US Catholic Church a $170 billion business

Among Pope Francis' challenges will be oversight of the sprawling, lucrative -- but embattled -- American organization.

By Bruce Kennedy Mar 14, 2013 1:05PM

Newly elected Pope Francis I waves from St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican (© Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)It's a new era for the Roman Catholic Church as it welcomes its first non-European pope of the modern age.

Many Catholics are watching closely to see which direction Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Argentina, will take their church. Along with becoming the spiritual leader of the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, he's also assuming the leadership of one of the globe's largest businesses.

The church does not release financial data, but a lengthy report by The Economist last year said annual spending by the Vatican and church-owned entities in the U.S. alone was about $170 billion in 2010. While there are no hard data about the U.S. Catholic Church's annual revenue, Slate puts those spending numbers into some perspective -- noting that in fiscal 2012 Apple (AAPL) had $157 billion in revenue and that only 16 companies have more than $170 billion in revenue.

The Economist estimates that 57% of the church's U.S. spending went to Catholic health care networks, with an additional 28% to colleges, 6% to day-to-day operations at local parishes and dioceses, and 2.7% to national charities.

The church is also the largest charitable organization in the U.S. Its main group, Catholic Charities USA, along with its subsidiaries, reportedly has a paid staff of more than 65,000 and serves more than 10 million people. The Economist says it distributed nearly $5 billion in aid to the poor in 2010, with nearly two-thirds of those funds coming from state, local and federal government agencies.

However, the church has also suffered very high-profile financial losses due to some horrific scandals.

"The molestation and rape of children by priests in America has resulted in more than $3.3 billion of settlements over the past 15 years," The Economist notes, "$1.3 billion of that in California." And while that might seem a small sum for an organization that can dole out $170 billion, most of those settlements were made by local religious orders and dioceses, which have had to scramble to find those funds.

Overall, according to The Economist, Catholic institutions in the U.S. employ over 1 million people -- more than many corporations but still less than half the number reportedly employed by Wal-Mart (WMT).

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Mar 14, 2013 1:56PM

Yeah, so what...  And the US Government is a 2Trillion dollar/year extortion, fraud and racketeering  business that is over 15 Trillion in debt that wastes over 50%of  what it muscles in, employs 90% non-essential personnel and  is run by  a bunch of idiots and socialist money grifters who couldn’t run a lemonade stand.


Sorry, I'll take the Catholic Church business model over Governments any day.

Mar 14, 2013 1:58PM
Here we go.........The new Pope and the Catholic church are not going to say that it's ok to be gay and get an abortion.  Now they are going to get it - big time - from the main stream media.  It's all very simple.  If you don't like the rules of the Catholic church then don't join!  Religion is the biggest obstacle to these liberal ethics.  Keep your liberal noses out of my religion!
Mar 14, 2013 2:00PM
God blesses the true believing Church,  God bless Pope Francis 1
Mar 14, 2013 2:14PM
 Hey Bruce, the church is the second largest charitable organization in the us. Number one is the united states government. Our taxes go to the charities of the fed.
  You say the church has a paid staff of 65,000. Whats the government?
  You say the church distributed $5 billion to the poor. What did the government distribute?
  You say the church suffered loss to high scandals ? Scandal is the governments middle name and alot of money goes with it.
  Who should we be more afraid of ?
Mar 14, 2013 2:38PM
"said annual spending by the Vatican and church-owned entities in the U.S. alone was about $170 billion in 2010."
"The Economist estimates that 57% of the church's U.S. spending went to Catholic health care networks, with an additional 28% to colleges, 6% to day-to-day operations at local parishes and dioceses, and 2.7% to national charities. "

SPENDING 170 billion...NOT sitting on 170 many so quick to make a judgement with only a teeny tiny percentage of fact or knowlege.  What was the money spent on....HEALTHCARE 57%=96.9 billion  I guarantee that number includes paying for medical care for those who cannot pay. 
How much went to salaries?  If you know someone who works as a church secretary or janitor, THEY received a percentage of that 170 billion.

You can't just throw these numbers out there, and expect to say things like...I won't every give them another dime because they are sitting on 170 billion dollars.

