As I write this essay, I am also reading a Facebook post by Protestant Church of Christ preacher Neal Pollard, who seems to fairly represent your community’s worldview; he is, in fact, an instructor at one of your preaching schools, Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. He attached a picture of himself posing in St. Peter’s Square while on vacation, and the caption reads, “Heartbreak over the apostasy. The opulence and self-importance have led unknown millions astray.” The hubris is astounding.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis is taking possession of the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, and the world is watching. Faithful Christians, anti-Catholic Protestants, the confused, and atheists are all fixed on Rome. And they are commenting. Human judgments are often rooted in love of money and hatred of good, and is it not interesting, and telling, that anti-Catholic Protestants, of which your group mostly consists, tend to be so at home with the world? Is not your group’s sentiment allied with the world, with its hate of the visible and, allegedly, affluent image that it propagates of the Catholic Church of Christ?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3), and Pope Francis desires a poor Church. “Poor” is Christian code for “holy”, but “poor” means something quite different to those who hate the Catholic Church—as it had with Judas Iscariot, who has become a kind of patron saint for anti-Catholics and atheists. Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, offered what was probably her full dowry to Jesus:
Mary took a pound of ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why as this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:3-5).
Like Mary, people who love God want to give Him everything they have. And with Jesus’ mother, who is also named Mary, she might have been one of the first women to consecrate her life to Jesus forming the primitive Christian Religious sisterhood. They gave what they could.
People who love God want to give Him everything they have. Mary was not neglecting the poor. Mary knew that Jesus was the Christ and had the power to raise people from the dead, for she had just witnessed her Master’s power by raising her brother (cf. John 11:38-44). Catholics Christians today know that Jesus is the Christ, and that He still has the power to raise people from the dead, and we too respond by giving Him what we can—or what we think we can.
But not all that the Church receives by gifts is from the original believers who witnessed Jesus’ greatness first hand. For centuries, the Catholic Church was persecuted and forced to the catacombs. As reparations, the Emperor granted the Lateran Palace and land that is now Vatican Hill to the Catholic Church. Would not Judas Iscariot suggest selling the grant, and do not today’s enemies of the Catholic Church suggest the same?
Has your group ever sold all it possesses for the poor? Has there ever been a Protestant community of any great number deny itself a building of some sort to administer its work? The Church’s grandeur is a result of two thousand years of gifts, and the Church’s acceptance of gifts and its helping of the poor are not mutually exclusive, and there is no case study that can prove the Catholic Church wrong, because there is no Protestant group on earth that helps the poor more than the Catholic Church—your group’s contribution is undetectable. There is no Protestant group on earth that educates more people, no Protestant group that feeds more hungry people, no Protestant group that heals more people; after all, it is the Catholic Church that invented the college system, orphanages, and hospitals. The Catholic Church produced such fruit, and it is the gifts of the faithful that has made it possible. And your group, along with the world, fights her even as she tends to widows and orphans in their afflictionin ways that render your supposedpure and faultlessreligion (cf. James 1:27), in comparison, utterly invisible.
But the visible gifts to the real Church of Christ cannot be expected to edify the Church of Judas, because the real Church is visible, and the Protestant theory of “Church” is invisible. The Church’s “opulence” does not lead people of good will astray, as is the common Protestant and secular charge, but does quite the opposite. Of course, it might lead ministers of the Church of Judas astray, as its founder too questioned opulence, but the faithful love God. If an earthquake destroyed the Vatican structures, the rebuild would stir in the hearts of the Church militant and be celebrated by the Church triumphant, and we would pour our love into it as we have for centuries. We would do that, and we would continue to do what we have also done for centuries, and more than any other group: help the poor.
The Protestant and secularist wish for the Catholic Church to empty her coffers, I am convinced, is not a response to any love for the poor, but a desire for the Catholic Church to disappear from view—the world wants it dead. The visible nature of Christ’s Church, embodied and found with the bishops, and present where they sit—the cathedrals—are visible reminders that the Catholic Church is bigger than any Protestant ecclesiological theory. The Church’s buildings, its art, its history, and its charitable impact are impossible to ignore, and are constant reminders to Protestants and secularists who devote their lives to anti-Catholic polemics and activities. Is there a soul on earth who believes that anti-Catholic Protestants and their atheist allies will cease their attacks if she were to lease out St. Peter’s Square to an Acapella or Bono concert?
And the Church in Rome is not as wealthy as her enemies assert. In July of 2013, The National Catholic Reporter outlined the Church’s wealth by comparing it to Harvard University.1 She manages assets of $6b, but her liabilities are nearly as great. Her annual budget is $300m, while Harvard’s is $3.7b—more than ten times that of the Vatican. In addition, the Vatican’s “endowment” is thirty times smaller than Harvard’s. In other words, the Vatican’s intellectual and charitable impact on the world, when compared to Harvard University or especially your Stone-Campbell tradition, is miraculous and should be applauded by every secularist and Protestant.
Her critics suggest that selling the Vatican’s art would help the poor, but the art cannot be sold—it belongs to all Catholics (all people, really; especially the poor)—it has no monetary value. Such is the case with much of Catholicism; value is not measured in dollars, but in holiness. The Church’s art, such as its stained glass, has catechized parishioners and pilgrims for centuries. The Church’s statues, such as Michelangelo’s Pieta, has been contemplated in the hearts of millions of Christians and have led the faithful into closer relationships with God—resulting in the evangelizing of the nations, and helping the poor in ways that far exceed any one-time fire sale.
Do not wonder, brethren, that the world hates you(1 John 3:13).
The priests are servants who have sacrificed wealth for the kingdom of God. They are the proper stewards of the gifts that Christians bring to the temple. Where are your ministers who do not work for financial gain? I know of none. Let us Catholics, and non-Catholic Christians of good will, be more like Mary, and continue to give God all we can. Let Judas Iscariot continue to be the patron saint of the world, which hates the Church, which cringes at the physical symbols of the Church that is truly home to the world’s poor.
• "Your website is a troll." "You son of Satan."
-Scott J. Shifferd, Dean Road Church of Christ
• "Pax [(he thinks "pax" means "Pat" and not "peace")] cannot do us no harm and that why he wont fly to Martinsville not unless we foot he bill [to debate me on my television show]. . . . Really now I just want you to man up and bring your false doctrine to the airwaves but You and me know that wont happen because all you can do is play book writer and site master. You take that book momey Buy a plane tickey then we post it all on youtube how about that?"
-Johnny Robertson, founder of Church of Christ WDTBS Television Show
• "You are not a model of ethicality."
-Neal Pollard, Bear Valley Church of Christ; instructor at Bear Valley Bible Institute
• "Patrick Vandapool you will pay for your crimes against God." "You and your Church are condemned, better accept the Gospel and leave your Church before you die in your sins. you are an alien sinner!" "Your brainwashed." "Your site is a propaganda site." Your not a true Christian." "Your a fool... . I never called you a fool."
-John Riddle; "well tranned priest of the Lord's Church"
• "Are you an unmarried man under 25? Your writing style and wisdom match such a profile."
-Steve Rudd, Hamilton Church of Christ; founder of CofC propaganda website bible.ca
• "You have to be the most immature person that I've ever "met" in WordPress, and that includes the atheists, by which in overwhelming numbers show more common courtesy and respect that you. Are you 10 years old? ...if that's what your readers enjoy then it says as much about them as it does you."
-Eugene Adkins, Keltonburg Church of Christ