What is the true estimated worth of the Catholic Church?

I always hear “they have more money than God himself.” Just how much is this religion storing away? Other organizations and churches can be appraised, why not Catholics?

I don’t want this to turn into a debate, because I’m looking for a factual answer. Or at least an estimated factual answer if possible.

One reason is that much of the wealth of the Church is in items of intangible worth - paintings, scuplture, other art that, if all sold at once would depress the world art market.

For the same reason the wealth of the British royals defies accurate measurement.

You’ve also got the problem of defining what you mean by “the Catholic Church”. Does that include the sum total of wealth owned by all Catholics? Wealth owned by individual parishes? By the dioces, or the Vatican, or the Pope personally? What about the personal worth of members of the church hierarchy? A priest might come into wealth by any of the same methods anyone else might, completely independantly from his services as a priest. Does that count as “the Church’s money”?

The whole shabang.

So my bank account counts towards the total?

You still need to be more specific.

Do you want to include the value of the land on which the countless churches, schools, hospitals, seminaries, convents sit? And of the buildings themselves? And of the furniture? The local diocesan car fleet? The medical equipment in the hospitals? The net assets of the Catholic Church Insurance company? Or even, as Bricker, asks, the personal assets of all Catholics?

How about all assets owned by the Pope, or owned by organizations under the direct control of the Pope. This would include all church owned buildings, real estate, and objects. It excludes organizations that are Catholic but not under control of the Pope.

Sounds good to me. I’m looking for everything that Pope has authority over and is deemed Catholic and can be controlled by the Vatican. I’m not being a smartass, but when other people speak of “The Catholic Church”, everybody knows what they’re talking about, why is my question so difficult?

I understand we don’t want to get into a weird semantics argument here and I need to be specific, but I was looking for a general total and by doing that, a general description of “The Catholic Church” should suffice. Anyways, yeah, what treis said.

well, but that “controlled by the Vatican” is the problem here. The Pope has supreme theological authority when he speaks ex cathedra, and considerable powers to appoint bishops and so on, but he does not directly control the property of the various dioceses and parishes around the world. If I’ve got it correct, the property owning is decentralized, with the local bishops and parishes the legal owners of property. So if you use the standard of under the Vatican’s control, odds are you would be excluding a big chunk of property.

(At least, that’s my understanding - I’ll wait for some of our learned Roman Catholic commentators to contribute further.)

I’m not an expert in canon law, but from my general understanding I think that **Northern Piper ** has raised the key issue: the holding of property within the Catholic Church is **not ** centralised. The Pope/Vatican does not control it. This point is made by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ACBC) in the Catholic Church in Australia:

The ACBC goes on to note that diocesan property (churches, schools etc) is owned by separately established bodies under the appropriate local law:

And then there’s the issue of religious orders, which themselves can own property, separately from the local diocese:

That’s really a semantic issue. Individual dioceses might legally own the property, but they all answer to the guy in the big hat.

The Pope doesn’t own the church down the street from you. The Pope, while he lives in a fabulous mansion and has a groovy wardrobe, has taken a vow of poverty. The Vatican has many impressive holdings, but the church near your house isn’t one of them. Churches are owned by the local diocese, and the members of the individual parishes are functionally stockholders of a local franchise they own (albeit one that makes no profit and hemorrages money). While the bishops make the executive decisions about how this wealth is used, they are (in this specific regard) subordinate to the will of the folks who pay his salary, and those are his parishioners, not the Vatican (They call other kinds of shots).

Isn’t “true estimated” an oxymoron?

Mendizábal and the two Spanish republics both had such bright ideas as seizing all land from the Church (Mendizábal) and forbidding those who had taken religious vows from teaching (the republics). A lot of the NPOs in Spain have lots and lots of Nuns, Priests and Tertiaries among their members, but they’re not “Church-owned” and take volunteers of any color, sex and religion; a lot of schools (at all levels) which were founded by a nun or priest and originally funded by a religious order are not owned by the Church but by some Fundación or other. My college was founded by a Jesuit with a chemistry degree who noticed the complete lack of lab training our chemists were getting at the time; it’s owned by the “Fundación IQS”, not the Jesuits. The private Universidad de Navarra, known in several countries as “el Opus”, is not owned by the Opus Dei but by Fundación Monseñor Escrivá de Balaguer.

Is this to hide? No, damnit, it’s so the next republic will have to find a better excuse before closing down 90+% of the schools in the country! Not to mention hospitals :smack:

OK, every religious order other than the Jesuits is therefore excluded… oh wait: the vow of Obbeisance to the Pope is individual. Scratch the SJ too, then.

