Skip to comments.Should Priests Drive Fancy Cars?
Posted on 08/05/2013 2:35:47 PM PDT by NYer
Of all the challenging things Francis has said since becoming pope, none has been more quoted than this line: How I would like a Church which is poor, and for the poor!
Simple and direct, it perfectly captures the spirit of Francis new pontificate. And what gives it such power and meaning is the personal witness behind it.
Francis sparse and austere lifestyle is well-known: As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he shunned limousines and chauffeurs, opting instead for public transportation. Rather than live in the bishops residence, he chose a modest apartment. After becoming cardinal, he continued his own grocery shopping and even cooked his own meals.
Elevated to the Chair of St. Peter, many expected him to change habits, but Francis declined. He insisted on paying his own hotel bill, carrying his luggage, and living in a Vatican guesthouse rather than the Apostolic Palace.
Had he left it at that, many would have noted the new popes frugal lifestyle and commended his humility. But Francis has done something more: He challenged others to live more modestly themselves.
In a speech last month, Francis warned religious that following the latest fashions, in technology or dress, was not the route to happiness, much less suitable for their state in life:
It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car. . . . A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.
Familiar as these comments should bewho hasnt been told by their parents not to be wasteful, with so many people starving in the world?they sparked a mini-uproar. Francis was rebuked by defenders of the auto industry, who pointed out that he himself recently received the keys to the expensive popemobile; was accused of bad economics, since inexpensive cars often break down and harm the economy; and certain traditionalists asked how he could be raising such trivial concerns when there was so much dissent going on in the Church.
Never mind that Francis has already cut his use of the popemobile (developed for the popes safety, not comfort), or that he never said one should buy a cheap, unworkable car (only a modest one), or that he has already indicated he will brook no dissent on essentials of the faith. Francis clearly touched a nerve, and his critics, both in and outside the Church, felt it.
In fairness to those who respectfully question Francis, the Church has never forbidden all examples of splendor, especially those which pay homage to God: Jesus graciously accepted the alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, even as those around him objected; and when it comes to the liturgy, sometimes more is more. As one commentator wrote in a spirited exchange with back-to-simplicity campaigners:
I agree that clerics should be humble and have a poverty of spirit in their everyday lives. I do not understand, however, why progressive Catholics are so bothered by formal liturgical dress. . . . Human beings are physical creatures who perceive through their senses. The Church has always had a physical sacramentality to reflect this fact. Liturgical pomp . . . serves to elevate the mind of the worshipper to God, to beauty and the sacred. If the priest and the congregation wear shabby clothes and vestments to mass there will be no elevation of the spirit via the senses, no physical reminders that the mass is different than going to a ball game, that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith.
One trusts that Francis appreciates this fact, even if he himself prefers more low-key, reverent Masses.
That said, the Pope deserves praise for speaking out against conspicuous consumption and urging religious to adopt a more humble way of life. Following the example of Our Lord, the saints and doctors of the church have always stressed the Beatitudes, the first of which is Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. The need for personal sacrifice and discipline, in order to serve others, is at the very heart of the Gospel and should inspire every Christian, especially priests.
Historically, and continuing in our day, great harm has been done to the Church by an association with wealth and privilege. No one identified the problem better than St. Catherine of Siena, who, in a passionate letter to Pope Gregory XI on the reform of the clergy, wrote these searing words:
Alas, what confusion is this, to see those who ought to be a mirror of voluntary poverty, meek as lambs, distributing the possessions of Holy Church to the poor: and they appear in such luxury and state and pomp and worldly vanity, more than if they had turned them to the world a thousand times! Nay, many seculars put them to shame who live a good and holy life. . . . Holy Church should return to her first condition, poor, humble, and meek as she was in that holy time when men took note of nothing but the honor of God and the salvation of souls, caring for spiritual things and not for temporal. For ever since she has aimed at more temporal than at spiritual, things have gone from bad to worse.
Many of Francis predecessors have also made sacrifices and eschewed comfort. Among the most memorable examples is what Pius XII did during the Second World War. Sr. Margherita Marchione writes:
Out of solidarity with the miserable conditions of the people, he did not drink even a single cup of coffee, knowing the people had no coffee. He knew that heating fuel was in short supply, and he ordered the papal apartment to be kept without heat, even during the winter. During the war he did not take any vacations and did not go to Castelgandolfo.
