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Are wealthy U.S. Catholics skittish about Pope's dig at capitalism?

Are wealthy U.S. Catholics skittish about Pope's dig at capitalism?
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Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - 4:01pm

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

Ken Langone, the billionaire 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

Daniel Burke
 

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