CATHOLIC DIALOG #16
(Reggie and Sam are friends. They both enjoy having discussions about their different religious beliefs. Sam is a Catholic and Reggie has quite a few questions about the Traditions and practices of the Church)
Sam: Hey Reggie, I have a question for you.
Reg: What?! A question?
Sam: Well, you're always asking me questions, so I thought I'd ask you one for a change.
Sam: What would you say is the pillar and foundation of truth?
Reg: That's easy. Jesus is the pillar and foundation of truth.
Sam: That's not what the Bible says.
Sam: In One Timothy 3:15, the Bible says that, "The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth." I know you believe that the Bible contains all of the answers pertaining to the faith and I knew that you must have missed that particular passage because you've never mentioned it.
Reg: That must be a passage from the Catholic Bible, right?
Sam: No. That's from the King James version. I always use that source for our discussions because I know that's the one you use.
Reg: Well then that was a trick question. I thought you meant...
Sam: There was no trick to it. I've just noticed that you seem to miss all of the Biblical quotes that address the Catholic Church directly.
Reg: Like what?
Sam: Like, "On this Rock I will build my Church." That was what Jesus said to Peter. There's also, "What you hold bound on earth is bound in heaven", etc. What do you think when you read things like that in the Bible? How is it that people outside of the Church never notice the significance of these sections?
Reg: Why do you say that we are outside of the Church? Do you think we are heathens or something?
Sam: No. You are "Christians" who are not members of the Church that Christ started. That's all.
Reg: Well, I just don't think that Catholicism is the Church that Jesus started. What do you think of that?
Sam: How can you say that? Weren't you listening to those quotes from the Bible? Do you interpret them differently? I really don't see what the problem is.
Reg: My problem is that the Catholic Church is the richest organization in the world and I just don't think that is what Jesus had in mind. He preached about feeding the hungry and clothing the poor. The Church has billions of dollars. Why don't they sell some of their treasure and feed the starving people in Africa? I don't think that an authentic religion would hoard their wealth while half of the world is so needy.
Sam: Excuse me. Did you say authentic? Authentic religion means to live and worship in the presence of God. In our Eucharist, Jesus is truly present. We bless ourselves with holy water at the front door of our churches as a reminder of our Baptism. We kneel in front of the Tabernacle, observe Eucharistic adoration, and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus at every Mass. Catholics understand very well what it is to be in God's presence.
Reg: Okay. Calling your authenticity into question wasn't exactly what I meant. It's just that I think that Jesus would prefer that you store up your treasures in heaven.
Sam: I see. Well let me see if I can clear up a few things for you.
Sam: Although it is true that Jesus did say to store up your treasures in heaven, He also told a parable about a man who buried his talents and was reprimanded for it.
Reg: I know that story. What does it have to do with the wealth of the Church?
Sam: It has to do with the artists that created the treasures that you refer to.
Sam: The talent to create is a gift from God. When an artist practices his craft, the end result inspires people and multiplies his talents. The Church commissions artists and supports their efforts to create and utilize their skills. Do you really think that God would have preferred to see Michael Angelo drawing caricatures of tourists on the streets of Italy for a living rather than doing the masterpieces that the Church paid him for?
Reg: Well no, buteg...
Sam: I mean, his painting on the ceiling of the Cystine Chapel has inspired millions of people. This was the way that Michael Angelo served God. It was his calling, and the Church made it possible by paying him for his time and efforts.
Reg: Alright, but why not sell some of that stuff now?
Sam: If the Church sold it's artwork and real estate to private parties, then they would become part of a private collection and the public would be denied access to them. When we went to World Youth Day, we saw the Vatican art collection and it was great. We would not have been able to see any of it if it was locked up in someone's mansion.
Reg: Okay. I can see that, but...
Sam: In that way, the Church is contributing to the society. It is a cultural contribution.
Reg: But what about the people who are starving?
Sam: Someone once said, "If you give a man a fish, he can eat today, but if you teach him how to fish, he can eat for the rest of his life." The Church sends missionaries to third world countries to educate the people in hopes of improving their quality of life.
Reg: But what about feeding them? Don't you think that would be nice too?
Sam: Our missionaries do feed the people. Now let me tell you something that I'll bet you don't know. If the Church were to liquidate all of it's assets, they would only have enough cash to give each starving person about 40 cents. There are a lot of hungry people in this world and 40 cents each would not feed them for very long. The problem of starvation is much bigger than you realize. This is probably why Jesus said, "You will always have the poor."
Reg: 40 cents, huh?
Sam: Right. 40 cents. That would be pointless. Don't you agree? Can't you see that it is better to feed the ones we can, to send missionaries to educate them, and finally, to display our beautiful art treasures that inspire people to draw nearer to God? Suppose that as a result, they are more charitable to their neighbor? It might be a good investment that the Church has made.
Reg: I guess so.
Sam: The last thing I should mention is that although the Church has many assets, cash is not one of them. I have seen financial statements that are published yearly, and we are actually cash poor. I do not say this so you will feel sympathy, but I do think that it's important for you to know.
Reg: I'd like to see one of those financial statements for myself.
Sam: Next time I see one, I will be glad to show you. Our Church publishes them regularly in various Catholic magazines. The only thing that these statements don't show is the real wealth of the Church.
Reg: What's that?
Sam: Grace. The Catholic Church is rich in grace, and we do share that wealth generously with everyone who is hungry for it.