Must Catholics be poor?

In a Rio slum

Must Catholics be Poor?” is the title of Fr Dwight Longenecker’s article in Aleteia for October 25. It’s a good question and one that should haunt all Catholics, writes Francis Philiips.

– The Catholic Herald

The question is pertinent not because making money or enjoying (in moderation) the fruits of it is wrong per se, but because Christ himself led a life of poverty and we should, as much as we can, try to imitate him. This doesn’t mean that because he said “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” we should decide to be homeless. But, as my dear brother said on the day he died: “There are no pockets in a shroud” and we do well to remember that.

Longenecker’s article comes straight after the news that Pope Francis had summoned German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van-Elst to Rome for a discussion as to why he is alleged to have spent $43 million renovating his offices and accommodation. When I read about the poor chap’s extravagance (actually “poor” is the wrong adjective here), including a free-standing marble bath, I was secretly amused as much as scandalised; he seems so profligate it is almost beyond scandal.

Could he have lost his marbles? In his defence, I read that the bishop said that others were also involved in the financial decisions. Even so, how on earth did he think that a Pope who had taken the name of a saint famous for his abject poverty and who insisted that his friars beg for whatever they needed, would countenance such excessive spending?

In his article Longenecker points out that most Catholic priests are diocesan priests who do not take a vow of poverty, as members of religious orders do. They may inherit family money or make money from speaking and writing – but they “are still not expected to live extravagant lives of luxury” and expensive housing, clothes or cars are discouraged. They should live “modest and unassuming” lives. However, he hints that many priests and bishops still live extravagantly and “have fallen into the trap of vanity, greed and materialism like so many in our society.”

FULL STORY Must Catholics be poor?

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