Funding for Notre Dame is not Notre Dumb


Chicago Tribune

Justin Kim, Staff Writer

On April 15, 2019, a fire destroyed the historic Notre Dame cathedral and French billionaires and citizens raised over $1 billion within a week for construction purposes. While this was an act of altruistic collaboration, many people were discontent with this sudden response and protested heavily on social media that the burning of an old building should not receive so much funding when other more important issues such as climate change, poverty, and the refugee crisis are largely ignored. However, the cathedral serves more purpose to the country of France than just a building but represents a national treasure and a staple of France’s tourist economy, making the funding for this cause justified.

Backlash over the Notre Dame’s funding was mainly based on the argument that the money could be sent to more “worthy” causes than an old cathedral. What many fail to realize that the Notre Dame is not just a cathedral, but an important staple of France’s tourist economy. France is one of the world’s most popular tourist locations, and in all of France, the most visited places include the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Versailles Palace, and  Notre Dame. In 2016 alone, tourism generated a total of 198.3 billion euros (222.3 billion USD). With that, tourism also provides 2.8 billion jobs, making up a pretty large population of the workforce. With one of the signature landmarks gone, this could lead to a drastic loss of jobs for French citizens and cripple France’s economy, creating massive setbacks for the country and its citizens. While it may be argued that the absence of one cathedral will not affect the income too much, Notre Dame actually attracts 300,000 visitors every day, an estimate of 13 million visitors per year. Although the cathedral itself is free to enter, most visitors pay $6 to enter the crypt and $9 to enter the tower. Some tours cost $11 and many other tours that include the Notre Dame range from $48 to $117. With the Notre Dame gone, all of the money paid to see this cathedral would also disappear with it.

Because of Notre Dame’s affiliation with the Catholic church and the Vatican’s current holds of 30 billion USD, many have assumed that the Catholic Church could pay off the cathedral’s construction fees without donations. This is false because the Notre Dame is not owned by the Catholic church, but is instead owned by French government, who does not have the funds to spend over a billion dollars and fix one of their largest money-making tourist attraction without economically collapsing. People who argue that the government can afford to pay the reconstruction costs is also false, as the reason that donations came flooding in was that citizens knew that there would be no help from the government. In a similar case in 2017, the Archdiocese asked for 15 million euros to fix crumbling masonry and the president offered only 4 million euros a year.  

Despite the fact that the Notre Dame already raised nearly $1 billion from donors, these donations will not be able to fully cover the reconstruction costs. The spokesperson for Notre Dame announced that the estimated costs for the total repair of the church would most likely be between $1.13 billion to $2.3 billion. In addition, the fact that individual people are the ones donating, not an organization or companies, shows the importance that the monument had on the French people. These people are free to allot their money to purposes they see fit, and others cannot force them to donate to certain causes that are deemed “more important” than others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people spending their money on something they consider important.

The negativity over the Notre Dame funding is largely unnecessary, as the cathedral holds a great value to France as one of the country’s greatest contributors in income and.  jobs. The Catholic church does not own the cathedral, and the government that owns it shows little support. The French people and numerous philanthropists rushed to fund the reconstruction of the Notre Dame because it held great importance to the country and to themselves. The funding was an act of altruistic support for something that was worthy of support, something that the donors chose to give up their hard earned money because it was important to them. Instead of being negative about this, people should rejoice when an entire country comes together to support a common goal.