December 31st, 2013
01:38 PM ET

Are rich Catholics mad at the Pope?

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - At least one wealthy donor in New York City is skittish about Pope Francis' comments about capitalism.

Ken Langone, the billionaire Roman Catholic who helped found Home Depot, told CNBC he has heard grumbling about the Pope's comments about the wealthy. Langone is helping to run the New York Archdiocese's $180 million fundraising effort to restore St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.

The billionaire investor and philanthropist, who gave $200 million to New York University's medical center in 2008, told CNBC an anonymous seven-figure donor felt slighted by the pope's recent comments.

Langone has not been shy about sharing those opinions with New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, telling him, "you get more with honey than with vinegar."

Dolan told the financial network in an interview on Monday he has heard from Langone that one wealthy donor got the "sense that the Pope is less than enthusiastic about us."

The Archbishop said he explained to Langone, "'Well, Ken, that would be a misunderstanding of the Holy Father's message. The Pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people.' ... So I said, 'Ken, thanks for bringing it to my attention. We've gotta correct to make sure this gentleman understands the Holy Father's message properly.'"

In his first apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel," the Pope took on capitalism. He criticized an "idolatry of money" and "the inequality that spawns violence."

READ MORE: Pope Francis: No more business as usual

The Pope set his sights on "trickle-down economics," saying the theory "expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

“Meanwhile,” Francis added, “the excluded are still waiting.”

Those comments drew the ire of some conservatives, such as talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who called the Pope's statements "sad."

"Somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him," Limbaugh said on his radio program. "This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope."

READ MORE: Rush Limbaugh: Pope is preaching 'pure Marxism'

The Pope fired back in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa that "Marxist ideology is wrong."

"But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended,” the Pope said of the comparison.

Pope: Marxist ideology is 'wrong'

This latest round of criticism appears to be an outlier, Dolan's office said on Tuesday.  Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, said they "haven’t encountered more resistance – and, to be honest, (are) not sure how much resistance there even was from that one donor."

Zwilling said that because Langone withheld the name of the donor who complained, the Archdiocese cannot confirm whether the person has donated to the restoration project.

Dolan said that in a recent meeting he had with Pope Francis, the pontiff was well aware of American Catholics' financial generosity. "He's aware of our help to the missions, to the poor of the world, to international development, to peace and ... justice," Dolan told CNBC. "So, I know that he's very grateful for the ... legendary generosity of the Catholic Church in the United States."

Zwilling said the cathedral restoration fundraising was on track and "going well, slowly, but better recently." The project has raised between $80 million and $100 million of the $175 million goal, he said.

The last major restoration of St. Patrick's was in 1973 and prior to that 1949, according to the Cathedral, which said this restoration is set to be the most complete since the Cathedral opened its doors in 1879.

Other Catholic organizations and charities have reported a spike in interest and donations.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said she had heard no grumbling about the Pope's comments on money.

"People universally seem delighted at Pope Francis’ clearly addressing the needs of our society, in particular, those in desperate need. His plain speech touches everyone. He challenges people without scaring them off. He emphasizes that we’re all in one family, where we share, rather than compete, with one another," she said.

CNN's Daniel Burke contributed to this report

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • New York • Pope • Pope Francis • United States

soundoff (813 Responses)
  1. Nic_Driver

    Just goes to show that it really is easier for a camel to get through an eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm |
  2. 00 00

    though invisible, we no that god's effects r observable and measurable: the universe, therefore pharisees no he doesn't exist. (brilliant crowd. u c the problem drowning them) perfect, judgmental, better than everyone, bitter, self-pitying pharisees love to claim that hi t ler was a christian, which is true and they r nazis Buddhists

    January 13, 2014 at 8:22 am |
    • igaftr

      Thank you for providing such clear evidence that religion rots your brain.

      January 13, 2014 at 8:30 am |
      • 000 00

        pharisees murder jesus

        i have no religion
        i love jews.

        dark matter, though invisible, exists. how do u no? its effects r detectable/measurable..

        god, who is invisible, does not exist. how do u no? the universe is detectable/measurable, therefore it wasn't god. it was the stooges

        loa, austin, meredith s, chad, y do u love jesus?

        January 13, 2014 at 10:28 am |
  3. areyousaying

    What kind of "Vicar of Christ" would hide perverts and those who hide and protect them in his own home. What kind of COWARDLY Christian would look the other way while all this continues under the adorable Francis? What kind of government would let this happen?

    Every continuing story about this rubs salt into my and other victims wounds. Thank you so much, Jesus. May god bless your followers.

    January 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm |
  4. Ronnie Harper

    Rich religious people are Losers with a capital L. They should at least have the common decency to shed the lie of religion and call their greed and avarice for what it is. We'll take that money in time, through law or revolution. Their voices are diminished and will be further diminished over time.

    January 11, 2014 at 6:58 pm |
    • TheFred

      Wow!!! Unlike you, most so called rich people worked hard to build their businesses from the ground up. Unlike you, they saw the opportunity that's available to anyone who lives in the US. Unlike you, they weren't driven by coveting others wealth. You slough... get off your a s s and take some risk and stop whining. Rich people are rich because they earned it, and not by stealing whats not theirs...

      January 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
      • Liz

        As usual sweeping statements carry little fact,so I would never say rich people are rich because they earned it anymore than I would say rich are rich because they are corrupt-What I would say is both poverty & wealth foster corruption.One out of need -the other out of greed-the more evil of the two is left up to your discretion.History shows us that a certain level of wealth can only be achieved through others expense-this is when it becomes a matter of ethics.This is the point of the Pope's statement-and if there are some who feel guilt & offence, maybe it is a point well made.There is a large quarter of wealth that has neither obtained nor maintained it honestly-No level playing feild-the butcher's thumb has been on the scale.This is where the conversation begins-Your stance is meaningless.

        January 18, 2014 at 9:22 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.