I'm curious of how much money the Catholic Church spends globally for charity per year. I could not find the information I wanted by a simple Google search, and even on Wikipedia, I could only find some figures for the USA.

I'm not interested in a debate about who gives more or who gives less, or whether it's too little or too much. I'm only interested in the cold hard sum expressed in a notable currency, with a source where the information or approximations comes from.

For the sake of simplicity, I do not include Catholic persons who privately give to charity, I'm only interested in Church-owned funds.

Edit: some comments pointed out, that the word "charity" is too ambiguous. I used it in a sense like charity outside of supporting the upkeep of the Church, but charity in the sense of giving to poor people, starving children, etc. (and schools, sanitation and hospitals in poor countries)

What's the best word for "charity" in this sense? "External charity" seems odd to me and even more prone to be misunderstood. Or should I say Vatican, not Catholic Church? I'm not Catholic myself, so my understanding of Catholic organization and structure might be flawed.

  • I don't know if the Catholic church has more centralization, but our Protestant congregation has programs that allow people to more or less directly give to needs in the community without going through the budget process. For instance, if someone loses their job, they can apply to the beneficence fund for money to pay bills and such. On the other end, people who want to support this type of charity designate contributions directly to the fund. Since there's no budget for the fund, it often goes unreported in our year-end-giving reports. (The accounting is separate.) Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 19:18
  • @Jon Ericson: You are right, this can also be a factor. However, there is always a large amount which goes to foreign aid, especially to poor countries, and I think that part is accounted for. Even in the private donations part, there might be an estimate, but that is unimportant for my question, because I'm not interested in how much do Catholic persons give privately, but how much does the Church itself give from its own funds.
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 19:45
  • Can someone of the downvoters please explain why this question should be closed? I specifically studied the FAQ to see if such questions are in-topic.
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 20:01
  • 4
    One problem is the reference to "the Catholic Church". Do you include CAFOD as part of the Church, for example? There is no centralised accounting (at least in the UK: each diocese is separate), and then there is giving by individual members which they give direct to outside causes rather than going through the Church's books anyway -- even when they could do that as part of an organised campaign. I think the answer is there is no way of knowing; the question is not particularly constructive because what is meant by "the Catholic Church" in this instance needs to be defined. Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 20:47
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    I think what you meant was "How much does the Catholic Church spend on things that don't directly benefit it?" So, pastors' wages, building upkeep, and religious missions would not be included, but feeding and housing the homeless would.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 22:52

2 Answers 2


Kind of depends on your definition of charity.

I consider 100% of my donations to my parish and diocese to be charitable donations. 100% of them go to building upkeep, promoting and sustaining religious vocations, proclaiming the gospel, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, prison ministry, running hospitals, schools and catechism programs.

The church has no income other than what is given to it through charitable donations and it's investments, which go up and down with everyone elses'.

If your only definition of charity is providing for the immediate needs of people, then the Catholic Church isn't a slouch in this area either.

The closest I could find is the financial statements of Caritas, which is official European charitable org and Catholic Relief, which is the US charitable org.

You can check out their financial statements here and here.

Beyond that, the Catholic Church has no obligation or duty to divulge what she does with her money any more than your mom does.

  • 3
    In terms of divine responsibility, the Catholic Church in and of itself does not need to divulge how they spend the money, but some civil jurisdictions require it; though this disclosure may not be made available for public perusal. That said, good answer. Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 22:06
  • "The church has no income other than what is given..." Do Catholic organizations not participate in fund-raisers like many other religious organizations? Bake sales, selling Krispy Kreme gift certificates, car washes, etc? Generally (in the U.S.), these are not considered charitable donations for tax purposes (except when the price paid exceeds the fair market value, then the overage can be considered a donation).
    – Flimzy
    Commented Mar 17, 2012 at 6:50
  • I found there are estimates how many piano tuners can be in the US or on the whole planet, even if there is no central registry where it can be officially found. Surely there can be an estimate, even if not 100% accurate, at least for the order of magnitude. Only that I could not find any site with even such an estimate. I thought someone estimated it, because estimates can be found even for the illegal drug trade, so for something that is bot legal and not secret, I thought it should be easier.
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 17, 2012 at 10:39
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    "no obligation" - if any organisation raises money as part of a drive for a specific cause, there is a moral obligation, at least (and often a legal one) to declare how much of the money raised went to the advertised cause. If nothing else to guard against scandal/fraud (like that which has plagued the Missionaries of Charity, Calcutta). I find it intriguing (and I'm trying hard not to sound too cynical/skeptical) that most churches are so unwilling to be open with their finances. Re "any more than your mom" - businesses are required to publicly disclose certain numbers in their accounts. Commented Mar 17, 2012 at 12:05

According to The Economist, the Catholic church spent $171.6 billion in 2010.

I haven't read the whole thing, but it seems to be a rather one-sided article, and little information is given about how they calculated the figure of $171.6bn, other than this:

The sexual-abuse scandals of the past 20 years have brought shame to the church around the world. In America they have also brought financial strains. By studying court documents in bankruptcy cases, examining public records, requesting documents from local, state and federal governments, as well as talking to priests and bishops confidentially, The Economist has sought to quantify the damage.

So naturally the accuracy of the figure is highly questionable.

They also have a convincing looking chart, which for some reason is subtitled "American Catholic church spending", which seems to be a mistake:

Many mansions: chart of American Catholic church spending

  • Wow, I've never made an answer that's been upvoted so quickly O.O
    – Zaz
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 22:11
  • Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. This is a good answer. Here's some meta posts to help you stay on track with site policy: What this site is about and How this site is different. I hope to see you post again soon.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 22:19
  • SO has a serious upvote problem. You'll find that it's easier to get up's on this site if you stick to the site policies.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 22:20

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