Faith

Pope to Clergy: ‘Ditch the Flashy Cars’

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Pope Francis urged priests and nuns to avoid flashy cars as part of his push to renew the Catholic Church’s focus on the poor.

I like Pope Francis. While I’m not a Catholic, and have nothing against Catholics, I wasn’t all that impressed with his predecessor.

But Francis is quickly making a positive impression with me.

This week, we learned that he recently offered advice that is sure to ruffle a few feathers:

“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.”

I’m not suggesting — and I don’t think the Pope meant — that clergy should be driving around in oil-burning jalopies. But there’s a good point here: why, when there’s so much suffering in the world, does a priest or a nun need a top-dollar automobile? Sure, for each of us, God knows our heart. But we also send messages to each other about what’s in our heart. It’s hard to appear focused on the needy and the lost when you’re adorning yourself like the wealthy.

“It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this,” Pope Francis said.

The Bible makes the position on preoccupation with wealth and material goods quite clear in Matthew 6:24:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Yet nearly every Sunday, I hear a local pastor on television preaching what I would call “Prosperity Gospel.” He bases his messages around passages like Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” To this pastor, apparently, “plans to prosper you” means plans to give you a nice car, a big house and a healthy bank account.

I have a hard time believing that God could remotely care whether you drive a Mercedes or have an 11-bedroom mansion in a gated community. I suspect God is far more interested in how you treat those around you and how you communicate the true nature of God, Christ and the gift of salvation rather than focusing on how much you have here.

But it’s a lot more uncomfortable for us to read passages like these, that make it a lot more clear what that “prosperity” God talks about is:

“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” — Luke 12:33

That prosperity isn’t here. It’s heaven. And I think heaven will be a much better place than this world will ever be.

Does it bother you when you see a priest, nun or minister driving a “flashy” car? Do you think they should make it a point to seek out more humble transportation or drive whatever they can afford regardless of how it might look?

2 Comments

  1. Yes, but then again we’re told not to judge, so I try to do that. Here’s my litmus test: if all the Big Shots in the diocese are driving Mercs and the priest-on-the-street is driving a 1998 Honda..there’s a problem in that diocese. 
    However, sometimes people donate cars to their church, and you can’t always be fussy about what they donate. So I guess I judge knowing that I can’t know the whole story. Unless, of course, I was a member of the parish and then I damn sure would be asking questions. 😉

    1. psalm23 When the Bible talks about not judging others, it’s talking about judging others in a hypocritical way. There must be, however, on some level, a certain degree of judgment that we have to make in order to decide what is right or wrong.
      Questioning beliefs, rulings or policies can be very healthy in terms of strengthening our own beliefs.
      For me, I think it’s a matter of appearances. If we are told that we can’t be slaves to God AND money, yet we live a life that makes it appear that both ARE important, at some point, it may be healthy to ask whether that may be the case and whether we want to receive religious instruction from someone for whom that appears to be the case without first discussing it.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.