The Church should sell all her priceless art… Then what?

The Church should sell all her priceless art… Then what?

Fresco of the Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo Buonarroti, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Fresco of the Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo Buonarroti, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When I hear and read people write something like, “They should sell the paintings in the Sistine Chapel and give the money to the poor,” I wonder, Who are we supposed to sell them to? (Not to mention, they’re not paintings, but frescoes painted on the walls.)

Nevermind that these were painted for the Glory of God to inspire and elevate those who would worship in the chapel. Nevermind that the Church holds them in custody for the good of all humanity. No, what we should do is find someone–probably some billionaire private collector–to buy Michelangelo’s most famous work for millions, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars. So he could put it in his private collection. Or maybe loan it to a museum. Because being in a museum is better than being in a chapel?

But of course then we’d say it was wrong for this billionaire to hold these priceless artworks so he should sell them and give the money to the poor. And then the next owner should do the same. And so on. In fact, who exactly is supposed to own these priceless artworks for the good of humanity and the Glory of God.

The kind of person who says we should sell the artwork in churches to support the poor don’t understand churches. Or the poor, having never visited the churches of poor people where the one spot of beauty and art in their lives is that artwork in their church. Certainly some of the most beautiful churches around Boston, themselves works of art, were built precisely by the poor, donating hours of free labor outside of their own grueling jobs, not to mention whatever meager pennies they had.

The Church is already the world’s leading charitable nongovernmental organization, doing more for the sick, the hungry, the poor and needy than any other.

Really is such drivel really motivated by anything other than contempt for the Church and based on anything other than age-old anti-Catholic canards?

My hope is that as the cardinals contemplate the election of our new Pope as they sit in the Sistine Chapel in the coming days, that the beautiful art of Michelangelo inspires them to greater discernment. I certainly don’t think that would happen if they were sitting in a bland, whitewashed box hung with felt banners.

Image Credit

  • 512px-Michelangelo_-_Fresco_of_the_Last_Judgement: Public domain | Public domain
Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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