Those who profit from what harms the earth have to keep the poor out of sight. They have trouble enough fighting off the scientific, economic, and political arguments against bastioned privilege. Bringing basic morality to the fore could be fatal to them. That is why they are mounting such a public pre-emptive strike against the encyclical before it even appears. They must not only discredit the pope’s words (whatever they turn out to be), they must block them, ridicule them, destroy them.
Here are some links to articles that caught my eye this week.
6 Ways Wall Street Is Hosing Chicago Teachers – Matthew Cunningham-Cook unpacks how the country’s biggest investment firms are endangering the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.
We Need to Fight for Equality – William Spriggs reflects on how the Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement must be united.
Catholic Social Teaching and Adjunct Faculty Organizing – John Russo writes about Catholic Universities and the Social Teaching of the Church.
Some Facts That Poverty-Deniers Don’t Want to Hear – Three-quarters of conservative Americans think poor people have it easy. Paul Buchheit shows that they don’t.
Imagine If People Were Paid What Their Work Is Really Worth to Society – Professor Reich imagines.
Films that Debunk Corporate Education Reform – A list of must-see videos from Diane Ravitch’s Blog.
Israel/Palestine FAQ – Who are the Palestinians? Who are the Israelis? Is Folk Singer David Rovics a self-hating Jew? Find out in this FAQ.
Do Palestinians Really Exist? – When he was nine years old, Dean Obeidallah finally learned about his father’s people.
Awhile back I became familiar with the Catholic Worker movement. A part of their philosophy involves voluntary poverty, and sharing everything in our lives with people in need. The credo is “if you have a coat on your back, and a coat in your closet, one of them belongs to someone else.”
This is a hard teaching for me.
I grew up in a family of modest means. My father died when I was six years old, so I was raised by a single mom who worked part time. Yet we always had adequate housing, decent clothes to wear and I cannot remember ever going to bed hungry. I now suspect that my mother sometimes did without things that she would have liked in order to provide for me, but I never heard her complain about it, and I don’t recall her ever being in any sort of true physical deprivation. I was afforded every opportunity in terms of education, despite our limited resources, and I was not saddled with the crushing student debt which is so common today.
I have lived “from hand to mouth” at many points in my life as an adult, but I have not yet ever experienced the desperation of poverty that afflicts tens of millions in the United States. At the age of 56, I am not wealthy, but I finally enjoy what might be called a “solid middle class” standard of living.
In short, for most of my life I have thought of myself as one who was struggling to get by, not as one living in relative abundance. Like many who share my status, I felt that I was “doing the best I can” to help others by making regular donations to various charities.
At long last it has occurred to me that it’s not truly “the best I can do.”
Yet, it is difficult for me to imagine myself doing as Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin did in establishing Catholic Worker – forsaking even a modest level of comfort to live and serve among the most destitute in our community. There are, of course, many “practical” considerations involved. What about my wife and daughter, who have not been stricken with such a revolutionary conviction? It would be one thing for me to deprive myself, but I’m not sure that it would be just or proper to require such a thing of them.
Perhaps this is all just rationalization. Suffice it to say that I have struggled and pondered these sorts of questions for many months now. There was a particular moment where the weight of guilt came crashing down on me while hearing this story from the Gospel According to Matthew.
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
During Advent of 2013, at Reconciliation, I broke down in tears while describing this struggle of conscience to the priest. I left the rite with a determination to do more than simply write checks to charities as a way to meet my Christian obligation to others. I decided to find ways to participate directly in meeting human needs. It may not be all that is required, but it is a start.
I met with Sr. Denise, the Pastoral Associate at our church, who prayed with me and gave me information on several organizations in our community working to reduce the suffering of those in poverty. This morning, I worked for the first time at the Center of Hope, a local food pantry. It was ninety minutes of honest work, pushing a broom, mopping floors, helping to unload a truck from the food bank and breaking down boxes for recycling. I met some very fine people. Some of them have been volunteering at the Center for a decade or more. I hope that one day I will be able to look back on as many years of dedicated service.
This post is not written in a spirit of self-congratulation. To the contrary, I feel deep shame at having squandered so much of my life, turning a deaf ear toward the pleadings of the Gospel and a blind eye toward the needs of others. I am also still terribly troubled about the question of my second (and third, and fourth) coat, and all of the other comforts that I enjoy and do not yet share.
Dorothy Day said “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.”
This morning, for the first time, that statement gives me hope.
Here’s the description from their Website.
“The Catholic Labor Network hopes to be a place for those Catholics, lay, religious and clergy, who are active in their churches and in unions to learn about their Church’s teachings as regards to labor issues, pray for those who are working for economic justice and share information about events and struggles that may be taking place in their area. For over one hundred years, the Catholic Church has been a voice of support for workers, and a conscience to the body politic when it pondered issues dealing with the distribution of wealth and the condition of workers.”
Here are some links.
Here’s an introduction to Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement that aired on PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly back in February of 2013.
Transcript is here.
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
Former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has been bumped from the influential Congregation of Bishops — a post that gave him say in the selection of bishops.
Some observers of the Roman Catholic Church said the move by Pope Francis is yet another example of his effort to tone down highly publicized stances on divisive social issues such as gay marriage, contraception and abortion, on which Burke has made strong remarks.
Burke was the one who stated publicly that he would deny Eucharist to John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election.
“To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
Quit the Church? Thanks, but no thanks. [E. J. Dionne, Jr. | Commonweal] – Recently, a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post cast as an “open letter to ‘liberal’ and ‘nominal’ Catholics.” Its headline commanded: “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church.” I’m sorry to inform the FFRF that I am declining its invitation to quit. They may not see the Gospel as a liberating document, but I do, and I can’t ignore the good done in the name of Christ by the sisters, priests, brothers and laypeople who have devoted their lives to the poor and the marginalized.
Brian’s Comment: I had much the same reaction as Dionne when I first saw the letter from the FFRF. Granted, it is sometimes hard to be a free-thinking Catholic these days, but the Faith is not merely the institutions and the Church is not merely the hierarchy. Our Catholic Faith belongs to me and to my family as much as it does to the bishops, to the Vatican or to any of the Right-Wing bigots to whom I may be offering the sign of peace this weekend.
Today’s WTF Story:
Girl Scouts under scrutiny from Catholic bishops. [CSMonitor.com] – Long a lightning rod for conservative criticism, the Girl Scouts of the USA are now facing their highest-level challenge yet: An official inquiry by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. At issue are concerns about program materials that some Catholics find offensive, as well as assertions that the Scouts associate with other groups espousing stances that conflict with church teaching. The Scouts, who have numerous parish-sponsored troops, deny many of the claims and defend their alliances.
Clean up your own power-mad money-grubbing homophobic misogynistic pedophiliac den of iniquity, Bishops.
Leave our Girl Scouts alone.