COLUMN: Billions spent rebuilding Notre Dame shows lack of morality among wealthy


Smoke and flames rise from Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15 in Paris. A fire broke out last Monday afternoon and quickly spread across the building, collapsing the spire. Tribune News Service

A massive fire burned parts of the 850-year-old Notre Dame on April 17. In hours, more than $1 billion were pledged toward a fund to rebuild the church.

The millionaires and billionaires who pledged that money to fix up a church could have given money to fix worldwide problems like chronic hunger, but instead they spent it on a building. This shows how little the rich care about the poor.

The $1 billion that was pledged toward Notre Dame repairs is a lot of money. If you had a monthly income of $20,000, it would take you 4,167 years and no spending of that money to become a billionaire.

The median household income of an American is $56,516. For the average American to become a billionaire off that salary, it would take 17,695 years, if he or she never spent money on anything and saved all the money earned.

Estimates to end world hunger are between $7 and $265 billion a year, and surely with 2,208 billionaires in the world, a few hundred could spare some cash to help ensure people aren’t starving to death. There aren’t billionaires in the news rushing to give money toward food aid, but even the richest man in Europe donated to repair the church.

Repairing churches is not a life and death matter. Churches, while culturally and religiously significant, are not necessary for life in the way that nutritious food is. Being an absurdly wealthy person who only donates money for things you find aesthetically pleasing is morally bankrupt in a world where money could literally fund the end of world hunger.

This isn’t to say that rebuilding the Notre Dame is bad — preserving culturally significant places is important. But the Roman Catholic Church is the richest religious organization in the world — it can probably manage repairing a church without the help of wealthy donors.

At a time when there are heated protests in the streets of France over taxes that unfairly effect the poor, pledging money toward buildings seems fraught. Spending billions on unnecessary buildings is a slap in the face to French people fighting for equitable wealth and tax distribution.

There is nothing wrong with rebuilding structures that have important meaning to citizens. However, the world is full of societal issues that money can help solve. When outrageously wealthy people focus their money on buildings and not on life-saving donations, they are morally bankrupt.

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