Foul-mouthed comic: Sell the Vatican

Thursday, October 15, 2009
By Frank Lockwood

Associated Press Writer
ROME (AP) — Comedian Sarah Silverman has a new proposal for ending world hunger: Sell the Vatican.

In a new profanity-laced monologue making the rounds on YouTube in time for U.N. World Food Day on Friday, Silverman suggests that it’s time for the pope to “move out of your house that is a city” and use the proceeds to feed the world’s poor.

“On an ego level alone you will be the biggest hero in the history of ever!” she exclaimed. “Sell the Vatican. Feed the world.”

The Vatican clearly has no plans to follow suit. On Thursday, a spokesman declined to comment. But the Catholic League, the U.S. Catholic civil rights organization, denounced Silverman and cable broadcaster HBO for her “obscene” and “filthy diatribe.”

In a statement, it noted that such an attack would never have been leveled against, say, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem or the state of Israel and added that the “Catholic Church operates more hospitals and feeds more of the poor than any private institution in the world.”

Yet the Rev. James Martin, culture editor of the Jesuit magazine America, says Silverman may be onto something. In an online article, Martin noted that Jesus himself told his followers to sell what they had and give it to the poor.

“Of course Pope Benedict XVI could not ’sell’ any of the treasures of the Vatican, the same way that your local archbishop couldn’t sell off the cathedral at a whim; they are not his, they are the church’s,” Martin wrote. “And the church is not simply the hierarchy but the entire people of God.”
But he added: “Still, perhaps Ms. Silverman, in her postmodern, potty-mouthed way is on to something. Like Jesus was. Sell the Vatican? Well, maybe not everything but perhaps a statue or two?”

For the record, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which just released its annual report on the state of world hunger, says global food output will have to increase by 70 percent to feed a projected population of 9.1 billion in 2050.

To achieve that, poor countries will need $44 billion in annual agricultural aid, compared with the current $7.9 billion, the Rome-based FAO said. Overall, an annual net investment in agriculture of $83 billion is needed to feed the world.

Even if the pope were to sell the Vatican, it wouldn’t be enough.
In 2004, the Vatican disclosed that the Holy See’s real estate was worth 700 million euros, or about $908 million at the time. That doesn’t include St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, which the Vatican termed priceless and valued at a symbolic 1 euro.

While the Vatican’s artistic holdings are obviously worth millions, the institution itself doesn’t bring in a lot of cash. In 2008, it ran a euro0.9 million ($1.28 million) deficit, the second year of losses. Revenues were euro253.9 million and expenses euro254.8 million.

The Vatican began publishing its finances in 1981, when Pope John Paul II ordered financial disclosure to debunk the idea that the Vatican was rich.
Silverman, who is no stranger to religiously and racially charged slurs, gained international attention with her 2008 “The Great Schlep” campaign in which she exhorted Jews to go to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama.

No Responses to “Foul-mouthed comic: Sell the Vatican”

  1. Sophia Katt

    Wow, the Catholic League, huh? Kathy Griffin was condemned by the Catholic League for her “suck it Jesus, this Emmy is now my God” thank you speech, so she looked into the CL and discovered that it is “one old guy on a computer”; I think she meant Bill Donohoe, who pulls down $340K plus for his job. A friend of mine who has met Mr. Donohoe told me that it was, in his opinion, an honor to be blasted by the guy.

  2. Caleb Powers

    If you’re going to discount your most valuable assets down to a dollar, it’s easy to plead poverty. If they’d valued it at a billion or more dollars, they’d have been closer to the true value.

    Sarah has a point: Why does an organization that constantly asks other people to give money to it, ostensibly to help poor people, need a billion dollars worth of artwork and architecture? I realize that we Anglicans have our treasures as well, but then we’re not claiming to be poor, either, nor have we valued the national cathedral at a dollar.

  3. Caleb Powers

    The Catholic League came into its own during the priest abuse scandal, trying to show that anyone who criticized the church was a heretic. I’d be honored to be blasted by them, too — wait, I think I was once . . .

  4. perplexed

    The big question is , who would buy it? The Arabs?

  5. Caleb Powers

    Here’s the scary thing, perplexed: For what we paid to bail out big banks and auto manufacturers, the US government could have bought the Vatican, made a deal with Disney (which apparently didn’t need a bailout), moved it in toto to Orlando, and charged people admission to see it.

    Here’s the second scary thing: Disney World is probably worth more than the Vatican, because it has better cash flow.

    I can see it right now, though: Street vendors selling Pope-sickles, little Pope hats for the kids, maybe some do your own mass kits, a Pope-mobile roller coaster . . . This could be fun!

  6. perplexed

    I would be hard pressed to beleive that a billion dollars would purchase the Vatican, the history alone would be worth that much. In its archives, it would be interesting to study what isn’t public knowledge, it would be interesting to know how knowledge was spread across the globe and what factors regulated what knowledge would be given as history. The story of the world and the true origins of the Bible could be in those archives. If there was only more time.

  7. Caleb Powers

    No, perplexed, I imagine it would take more than a billion dollars, but we’ve paid out far more than that in stimulus, bailouts, and other payments. I’d say you could buy it for far less than the $173 billion we gave AIG, but then if we’d bought the Vatican instead, all those insurance executives in Connecticut wouldn’t have gotten their bonuses. Or, we could have bought the Vatican instead of putting the $200 billion we put into bad bank assets, but there again, who’d have paid the bonuses to all those bankers?

    The Vatican as an investment is looking better and better!


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