141250_4e5d1263-4c1b-4683-a777-4662a2ac9cee_prodIf you’re a Cardinal working at the Vatican, you may want to leave your Porsche at home – the boss is checking the parking lot and isn’t keen on seeing luxury cars.

Inspection – The Pope declared war on the Vatican’s luxury cars.  First, he attacked wastefulness, underscoring that “it bothers me when I see a priest or a sister with a brand new car”.  Then, a few days later, he put into practice what he had stated during a meeting with seminarians: on Wednesday he made an inspection of the Vatican parking lot.  It isn’t the first time – already in the past days Pope Francis, on his way to lunch with a cardinal friend, visited the place where some cardinals usually park their cars.

I agree with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf that having a “luxury” car isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s a matter of prudence and stewardship:

Look.  We need to make distinctions about a “good” car and a “luxury” car.  We need to consider the prudent use of money as well.   Is it a better use of money to buy a car that is old and used, newer and used, new?  It depends on the car and how it is used, its safety features and record, its fuel efficiency and repair record.  It depends on the price of the car and the price of the money (financing).  If the same money will buy a new good car or a used car, are you obliged to buy the used car?  Does fuel efficiency figure in?  Is this only about cars that look “sporty”?  Is this about leather seats?  Is this about what other people in the area drive? Priests often put a lot of miles on a car.  It seems to me that priests are better off in a good car.  Therefore, the flock is better off if the priest has a good car.

If it bothers him to see a priest with a fancy car, wait till Pope Francis notices the Mercedes-Benz with the vehicle registration plate that reads “SCV 1″ (short for short for “Status Civitatis Vaticanae”). It’s armor-plated, bullet-proof, capable of speeds up to 160 mph, and comes with a price tag of $530,000. And the Vatican garage has six of them stationed around the world!

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Once the Pope sees that slick ride he’ll likely return to the precursor to the popemobile: the gestatorial chair sedia gestatoria, which was carried on the shoulders of a number of papal attendants. This mode of transport fell out of use following the incumbency of Pope Paul VI in 1978. The most likely reason for the change was probably because the sedia gestatoria isn’t armor-plated, bullet-proof, and capable of speeds up to 160 mph.

Pope Francis may not appreciate the extravagance of luxury cars, but in the case of the Papamobile, the flock may really be better off because the priest has a good car.