86. Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”
This question by Luther is a natural question. Some of the cathedrals were built and paid for by the princes as a personal chapel. But most were built by the Bishops, Archbishops, or Popes with the Church money. The Church money was considered to be the Pope’s personal money and they treated it that way. So this is a logical question as to why this basilica would not be paid for just as the others had been.
Interesting side note is that “Riches of Crassus” was a reference to the Roman ruler who was at around 200 BC and had more money than the Roman Empire. If you wanted to talk about a very rich person you said “rich as Crassus”.
Luther was unaware that Pope Leo X had spent the bulk of the churches money waging a war to establish his nephew as Duke of Urbino. So Leo really did not have enough money to finish the work on the basilica. Luther’s assumption that “the church has lots of money” is an assumption that has passed all the way down to today, as most people are sure that all churches have an unlimited amount of money. This comes because the buildings are ornate and beautiful and the large church celebrations i.e. Christmas and Easter, seem to spare no expense in their production. The truth today as it was in Luther’s day is that the church only has the money that the people give to it!
Dear Lord please give me a thankful heart that I may rejoice in the blessings that you have poured out on me and my family. Help me to be content with what I have and not to be jealous of what someone else may have. In Jesus Name, Amen.