an essay about the vatican & sarah silverman's "sell the vatican, feed the world" campaign.

here is an essay i wrote for my english 1101 class! it has a few problems, but overall i'm proud of it. give it a read! thanks everyone~

A Simple Solution to World Hunger - Stephanie Foran

“Sell the Vatican, feed the world” (Silverman, 2009). It’s a saying that has recently started circulating the Internet. Sarah Silverman, a popular comedian, made a video and posted it to the popular video-sharing website YouTube, and her movement quickly caught on. Initially coined for shock value to alert people to a world crisis, the idea of selling the Vatican doesn’t seem too far from an excellent solution to ending world hunger.

The Vatican is a mini-city in Rome where the Roman Catholic leader, Pope Benedict XVI, lives and reigns with a gang of Cardinals, Bishops and Priests. Essentially, the Pope’s house is a city. The Vatican is practically built out of gold and decorated with priceless pieces of religious artwork and holy artifacts (Vatican Museums, 2009). The amount of money that is in the walls of the Vatican is unfathomable. I predict that one painting from the Pope’s holy house could build a medical facility in a few cities in a very desperate third world country. The Catholic Church is recognized for its wealth and I have always felt a bit uneasy when the collection baskets came around when I used to attend mass on Sundays. There is a church in my city that is wall-to-wall marble and has waterfalls coming down the sides of the building. It has the most expensive video projectors used to project worship song lyrics and LCD screens in the bathrooms. You can literally marvel at the word of God as you do your business. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but to me something here is quite a bit off. I struggle quite often with the concept of organized religion, and the condition of the world at the moment partnered with LCD screens in the church bathroom just frustrates me further. I don’t see the rationalization between seeing starving children in India and child soldiers in Somalia and the need for marble flooring in a church. Certainly this multitude of wealth could be used for better reasons than accessorizing the ornate churches of Catholics around the world.

It is a simple, straightforward idea. Sell all the gold, artwork, structures and treasures in Vatican City and there would be so much wealth, national debt for every country in the world could be repaid and these countries could begin to rebuild themselves. Poverty is one of the biggest causes of hunger in the world (, 2009). What does national debt have to do with hunger? The short answer is everything. If a country is struggling to repay ancient debts to other countries, all of their Gross National Profit goes to repaying those debts and is thus not funneled into agriculture, health care or water purification for their citizens. The poor of today are not to be blamed for the mistakes of the governments of the past. For example, $472.51 billion is Zimbabwe’s national debt, which is a fraction of the amount of debt that America has accumulated: $8.68 trillion (Central Intelligence Agency, 2009). Despite these statistics, other African countries, just like Zimbabwe, are still years behind in growth due to grotesque interest rates and the price of coffee and sugar dropping every year. These countries are stuck under a ridiculous debt that they have been repaying over and over again (World Food Programme, 2009). No intelligent country will ever agree to cancel the debt. Why would the U.S.A or England continue to keep providing their citizens with such comfortable lives if all those African’s stopped working for them? The only way for these countries to start to thrive is if some miracle happened. Catholics believe in miracles, right?

Though it is close to impossible to gauge the exact value of the Vatican, there are a number of estimates available to the public. Legal representatives of the Vatican, for the most part, provide the numbers that are available. One can imagine the lengthy trail of paper work used to cover up some large sums from the public eye. In order to cover up some of the amounts of wealth possessed by the Vatican, the legal representatives list all artwork and artifacts as being worth “one euro” in order to avoid anyone knowing the actual material value of the “priceless” decorations. The real-estate value of the Vatican is listed at $1.21 billion dollars, “not including its priceless art treasures.” (De Rosa, 2004). This sum seems shockingly low. By attempting to disguise the real value of the property, the representatives of the Vatican are simply manipulating the numbers to make the Vatican seem as if it is simply operating on the bare minimum it needs to run smoothly and has no interest in material wealth. It is impossible to find an estimate for the countless numbers of decorations, adornments, paintings and religious statues that fill the walls of Vatican City. Pope John Paul I offered some insight into the ridiculous amounts of money trapped in the doilies and doorknobs of the Pope’s mighty castle. Pope John Paul I said…
“ . . . This morning, I flushed my toilet with a solid gold lever edged with diamonds and at this very moment, bishops and cardinals are using a bathroom on the second floor of the papal palace which trappings, I am told, would draw more than fifty million dollars at auction . . . Believe me, one day, we who live in opulence, while so many are dying because they have nothing, will have to answer to Jesus as to why we have not carried out His instruction…” (De Rosa, 2004).
If the handle of a toilet in the Vatican can pull in $50 million dollars at an auction, there is no question the net value of the city is insurmountably more than the pathetic $1.21 billion that it is claimed to be worth.
“The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase” (, 2009). If the world is producing enough food to feed the entire population, then it should be even easier to ensure that every person on this planet is able to eat. It shouldn’t be a difficult decision to make. If the Vatican was sold, half of the hunger problem is already solved! There is already enough food. All the Pope needs to do is put together a great team of holy men who are willing to work out some large-scale resource distribution! Take crops from the most viable, healthy areas of the world and bring them to the hungry people in the Middle East, Europe Africa and Asia. Surely if there are enough preservatives on the market to transport pineapples and eggplants from the Philippines to Canada, there are enough to be able to do the same for other countries. It’s true that simply providing starving people with food isn’t going to solve the hunger problem. Nourish these people enough so that they are healthy and safe and then provide them with the most importance resource to eliminate hunger: Knowledge. Teaching people how to farm, raise livestock appropriate to their region and work for themselves is likely the key to abolishing starvation in the world.

