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Backlash Begins Over Notre Dame Donations

Critics cite white privilege, and a billionaire donor responds
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2019 11:38 AM CDT
Bernard Arnault, right, his wife Helene Mercier arrive for a state dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 25, 2019.   (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
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(Newser) – The $1 billion raised to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral is now receiving a dose of controversy. The Washington Post is among several outlets reporting that criticism is mounting in regard to income inequality about the large donations that came from billionaires like Francois-Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault. While most want to see Notre Dame restored to its former glory or beyond, critics see the donations as proving "social problems could be quickly addressed if the wealthy were motivated to do so," per USA Today. "If two men … can provide [$337 million] to restore Notre Dame, within six hours, then there is enough money in the world to feed every mouth, shelter every family and educate every child," writes Carl Kinsella at Joe.ie. "The failure to do so is a matter of will, and a matter of system."

Adds journalist Simon Allison, who is based in South Africa: “In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame. In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.” Critics were pointing to other examples, including the need for money to ease the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Though the French government usually grants corporations a 60% tax deduction on culture donations, Pinault and Arnault say won't get any such deduction. "It's pretty dismaying to see that in France you are criticized even for doing something for the general interest," Arnault says, per Reuters. It's "an act, which in many other countries, we'd be congratulated for." (The fire has drawn attention to other causes.)

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