I don’t think anyone is busting your chops. It really is a hard question to answer. The Pope doesn’t really “control” much of the Church’s wealth. A good way to look at it from a secular source

It’s like McDonald’s," says Anson Shupe, a sociologist at Indiana-Purdue University in Fort Wayne who studies finances and abuse within churches. “There is no one Catholic church in the United States. They are all separate corporate entities – a bunch of franchises.”

From a Catholic source
While the universal church’s hierarchical structure can mean direct – and sometimes swift – Vatican intervention in pastoral and dogmatic affairs, budget problems are left to the local church to resolve. The Vatican does not assume responsibility for diocesan financing in nonmissionary countries, although it may be called upon to approve major sales of church properties. Even the budget for the Diocese of Rome – the pope’s own diocese – is managed independently of the Vatican.*

They quote a $1 billion dollar Vatican figure

OK jimmmy you piled on hurray for you. Are you now willing, to caveat it, and take a shot at answering the OP and at least try or are you just going to moan about how it really is impossible to answer in a GQ way (because it is) and tell him why the question doesn’t work.

*To try and give a ballpark the CS Monitor (1st link above) quote 1997 revenue for 19,000 parishes and 8,300 schools in the U.S. at $13.2 billion. [/ballparkingWAGing]So maybe think the rich U.S. with a huge catholic population is about 1/3 of the total, maybe WAG Europe roughly equals that and that the rest of the World generates about another third & you might have a general idea of the revenues – but not the expenses - of the Church[/ballparkinWAGing] only a small fraction of which Rome directly controls.

If that WAG is roughly right and the Roman Catholic Church generate about 39Billion in yearly Revenue – lets add revenues of 20% because I have no idea what outside non-diocese Revenue streams there are but I am reasonably sure this percentage will over/rather than underestimates them – that number (~50B) would put the RCC at http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/full_list/]32nd in revenues in World Corporations about where Johnson and Johnson sits this year. Again though – the Pope would not equal the CEO/CFO of J&J in controlling that budget

How about a little SWAGing on jimmmy’s $50b p.a revenue figure? We can change it if we think of a better number - same goes for any number I am about to propose - but how about we give it a go? We would all agree that the number is tricky, but it’s not zero. Something beats nothing.

A quick guess at costs. Let’s call 50% of the revenues hospitals and soup kitchens. And 10% each for consumables (wafers etc), depreciation (tumbling gargoyles) and uniforms and other sundry clerical expenses. Keep salaries for priests as a kind of return on investment.

That gets us to $10b. To get a current worth figure, take that income stream over time and discount that over a century at 5%* - it’s a mature industry in a fairly competitive market with strong but ageing brand loyalty.

That gives you $208.4b. A little sensitivity analysis: take it out 200 years, you get $210b. Discount it at 3% instead of 5%, you get $325b.
[sub] ie take a hundred years of making $10b a year and make the second year worth $10/1.05 now, the third year $10/(1.051.05) etc, then add them up.[/sub]

(Former Catholic checking in):

This subject has come up recently in the Greater Boston Area.

Having had to pay out huge monetary damage awards in the recent preist abuse scandal, the Boston archdiocese has closed and consolidated parishes to save money. Many of the affected parishes have fought back, claiming basically that all the money they paid over the years was for their local church, not the archdiocese, and that therefore the Cardinal didn’t have the authority to (for example) sell their local church building.

I am far from an expert on the subject but I am sympathetic to the power of the emotions involved.

They answer to him on matters of theology and doctrine, but as some of the other posts have demonstrated, they don’t answer to him on property matters. The pope can’t send an order to a particular diocess or parish and tell them to sell assets and ship the proceeds over to Rome.

The OP asks a property question. The first thing to consider in answering it is who is the legal owner of the various properties - and the answer seems to be, it ain’t the Pope, and he doesn’t have the power to compel particular dispositions of properties owned by dioceses or parishes. That’s not a semantic quibble.

You could also argue that much property of the church has actually *negative *worth. A church-building and the ground it stands on could be worth a considerable chunk of money if sold to a real-estate developer. However, while they are in use as a church, they just cost money. In the Netherlands, active and paying churchmemberships has declined so much since WW2 that most churches can’t afford even bare mimimal upkeep of the building or communal taxes.

As a result, I’ve seen quite a few churches in Holland converted to bookstores, appartmentbuildings, chic hotels, concert-halls and discotheques. The only church built new in the last decade in my hometown Maastricht (formerly a Catholic stronghold) is a mosque.