What constitutes another excellent reason that the Pope should decide to sell the Vatican? Well, Catholics claim to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. According to Matthew 19:23, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’” Certainly the Pope lives by the word of the Lord? It is one thing to preach to be humble, giving and poor in spirit and an entirely different thing to live it. There is no doubt that the Pope is proficient in the verses of the Bible and so surely all of the wealth he is holding in the Vatican is just an oversight. It is clearly stated, again from Matthew, 19:21, that “Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” Sell all of your possessions and give the money to the poor? If this is the word of Jesus Christ it is also the word of God, according to those who profess to be followers of Catholicism. There should be no argument from Vatican City that selling all of the material wealth that is kept there is not the morally correct thing to do.

If Biblical proof isn’t enough to convince the Pope to sell his material possessions, maybe the idea of being the greatest man in the world might entice him. He is after all a stickler for a photo-op. Think of how the world would respond to the abolition of poverty and hunger, all thanks to the Catholic Church. Guaranteed it would win the Pope a few million more followers. There are 1.02 billion people who are hungry in the world today (, 2009). Imagine how grateful these people would be if someone offered them a chance to own a farm, grow crops, raise livestock and teach them valuable life skills that will allow them the privilege of feeding their families. It is an amazing opportunity to hold so many riches that you could drastically change the lives of billions of people around the world. It puzzles me a great deal that a man of his power and authority, who professes to be a follower of the word of the Lord, does not embrace nor practice the very belief system that Catholicism was built on.

According to Albert Nolan, the Pope supports the Jubilee 2000 campaign (Nolan). The Jubilee 2000 campaign is a movement for national debts to be cancelled. It started in 1996 and since its initial proposal hasn’t made much headway ( So there is evidence that the Vatican does have some interest in eradicating world hunger, debt and crisis! Since Jubilee 2000 is struggling to make a change in the world, maybe someone should alert the Pope to Sarah Silverman’s brilliant campaign to “Sell the Vatican, feed the world.”

The Vatican City and the Pope are little more than figureheads floating in a soup of hypocrisy, control, empty promises and ignorance. What the Catholic Church once stood for is now distorted. It has been drowned in layers of controversy and lies. The people of this world who are starving will likely never see direct action coming from the Vatican to help them. The words of Jesus Christ fall on deaf ears, ears now deafened by ignorance and greed.

I know that some people are going to argue that selling the Vatican would be like selling the biggest symbol of the Catholic faith, but it is those same people who should not call themselves Catholic. The individuals who believe that the Vatican is a valuable symbol of their faith need to reevaluate their priorities. As far as I know, the biggest symbol of the Catholic religion is Jesus Christ himself, who historically stood for compassion, peace and love. I firmly believe that with compassion, peace and love global change is possible. With action from the Pope, the abolition of world hunger is an easily-attainable goal. The funds may not provide people with material wealth, but they would be used to build medical facilities, schools and farms. The funds from the sale of the Vatican could provide millions of people with clean water. The money could be used to develop efficient crops that can grow in harsh climates and to teach those who live in those areas ways to sustain themselves and their communities. Some people may argue that there is no way the amount of money hidden in the walls of Vatican City could bring about a change in the world, but I disagree. If the Catholic Church is truly what it says it is, then global change is both possible and necessary. “Sell the Vatican, feed the world!”


