your mouth.

September 28, 2009 at 9:09 am
(5) Ateizam says:

@Steve, I think that god would be more exalted if he didn’t allow this kid to starve to death and be eaten by vultures.

That’s actually all I have to say. Look at the pictures and tell us here what do you feel. Or better say nothing, I am afraid what might come from your mouth.

September 28, 2009 at 9:12 am
(6) Ateizam says:

I messed up the link in the upper comment so if admin is able to fix it…
Bogatstvo Vatikana i glad Afrike

September 28, 2009 at 9:13 am
(7) Ateizam says:

I messed the link in the upper comments, so if admin can fix them.

Here is the valid url:

http://car-je-gol.netau.net/index.php/tekstovi/38-ateizam/219-bogatsvo-vatikana-i-glad-afrike

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