Donations sent for Notre Dame reparations valid despite social media backlash


Courtesy of Creative Commons

Construction of the cathedral started in 1163 and it took about 200 years to complete it. It is visited by 12 to 13 million people each year.

Just hours after a catastrophic fire tore through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last week, donations from people all around the world poured in.

Ordinary people, billionaires and everyone in-between contributed to the restoration fund which has now raised between $835 million and $1 billion. But this level of donations sparked an online debate over whether or not this money could have been better spent on other issues like the rising homeless population in Paris.

As someone who has always had a love for the arts, I was disheartened to watch the 850 year old cultural symbol with a rich history slowly burn. I was also shocked when large amounts of criticism against the donors began rolling in on social media.

People’s priorities have become the center of this debate, but should we really be criticizing those who donate to causes that they feel strongly about?

I don’t think it is fair for us to claim that just because someone donated a large sum of money to the restoration fund, they don’t care about people or important issues like poverty. However, I do think it is fair to say that people who have the money to give to both causes should do so. There should only be a problem if someone donates large amounts of money to “dramatic causes,” like this fire, but disregard charities that benefit the lives of others.

Millionaires who pledge large sums of money to help rebuild the cathedral should make sure that they are donating to causes that work to improve the situations of people who are underprivileged or suffering in some way.

Contrary to what some social media users have said, many of the donors who have pledged extremely large amounts of money to this cause have also donated to or supported other important issues around the world.  

François-Henri Pinault committed 100 million euros to the rebuilding of the partially destroyed cathedral but is also the chairman of the Kering Foundation which combats violence against women. The foundation has provided medical, psychological and social assistance to refugee and migrant women and funds entrepreneurs who have specific goals to solve problems surrounding violence against women.

Pinault is just one example of the many people who chose to support the preservation of a cultural symbol but also gives time and money to other causes that benefit those in need. Another example would be the people who donate to St. Edward’s. While the donors can give money that provides scholarships for students, they can also support student research and service projects.

If rebuilding the Notre Dame Cathedral is a cause that people are passionate about, they should not be shamed for donating money to it. But they should recognize that these donations are coming from a place of wanting to preserve their country’s cultural identity, not helping others.

If you’re going to make a donation to a cause you feel strongly about, do it. However, it’s worth making sure you’re thinking about the other problems in our societies and giving whatever resources you can to those issues.