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Scott P. Richert

Anti-Catholic Myths: Sell the Vatican, Feed the World

By October 19, 2009

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Sarah Silverman, a comedienne whom some people claim to find funny, grabbed a lot of attention last week when a video of her October 9, 2009, appearance on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher was posted to YouTube. Silverman trotted out one of the silliest of modern anti-Catholic myths: that the buildings, grounds, and artistic holdings of Vatican City are worth enough money to solve the problem of world hunger.

Silverman claimed that the proceeds from such a sale, which she put at $500 billion, could "feed the whole f---ing world." It could, but at less than $85 per person, one has to ask: What will they eat tomorrow?

It's hardly worth responding to such silliness, because the point, of course, is not to solve world hunger but to attack Catholicism. Silverman proved that by trotting out another anti-Catholic myth (that the Catholic Church was somehow complicit in the holocaust) and making sexually explicit remarks about Pope Benedict XVI.

Yet, on another level, this particular myth demands a response, since, as Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights points out, "the Catholic Church operates more hospitals and feeds more of the poor than any private institution in the world. It also saved more Jews during the Holocaust than any other institution in the world."

Indeed, hospitals have their very origins in monastic communities. Modern secular philanthropy, driven by big-money donations from those who can more than afford them, is simply a pale reflection of the care for the poor and the hungry and the sick and the prisoner offered through the centuries by Christians who were often only slightly better off than those they helped (and sometimes even worse off).

While world hunger is an intractable problem, the healthcare crisis in the United States today could be resolved rather quickly if more people were willing to follow the example of the immigrant priests, brothers, and nuns who founded the Catholic hospital system in the United States in the 19th century. The destruction of Christian philanthropy in healthcare, and its replacement with the desire for profit, has brought us to where we are today.

For those monks and nuns and priests and laymen who dedicated their lives to the service of others, care for the body was intimately wrapped up with concern for the soul. Yet once concern for the soul is lost in pursuit of profit, it is hardly surprising that care for the body is tossed aside as well.

If Sarah Silverman is really concerned for the poor, and not simply hoping to make a quick buck through nasty attacks on the Catholic Church, she could begin by volunteering her time at any number of Catholic hospitals, food pantries, and soup kitchens. Along the way, she might even learn that man does not live by bread alone.

October 19, 2009 at 1:37 pm
(1) John Seiler says:

The Catholic Church needs to bring back the old Legion of Decency, with boycotts of any station, performer, movie, TV show, record, Web site, etc., that attacks our faith.

October 19, 2009 at 7:32 pm
(2) Sue says:

I agree with that statement. I remember the sermons as a child on the Legion of Decency.

October 19, 2009 at 9:43 pm
(3) Joe Porreca says:

“[T]he Catholic Church … saved more Jews during the Holocaust than any other institution in the world.” In fact, John Toland, in his biography of Adolf Hitler, wrote that the Catholic Church saved more Jews than all other churches, religious institutions, and rescue organizations COMBINED.

October 19, 2009 at 11:14 pm
(4) Rob says:

There is no limit to the attacks on the Church. The only way to fight this is with huge numbers of informed Catholics who live the word of the One True Holy Church.

Thanks for the great site. Please follow me on Twitter:

My new Catholic Apologetics Website:

How to Defend the Catholic Faith

October 20, 2009 at 8:52 am
(5) neo says:

yes, it is an attack. On the catholic leadership. They are acting like pharisees.

Maybe if they’d do what they preach they wouldn’t be targeted like this. The truth is that the Vatican has for more resources than they use.

They have raised the bar for the laity, but have they done it for themselves?

When they put their money were their mouth is and start acting instead of condemning good people for what they themselves do then and only then is Sarah Silverman off base.

October 20, 2009 at 10:41 am
(6) Brad Wellen says:

For more hilarious work of Sarah Silverman, check out http://www.precioustimeny.com/blog/?p=5426

October 20, 2009 at 11:09 am
(7) Tom Piatak says:

An excellent post in response to a truly stupid commentary by a boorish and repellent woman.

October 20, 2009 at 2:33 pm
(8) John Seiler says:

Let’s start the boycott: Get rid of your TV, stop going to movies, read, pray.

October 20, 2009 at 10:30 pm
(9) Scott Quinn says:

Great post, and right on. It is ridiculous that at the almost the same time Silverman attacked the Church, PBXVI canonized Fr. Damien for his great work with the lepers in Hawaii.

October 22, 2009 at 2:39 pm
(10) Jeanne says:

The fact is, Jesus Himself said that the poor would be with us until the end of the world. There will never be an end to poverty.

Poverty is not a blight on humanity. It is an opportunity for humanity to evolve into loving, caring human beings. It is for EACH of us to do something. It’s not for the big governments or organizations to eliminate. That will not happen. I believe it’s a personal mission for each of us to take on. Then, and only then, will there be real relief and a true show of charity.

October 27, 2009 at 4:18 pm
(11) Ted says:

These occassional tirades against the Church by various and sundry flagging stage perfomers to wrangle some press coverage are pretty routine and ignorable.

Congratulations on turning a slow-news-day filler piece into an opportunity to list some of our many accomplishments in healing the sick, relieving hunger and fighting poverty.

October 31, 2009 at 11:17 pm
(12) Rob says:

For years, anti-Catholics have condemned the Catholic Church for not changing to meet their own un-Godly desires. The Catholic Church has not changed in over 2,000 years. What makes them think it will now or ever?

