Poverty and the Pope’s Golden Throne: To What “Golden” Ornamentation Do We Cling?


Image by psychluet

Poverty and Starvation are pervasive problems—just not one’s which many witness themselves in the West. Such troubles become palatable to the westerner when “mission trips” are undertaken and charity displayed. Still, a great distinction exists between knowledge of and charity toward the poor and the sort of compassion and charity which sacrifices comfort and desire for the benefit of others.

America is wealthy. Yet that “wealth” is not felt by many. Indeed, wealth is a relative concept. The wealthy in some regions and countries might be defined as having enough food to eat, a few articles of clothing, a home with a reliable roof, and a battery operated radio. For the middle class suburban American, one might have a nice home, car, access to education, computers, iPhones, and other such fancy devices. Yet by no means would I, as one of the latter, ever normally consider myself wealthy. Wealth, for the normal middle-class American, is the massive home, several expensive cars, designer clothes, and always the best devices and products American consumerism can offer.

Yet, as I type this on my Macbook pro looking while sipping my local Starbucks coffee, a reality check is needed. Indeed, the scruffy middle aged man with the sleeveless Sublime shirt and 49ers hat trying to type on a dilapidated 8 year old PC with electricians tape holding parts together and keys whose buttons now long lost serves as a stark contrast between abundance and lack within this Starbucks.

I am wealthy.

One of my students, while discussing poverty in class recently, mocked the Catholic church for its seeming lack of compassion. He cracked, “I am the pope and need to pray for the poor. Let me lean back in my golden throne.” I could not help but burst into laughter. The image was palatable and laughably ironic. For an organization which has so much wealth, or at least so it would seem by its ornamentation, how could they let any poverty exist among them?

Upon reflection (and while typing on my fancy iPad), it struck me. Why do I think the golden ornamentation is a sign of true wealth and apathy, when I am just as guilty? I, and many others, have wealth all about me which, like golden thrones and crosses, are superfluous in the light of starving children.

In reality, the question should be, do I care about the hurting, starving, and struggling more than my comfort and pleasure? If, in reality, I care more about them, would I not rather exchange my pleasure for their suffering?

A simple question, yet profoundly reveals our hearts—do I care more about my pleasure or another’s suffering? The answer reveals whether selfishness permeates our mind or compassion and love.

May love and compassion grow within us rather than apathy and selfishness.


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  • It’s true that we need to look after the poor, but not before the poor in spirit. Jesus did not preach “social justice”, he preached fidelity to God first, and love of the neighbour second, which just happened to include comforting their material needs. This is why Jesus scolded Judas when Judas himself scolded a woman pouring perfume over Jesus’s feet.

    “Jesus therefore said: Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial.For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.” Jn 12: 7-8
    This is why you see the Pope’s chair, and his Cathedral, and in fact every bishop’s seat and Cathedral adorned with beauty. It’s purely for the worship of the Lord. Outside of liturgical worship, you will not find them bathing in material wealth or strutting in opulence.
    God always comes first. Man, always second; first in communion with him in praise of the Lord, the secondly in his earthly justice, which includes his material things. It is in this order that we will live in virtue, and hopefully attain the glory of Heaven!

  • Thanks for the comment! You are likely right that contemporary popes and bishops do not lavish wealth upon themselves–not so in the Medieval and Renaissance period though. The point, however, is not the Catholic Church (or any other church with heavy ornamentation), but what we do with out wealth. You are right in pointing out the perfume example, but the image of a poor homeless Jesus who asks his followers to give all our possessions to the poor (as he did to the rich man) is a contrasting image. In fact, the scripture has people worship in spirit and truth over wealth and ornamentation any day. Moreover, there is an important image created when Jesus tells us that in heaven the streets are gold. Why? Because it is useless as dirt on which we walk. The bigger issue in my mind, however, is wen questioning that we will receive glory in heaven. We have already received more glory than we could possibly imagine and will be physically transformed into his likeness shinning like stars in heaven. Thanks for the comment! Blessings on you.

  • There is already a plan in place….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bObItmxAGc

  • Intense. One wonders, though, in reality why more action is not taken with such immense wealth. Nevertheless, the point is to what extent are we sacrificial of our own “wealth.” Cheers.

  • Jonathan Malachi

    Keck, I love you man, straight up! You’re freaken awesome. What you write is what God puts in my heart, I speak it, but you do both. God bless.

  • petertheroman

    Many people do not realize that catholic charities and hospitals amount to more than all others combined.But I do believe the church could do without the gold and bling and could put the value of such things to better use.The new throne room looks like it could have been designed by an occult artist and probably cost a bundle.The stain glass looks to be mimmicking the all seeing eye of horus.I just hope this pope does not start calling for a one world government,that would be doing the will of the worlds bankers which seek to enslave the world even further.The church could do a better job running it’s own banking interest instead of having noncatholics handle them, and cut out the fancy garbs and bling. Out of all of the writings in the vatican archives there is at least a roomfull that should be protected.Walls need to be reinforced and the vatican army could be beefed up for future turmoil.I believe Jesus with a snap of his finger can adorn his church as he see’s fit on his return,and he would probably be most happy to see a few more people fed and clothed with the extra money saved.As for the political influence the church has,other than using it to stand her ground on the old traditional and moral values and spreading the gospel,that is as far as it should go.

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