And for the person who said "Why aren't 'they' (not sure who 'they' are) in jail? If it was priests who committed crimes, many of them are dead, and others ARE in jail.  Why was it "covered-up" ? Human stupidity. Lack of understanding of the sickness of pedophilia. Many offenders were "treated" by leading psychologists of the day and proclaimed cured. The leaders in various areas beleived the "experts" and the "experts" were wrong. 

You don't want to believe in God? That's your business, and I pray for you. Please don't BULLY ME because I choose to do something different from you.

Mar 14, 2013 1:56PM
Maybe they need to castrate and jail the molesters that would be much more satisfying to the public that lawsuits they have to pay out.
Mar 14, 2013 2:16PM
It's the biggest charitable institution in the world. It's the last institution standing firm against the liberty "me" movement that states that every itch must be scratched. Is it perfect ? no... what is....
Mar 14, 2013 2:16PM
This 'modern' world is disgusting.  I am sad to call myself human as we are the more horrible creatures on the planet.  I hope that that one day our infectious civilizations are removed and that the Earth can once again become the natural paradise it once was.
Mar 14, 2013 2:35PM
Bruce Kennedy, do your homework dude, Its not a business. The Vatican is a Nation, with its own flags and everything. Comparing it to Walmart hardly makes any sense at all.
Mar 14, 2013 2:02PM

The Catholic Church is a bit strange. It's barely Christianity at all. Very strict, and i've seen different teachings. And I see it this way; Catholocism is a belief. Not a business. I think this is all ridiculous, with the spending and income. And I don't see why they're blamed for molesting children because of priests; it's the priests that do it. The whole religious community suffers for a few idiots.

Mar 14, 2013 2:23PM
Here we go again, MSN out to defame anything that promotes Jesus' salvation.  Shame on them!
Mar 14, 2013 2:30PM

Blessing of God for our new Pope. May he take the Church to it's deserved glory by excommunicating the pseudo

Catholic politicians infesting the religion. The Leftist media refers to them as "devout " Catholics as they

promote their sectarian values.

Mar 14, 2013 2:41PM
Oh look all the LIBERAL  out to "crucify" the new Pope who hasn't even been in the role but a day! I agree with the comment about our venomous world. People are disgusting and spew nothing but but horrible and degrading comments about the victor of Christ! Who gives a ratz **** what the catholic church makes? Okay, so some creepy priests have give the church a bad rap, but what organization would you rather be apart of the catholic church or hells angels? I know more good people that are catholics then bad ones and for God's sake Media Devils, go pick on the real devils in SAY The White House!
Mar 14, 2013 1:58PM
Annual spending and annual revenue are not the same thing. If the Catholic church spent $170 billion in 2010, that would mean that their cash inflow would have to be larger than their annual spending. Further, that figure only comes from the U.S. and the Vatican but fails to include (according to your article) the numerous other church entities outside of that.
Mar 14, 2013 2:46PM

I do pray for this Pope.  I hope that Pope Francis will lead in such

a way that he imbides the beauty of the Peace and Joy of St. Francis of Assisi. 

I invite those to see Zafferettis movie "Brother Sun and Sister Moon." on the life

of this beautiful saint.  Great story and great Beauty in this favorite movie of mine.

The love of humanity and his brother is the highest of virtues.  It is with highest of

hopes that the new Pope, St. Francis will help the impoverished and display the attributes

of the saint of his name.  . 


Carol Zan Angele

Mar 14, 2013 3:02PM
In other words, it still helps a hell of a lot more people and is a hell of a lot more successful than the government.  I'm thinking about converting to Catholicism.
Mar 14, 2013 1:54PM
tax them? an international religion tax? and give the taxes from all the nations to whom?
Mar 14, 2013 3:05PM

Catholic Charities feed hundreds of thousands in the USA. They assist and take care of the most in the USA. Walmart is the largest contributor to people in need.

These are facts.

The other churches DO VERY LITTLE in comparison. Most of the others are always asking for donations and never giving anything out except BULLCRAP


Mar 14, 2013 2:45PM
If this God thing is real that is good for it makes the human race a better place to be.   But if it is just the bigest prank that was ever played on the human race then I don't want to play!   That is why I am an 'Agnostic', Show me for I neither believe or do I disbelieve...........   Thank "GOD" that I have the right to feel that way and live in a country where I am able to express my beliefs, huh???????
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