Catholic church myth: “The world’s largest charity”. It’s not even close.

Catholics always CLAIM they are the largest charity in the world.  The problem is, they aren’t close.

If you look at independent assessments, like List of wealthiest charitable foundations in wikipedia doesn’t include the Catholic church, you’ll see that the Catholic church doesn’t even rank in the top 38 world charities.  The top 3 wealthiest charitable foundations are:

  1. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,  United States
  2. Stichting INGKA Foundation, Netherlands
  3. Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom    London

According to CNBC, the top 10 charities in the world can be found here, and a Catholic charity does come in third:

  1. Direct Relief
  2. MAP International
  3. Catholic Medical Mission Board
  4. United Nations Foundation

The Catholic church IS the wealthiest institution in the word, spending a tremendous amount of money on it’s buildings, like the $30 million mansion that New York Cardinal Dolan lives in.  Other Catholic cardinals live in similar riches.

If anyone has evidence that the Catholic church IS near the world’s top charities, from a legitimate independent site, please put it in the comments below and I will update this post.

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6 thoughts on “Catholic church myth: “The world’s largest charity”. It’s not even close.

  1. Politifact: Catholic charity accounts for 17 percent of all nonprofit social service charity in the U.S., easily the largest charity in the U.S.

    1. The “Catholic church” charities are funded by government money in the US, Canada, Australian, England, etc. Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services, along with Lutheran Social Services, non-profit educational institutions, and hospitals run on government “grants” in country after country. Without US government funds, Catholic hospitals, colleges, and social service agencies in the US and other Western counties simply wouldn’t exist.

  2. I don’t have such evidence, but the Catholic church doesn’t show in those rankings because it is not dubbed as a single organization but as hundreds of thousands of smaller ones. So the fact that it doesn’t show up in the rankings doesn’t prove anything.
    There is some serious analysis that indicates that, dumber by money and people involved they ARE the largest one (by a 3:1 margin to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).
    The problem with that logic is that most of their efforts did not go into something that is a tangible benefit to those in need, and one could argue that they indeed harm people (like when they convince people not to use condoms) and still count that as charity.
    So the analysis you do is incorrect, but the conclusion is likely valid.

  3. Your article is incorrect. Here is someone who took the time to research and found in fact, the Catholic Church blows the Bill Gates Foundation out of the water.

    “I did a bit more research. I used this list to find the top 5 wealthiest single-organization charitable organizations in the world. My thinking is that the wealthiest will likely give the most away (this could be totally wrong, but I couldn’t find a list that ranks on total giving)

    These are

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    Wellcome Trust
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute
    Garfield Weston Foundation
    Stichting INGKA Foundation
    Now, we can examine their year to year spending.

    The Bill & Melinda gates foundation spent about 5 billion dollars in expenditures in 2015.

    The Wellcome Trust has spent about [11 billion pounds] since 1936, for a total of 135 million pounds / year.

    The Howard Hughes Medical Institute spent about $86million in 2016

    The Garfield Weston Foundation spends about 60 million pounds annually

    The Stichting INGKA foundation is the corporate person of IKEA, so it isn’t really a charity, except for the Kampad family. I’ll disqualify and move on to the next

    The next largest foundation is the Ford foundation, which spent around $535 million

    Okay, so that’s wikipedia. Let’s find another source to corroborate. Here’s an article on HowStuffWorks, which mostly corroborates what I found. It also pointed out the Bill and Melinda gates foundation must spend above $1 billion to maintain charitable status.

    Now, let’s compare the Church.

    I think the largest Catholic aid organization is Caritas, which is an umbrella organization for a bunch of different Catholic charities. So, Catholic Charities of the USA would fall under this umbrella. So would the equivalents in every part of the world. According to its website, there are 160 national affiliates, which represents pretty good coverage of the 200 or so nations on earth, especially considering that many of the nations are small island nations. My guess is that every nation does have an affiliate pretty close by.

    According to this article, the spending by all its affiliates is estimated at between 2 and 4 milion pounds. Let’s be conservative (since this is from a Catholic newspaper), and say 2 million pounds. Put into dollars this is around 2.6 billion dollars. This means we’re already on par with the Bill and Melinda gates foundation, so I’ll only compare with this in the future.

    However, Caritas only includes the aid organizations, not the hospitals, orphanages, etc the Church provides. It also only includes ‘lay’ donations. For example, it doesn’t count all the work the Jesuits, Dominicans, Salesians, etc do for free.

    Let’s look at those.

    First, let’s take a look at the orders. Recall that all professed religious work for free for their entire lives, having taken a vow of poverty. To keep things fair, let’s only include the priests in our calculation, as bishops, etc can have access to more funds. In 2014, there were 14000 salesian priests. Based on an American minimum wage and 2000 hours of work (a huge underestimate) and a minimum wage of 7 dollars (to keep things easy), that’s $196 million spent by the Salesians.

    The Jesuits have 16000 bishops and priests. To keep things fair, I’ll round it down again to 14000. That’s another $196 million by the Jesuits.

    The Dominicans have 4470 priests. That’s $62.5 million.

    Now the female religious. There are around 750000 women religious, so that’s $10.5 billion dollars.

    There are likely more male religious, but I couldn’t find stats. Okay, so let’s just add these together, that’s around $500 million (likely more) for the men and $10.5 billion for the sisters, so $11 billion altogether. Let’s just take 25% of the sister’s and male religious’s time because some of them are cloistered and some may not consider that charity. So that’s around another $2.5 billion.

    The gates foundation has about 270 volunteer positions, so to be fair to them, I’ll give them another $4million dollars. I’ll even be generous and value their volunteers time at a higher rate — say $50, so that’s around $27 million in labor costs.

    So, at this point, all Catholic charity (and discounting by 75% all the labor provided for free by a conservative estimate of religious) is at around $5billion and the Gates foundation around $5billion again in spending.

    Now, if I just include Catholic spending on hospitals in the US from the economist article, this will absolutely blow the Gates foundation out of the water. The economist estimates the Church spends $98.6 billion on healthcare, so that’s $103 billion, conservatively, which absolutely dominates any charity on this list. I could continue, but it would just be unfair honestly. The Church is so large and has such a presence and has so many people working for it that it’s just too hard to beat.”

  4. I think your problem here is that you are equating only money with charity. The catholic church is charitable in many respects including time, money and talent. Some simple examples. A priest goes to the hospital to visit the sick. This is an act of charity. Parishoners visit the money in their homes. This is an act of charity. The Catholic Church’s Knights of Columbus will mow the lawn of a new widow. This is an act if charity. How does one put a dollar amount on that? I think you need to take your mind out of the American way of thinking which is “money is everything” and look at the bigger picture. No need to worry, the Catholic Church is more than pulling its weight around the world.

  5. I think your problem here is that you are equating only money with charity. The catholic church is charitable in many respects including time, money and talent. Some simple examples. A priest goes to the hospital to visit the sick. This is an act of charity. Parishoners visit the lonely in their homes. This is an act of charity. The Catholic Church’s Knights of Columbus will mow the lawn of a new widow. This is an act of charity. How does one put a dollar amount on that? I think you need to take your mind out of the American way of thinking which is “money is everything” and look at the bigger picture. No need to worry, the Catholic Church is more than pulling its weight around the world.

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