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Monday, May 30, 2011

First response to anti-Catholic "Church of the Poor" article

Jemy Gatdula

Here’s a short, suggested response to this nonsense:

The Church is not rich. By her logic, the Philippines is rich. And yet, why doesn’t she ask that the Philippines, being the 13th largest economy in Asia and the 33rd largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity according to the International Monetary Fund in 2010, with a GDP - purchasing power parity of $373.6 billion in 2010, yet sees 33% of its people under poverty line.

In fact, by that logic, then we should be demanding that the Philippine government, all the pharmaceutical companies, and even international organizations like the UN and WHO, or even large local companies like ABS-CBN or the Lopez Group of Companies, to dispose of all their assets, buildings, etc. and donate them to the poor. But presumably that would be wrong because these organizations apparently do more good to Filipinos if they are existing and operating. Well, the same could be said for the Church and more. The argument regarding supposed Church wealth is very old and very dumb. It’s not that you own a lot it’s what you do with what you own. And the Church has been more effective than any other institution in dealing with poverty, not merely locally but globally.

The Catholic Church supports faithful from all over the world. And each Catholic Church is financially independent. The local Catholic Church does not get any financial support from the Vatican or it's own diocese. Rather, it’s the local church that supports the Vatican. Besides, being a 2000 year old institution, it has accumulated assets, including lands or buildings, many through donations, of which many are quite old.

Even then, these assets are not liquid assets. Most are held in trust for the people of the world to use or simply look at. So when a socialite writer, just for example, wants to go touring Rome and see the valuable paintings at the Sistine Chapel, it must be remembered that the huge upkeep for these treasures are shouldered by the Vatican (with funds from either donations or minimal museum fees; note that there are even days you can visit the museum for free), which in the end is a non-profitable endeavour to it.

A lot of the physical assets such as cathedrals, chapels, etc. are not built for the benefit or vanity of the priests but because the believers themselves (who are human beings and can be reached through the senses) would hopefully be inspired to see through their surroundings and by it seek to know more and be closer to the One who created all. The same reasoning goes for museums, they are done in such a way to provoke interest (even inspiration) for history. And this has to be emphasized again: Church property is not so much owned but rather is held in trust by the present for those faithful to come in the future.

Any profit (or any asset, in fact) that the Church owns is utilized for the costs needed by the faithful the world over. Aside from the upkeep for maintaining churches, masses, priests, etc., it must be emphasized that the Catholic Church is the leading charity in the world. It has, at any given time, donated more money, effort, goods, than any other multinational organization, charitable organization, or even governments.

This bears worth emphasizing: no pharmaceutical company or international org or government has done more than the Catholic Church in terms of charity, education, health and hospital care, scientific research, poverty alleviation. Bill Gates can actually learn from the Church on how to conduct charity.

In the US alone (simply because these are the easily available figures), the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students everyday at no cost to taxpayers. But this does cost the Church 10 billion US dollars. Note that enrollment in all of these schools is open to all religious faiths. It also operates in the US 637 hospitals which account for hospital treatment of 1 out of every 5 people not just Catholics in the United States today, all shouldered by the Church.

Now clearly the foregoing was merely scribbled hastily and is obviously not meant to be an authoritative source on the charitable and beneficial works of the Church. But what it does at least demonstrate is that there is a very apparent and real benefit that the Church gives to the world’s poor. Note that the social, material realm is not even the primary focus of the Church, its overriding purpose is to save souls. Poverty alleviation and social development is primarily the duty of governments. It is significant, however, that even in this aspect it is the Church that leads the way.

Nevertheless, I have no illusions as to the effect of this blog entry. Proverbs 23:9 is most instructive: "Don't waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice." At the least, should this blog entry help fellow believers and defenders of the faith, then all is well.

(Addendum: note from my friend Ipe Salvosa of BusinessWorld. This is merely from Caritas Manila financial report for 2009, it does not include the rest of the activities of the Church in the Philippines: "A total of 146,139 families affected by tropical cyclones Ondoy and Pepeng were given relief assistance. It was made possible by the outpouring of cash and in-kind donations from domestic donors and from other countries and the thousands of volunteers that participated. Caritas Damay Kapanalig typhoon program for Ondoy and Pepeng raised over PhP 57 million (Cash = PhP 39,336,757.91 and in-kind = PhP24,099,285.52)."

"And although 2009’s highlight was the Caritas Damay Kapanalig Ondoy and Pepeng relief and rehabilitation efforts, throughout the course of the year Caritas Manila continued with its highly committed social services and development efforts. 5,463 scholars were maintained under the Youth Servant Leadership and Education Program or YSLEP. 98,552 patients were attended to through the different Caritas charity clinics in Mega Manila. Under preventive health care, 58,118 patients were given health counselling. 12,180 children were fed and monitored under the Caritas Hapag-Asa Feeding Program. 107 inmates were released through paralegal assistance under the Caritas Restorative Justice Program or Caritas RJ. These are just some of the notable accomplishments for 2009.")


  1. Hear! Hear! Long live the Catholic Church!

  2. To infinity and beyond!