One Church of Christ

February 22, 2010 at 9:48 am
(13) Rick says:

Funny how Silverman can make extremely bigoted remarks about a faith on her show and its “ok” but anybody else says something anti-jewish OFF THE RECORD and drunk (Gibson) then they are antisemites.

October 10, 2011 at 12:57 am
(14) Mikeohh says:

“Silverman claimed that the proceeds from such a sale, which she put at $500 billion, could “feed the whole f—ing world.” It could, but at less than $85 per person, one has to ask: What will they eat tomorrow?”

I have to ask; $85 bucks? What, are they feeding the whole world caviar and champagne?

November 23, 2011 at 9:53 pm
(15) EJ says:

It’s comedy people and sometimes comedy mocks powerful organisations, people and governments. It’s been going on for a very long time and will always so put your heads back in the sand. I’m sure that if she was mocking another church you would have no problem with it. You may not agree with her style or her message but any organisation that hides paedophiles instead of reporting them deserves mockery…and more.

May 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm
(16) thetruthDOTcom says:

I just want to point out of hypocritical you look with this nonsense about persecution. Just stop for a minute and realize that the entire religion is based around persecution under the name of the omnipotent deity you so love and worship.

May 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm
(17) Scott P. Richert says:

Wow! I never thought of it that way before! Thanks for opening my eyes—my entire life has just been a lie!

In all seriousness, “thetruthDOTcom,” if you’re going to take the time to leave comments here, at least come up with something other than the tired old atheist clichés.

October 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm
(18) Glen says:

Uh… me thinks you miss the point. To me what Silverman was trying to point out is that while the world is full of starving people, the residents of The Vatican live surrounded by jewel-encrusted everything. What happend to a vow of poverty?

I don’t think she was attacking Catholicism or the Pope — I think she was attacking those of ALL faiths who surround themselves with luxury, and I don’t think any faith is exempt here. No one is asking our religious leaders to live in suffering, but when you look at how much money gets spent by ALL faiths on pageantry, it begs the question…

February 12, 2013 at 10:14 am
(19) Stephen says:

you are dumb

February 12, 2013 at 10:14 am
(20) Stephen says:

you are dumb, get a life away from an imaginary god

February 28, 2013 at 11:45 pm
(21) John Jones says:

What I really think the Catholic Church needs to do is to get the whole shoving penises into young boy’s bottoms and mouths issue under control…

I mean, we get it, we get it… We put our children’s spiritual and physical souls into your hands, and you rape both the body and the soul. Yea, that’s cool or whatever… I mean if you’re into forced sex with young boys (and girls probably too) that’s cool… But could you at least like stop everyone from talking about it? It’s so last year…

Or maybe I dunno, you could stop raping young children. Why do you think the Pope just resigned? Hmm?

March 1, 2013 at 2:20 pm
(22) Greg says:

Whether or not the Catholic church saved lots of Jews from the Holocaust, the more important fact is that it excommunicated exactly zero members of the Nazi party. Divorce, birth control, abortion, homosexuality: evil. Mass genocide/Ethnic cleansing: frowned upon, but no big deal.

March 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm
(23) Dave says:

You guys all sound butt hurt (<—-insert Catholic Church joke here)

May 2, 2013 at 9:04 am
(24) DR. Thomaa says:

It is not “bigoted” to dislike the Catholic Church. And history is not the Church’s side. Spanish Inquisition ring a bell? Crusades? Condemning one of the most brilliant minds of all time, Gallileo sound familiar? The protection of pedophiles is but the latest of shameful behavior from the “The Church”.

The fact that none of you defending the Church know history, only confirms that “ignorant” are drawn to the cult of Catholicism.

As pointed out in a previous post, the Church made deals with the Nazi’s to stay in power and protect the assets of the church. “Protect Jews”??? You have the arrogance to make such an absurd statement?

The Catholic Church has “reaped” what it has “sown”. Lying, claiming you’re being “victims” only cheapens the name of Christ and what he lived and died for.

July 7, 2013 at 4:05 am
(25) Hannah says:

Do you know how far $85 per person goes in some countries? Now imagine adding that all together as a family. You could feed them, it is not silliness!

July 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm
(26) Scott P. Richert says:

Hannah, have you ever heard the expression, “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime”? The truth of the expression depends on the fact that once a onetime resource has been used (a fish; $85), it doesn’t come back. Mull over that for a little while.

July 20, 2013 at 9:24 am
(27) Phegasus says:

The argument begins on bad math.

1. The Western world for the most part enough access to food. You can cross a few billion off here, roughly about 2 or 3 billion.
2. The remainder would then allocated to the pot.
3. In many countries, people can feed their family on 1 – 2 dollar a day.

In world grinding through fiscal austerity, the Church could offload some of it’s wealth and easily set up new schemes or parishes offering aid to the homeless, hungry and down on faith.

*From an agnostic

July 31, 2013 at 10:53 am
(28) Matthew says:

The Catholic Church has been a evil organization that has brought more souls to hell and spilled innocent blood over the decades. The Church is made up of liars and thieves. The Vatican is the biggest whore house in the world.

October 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm
(29) Stan says:

Why worship a god that thinks having himself crucified is a way to forgive the”sin” of some humans he made ?

The morality of the average 3 year old child exceeds that.

December 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm
(30) Vlad says:

Obviously you use the money to feed the HUNGRY… which by the WHO is defined by about 1/8th of the world. The interest on that $500B alone would be enough to get grains to every one of those hungry mouths steady. Smart investments would show even more productivity. Also, why does the church need that much stored money to do missionary work? Donations should be enough, since there’s a $Half-Trillion in the bank.

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