Instead, Pius opened up the large papal residence for thousands of poor and persecuted people, who subsequently thanked him for saving their lives.
The outpouring of love and affection that has greeted Francis pontificate has a great deal to do with his modesty and commitment to the poor, and already prompted one priest to sell his luxury car. Leading churchmen have said that Francis has caused them to rethink their own elegant lifestyles, and at Commonweal, Michael Garvey argues persuasively that Francis words shouldnt be restricted to the clergy, but should motivate everyone:
When the newly elected Pope Francis said that he longs for a Church that is poor and for the poor, he undoubtedly had overdressed and bejeweled cardinals, careerists bishops, and cufflink priests in mind, but he was addressing all the rest of us, too. Just because I dont sit on a Bernini throne, keep a limo driver on hold or have a staff of vowed religious waiting on me at dinnertime doesnt mean that I have no ballast to throw out, no occluded lifestyles to simplify, open up and focus.
To those who fear Francis approach is diminishing the papacy and forgoing things necessary to protect Christianity, one need only consult the Gospel of St. Matthew:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart will be also.
Pope Francis knows where our true riches lie, and by humbling himself and renouncing so many pleasures in this world, he is in fact elevating the papacy and attracting souls to Christ in ways that truly befit his leading representative on earth.
Priests take a vow of celibacy. They do not take a vow of poverty.
Religious-order priests, such as Pope Francis, do take a vow of poverty. Anyway, we are all called to practice evangelical poverty, appropriate to our station in life, just as we are called to practice chastity and obedience.
Only if they have a small (rosarie?)
GG2, Jesuit priests do indeed take a vow of poverty.
Pope Francis did not renounce his vows when he became Pope.
Somebody drives FOR him.
Kind of like Justin Bieber or Bill Maher.
Well I think common sense is the rule here. A priest driving a Mercedes is probably really bad optics. I don’t know any that do or would But they are not required to drive a beater either.
Frankly I don’t want my priest breaking down on the side of the road when I’m in the hospital waiting on last rites. :-)
One of my early church memories is my parents receiving a letter from the local church asking for money so the Monsignor could get a new Cadillac. My parents - both very conservative - were furious. They changed parishes.
The fact is that it looks lousy. That’s not why people put money in a church basket. It’s bad stewardship.
That Monsignor had chutzpah! I guess in his favor, he had honesty. Maybe he sent out the letter as a form of lesson.
so the Monsignor could get a new Cadillac. My parents - both very conservative - were furious.
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Don’t know your ‘age’ range BUT I remember back in my ‘Altar Boy’ days of the 50’s that the Church or KOFC or a Womans Group or a Mens Group or the BINGO would have a drawing about once a year for a new car and ALL in the Parish, including the non believers, were sold ‘tickets’ for the new car which was to be raffled.
Well we know the Lord ‘looks out for his own’ as I seem to remember it was always a Priest or Nun or such that won the raffle.
I, noticed this immediately and wonder(ed) why the adults didn’t.
In later life it led me to quip at various raffles at the VFW and AL that “since you bought so many tickets I will make sure some of them get in the drum”, naturally I was joking but I wonder where I got that idea???? <: <:
Or like Billy Graham.
As far as I can see, so does Pope Francis. A priest should have transportation that will allow him to perform his duties efficiently and safety.
My pastor has an Audi sedan, very safe and reliable. I think his family bought it for him. Some priests can walk or use public transportation or rarely leave their missions, and don't need to have a personal vehicle at all.
All of them - and all lay people, too - should be asking themselves, "Is this good stewardship? Is this apostolic?"
If 5th generation welfare recipients can, whats the matter with priests. They at least get it by consent, not by government force.
Fifty years ago, the pastor of our parish drove a black 1960 Ford Falcon. Sometimes he did, since it was usually commandeered by the nuns running errands. We had three priests, twenty nuns & a convent, a huge grade school, and the church in the school ground floor & the cafeteria converted to extra space for Mass.
And one automobile. The bishop of our diocese rode in a chauffeured Cadillac.
If they are in an order, they might take a vow of poverty. Diocesan priests usually do not.
I like this Pope and I’m not even Catholic!
Could be worse.