Central Intelligence Agency. (2009, November). The world factbook. Retrieved from

De Rosa, P. (2004). The Vatican palace. Retrieved from (n.d).. The Jubilee campaign. Retrieved from

Nolan, A. (n.d).. Albert nolan on the debt crisis. Retrieved from

Silverman, S. (Artist). (2009). Sell the vatican, feed the world [Web]. Retrieved from

Vatican Museums. (2009). History of the vatican museums. Retrieved from

World Food Programme. (2009). Food security analysis. Retrieved from (2009, November 6). World hunger notes--global issues: world hunger facts 2009. Retrieved from

Views: 163

Comment by Michel-san on January 22, 2010 at 7:54am
Hi! A nice article, but I would have to disagree. I have to dash so I can't write much in response...

"No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy" is a famous quote by Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998.

I don't think money will solve the problem. If the money is given to the people of a non-democratic country then the government will soon get it off them, if government has the money they need not care about feeding the people.

Zimbabwe is a good example of a non-democratic country. Elections are held but they are rigged: BBC
Any attempt by the west to interact with Zimbabwe or it's politics is criticised by it's despot, Robert Mugabe, as an attempt by the west to wrestle control of Zimbabwe and used as fuel for the anti-western fire he has created in the country.

Africa is plagued by non-democratic governments, brigands, warlords and it's coast is plagued by pirates. Without security money means very little. The key cause of famine is inequalities built in to the methods of distributing food, money alone will not remove those inequalities from Africa, security of person is needed first.

The large number of people who need feeding is a great problem. The population of many western European countries is stable or even decreasing due to birth control methods and sex education that is lacking in Africa. This isn't helped by the Catholic church pushing it's views against contraception.

Assuming it was possible to feed the world; feeding everyone would result in a massive population increase. Under this extra demand either the world would not be able to provide enough food. Or assuming it could; the finite funds gained from selling the Vatican would run out and what we'd be left with is an even worse problem.

A solution to world hunger is not easy. The solution is to increase the social maturity of the hungry nations. By this I mean turn them in to working democracies, free of corruption, and where every member of society is afforded security and education. How to accomplish this is the problem, but money is not the solution.
Comment by Anne Chenier on January 22, 2010 at 8:55am
thanks for the response!

i am aware that money will not solve the problem; of course. i used this topic to be a "food for thought" for people. despite it being an impossibility at this point, i think the essay serves to bring awareness to people; i directed it mainly to the catholic community that is in my community, as well as to some friends. the title of the essay is meant to be ironic (:

thanks again for taking the time to read my homework assignment xx aha
Comment by Silenus on January 22, 2010 at 9:39am
what happens to the pope after, he sells the Vatican. Does he move into a travel trailer, to hit the road and spread the "word of god".
Comment by Anne Chenier on January 22, 2010 at 9:57am
i think a little swanky apartment on the east side would suit him just fine~
Comment by Anne Chenier on January 22, 2010 at 9:57am
or, y'know, a retirement home.
Comment by Michel-san on January 22, 2010 at 11:15am
Definitely food for thought! (There's a pun in there somewhere)

I wonder; how long would it take to sell the Vatican? Every item and piece of artwork would need to be catalogued and valued - then a series of auctions held. The portion of the collection they make public, the museum, has around 5 miles of corridor. Maybe the rate at which they can collect exceeds the rate at which they can sell; making the process go on indefinitely.
Comment by Silenus on January 22, 2010 at 1:08pm
I got a better ideal, The pope start a traveling circus. That's basically what organized religion is, but now it will be official. And with elephants, clowns, tight rope walkers, you can't go wrong.
Comment by Morgan Matthew on January 23, 2010 at 12:56am
@ Forrest haha indeed

@ Zak Not surprising...
Comment by Joshua Michail on February 18, 2010 at 9:05am
I thought your essay was well written Stephanie. Indeed it does provide "food for thought". I would suggest that people write to their representatives (or senators, or ministers, etc.) in government urging them to put forth, or to support, legislative measures to help eliminate poverty and hunger around the world. I would suggest a multi-prong approach though, making contraceptives available, sex education, paying down debts and sharing food and education with those in greatest need.
Comment by Anne Chenier on March 17, 2010 at 1:28am
thank you everyone for your comments x


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