I’m sure you hear this all the time, but I’m looking for a concise and convincing way of answering objections to the wealth of the Church.
Most objections about the Church’s alleged wealth is in regard to the art in the Vatican. Most of the art represents the work of Christians who wanted to place their talents at the service of God through the Church. The artwork is an example of their religiosity and is not for sale. Had the Church not preserved the art, much of it would have been destroyed through the ages. Such art is part of our heritage as Christians and indeed as human beings, and few people of any persuasion who appreciate such world culture would truly prefer that these treasures have been put into the control of secular commerce.
In Matthew 26:6ff we read,
A woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For the ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor." But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me."
Likewise, many of the great cathedrals of Europe were built with donations and labor from the poor, who wanted to build such monuments to God’s goodness and sovereignty. The Vatican does not control enormous liquid wealth, and its annual operating budget has been compared to that of a large archdiocese such as that of Chicago.
In spite of this, the Catholic Church is still one of the most giving institutions on earth, running and supporting countless charities, relief organizations, hospitals, and similar enterprises at great cost to the Church.