The Church's wealth is in its people

Vinnies youth volunteers in Adelaide CBD (The Southern Cross/Ben Macmahon)

The Church is far more than its buildings. It is principally its people and their works, writes Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.

I am proud that our people provide high-quality healthcare, aged care, palliative care, counselling, primary and secondary schooling, tertiary education, community building and pastoral care.

Our people provide social welfare services to those living with disability or drug and alcohol dependence, to those fleeing domestic violence or with mental health issues, to the unemployed, homeless, refugees and indigenous, to parents, children and youth.

I am enormously proud our people help millions of Australian families and individuals every year, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Taken together this makes us the nation’s largest non-government provider of essential services. Inevitably that means a lot of "assets". But we do all of this as a non-profit organisation. So we have to work those assets hard and manage our money responsibly. Hence the internal church "banks" that assist parishes, schools and others get a start on their projects without crippling charges. Hence the local finance committees and cake stalls in our local parishes. Hence the Vinnies shops and the rest.

To compare this with the corporates like Westfield and Wesfarmers, as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age did yesterday, is unreal. So is valuing St Mary’s Cathedral as if it were a potential site for a high-rise development. Its value is as spiritual and artistic heritage of the Church, city and nation.

Much of the Church’s patrimony is like that, received on trust by the present generation from past ones and for the future. The Church is not free to dispose of such things at whim. Other "assets" such as schools exist only because they were funded by parishes and parents (and partly by government), for a very specific purpose.

And many are owned, not by the local diocese, but a parish (e.g. the local church), religious order (e.g. the local hospital) or a lay organisation (e.g. the local Vinnies). It is misleading to lump these things together as “the wealth of the Church” at the disposal of “the bishops”.

Comparisons with the big corporates fail for another key reason: companies make money for their shareholders, the Church spends its resources on others.


Where will relentless campaign leave the most needy? (Sydney Morning Herald)


Catholic Church's massive wealth revealed (The Age)

How the Ballarat Diocese is paying for abuse survivors compensation (The Courier)

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