|Has the Church's mission to the Poor been reduced to 'campaigning'?|
I find one of the passages in the speech delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of England and Wales absolutely fascinating.
'Since your visit to Rome, political changes in the United Kingdom have focused attention on the consequences of the financial crisis, which has caused so much hardship to countless individuals and families. The spectre of unemployment is casting its shadow over many people’s lives, and the long-term cost of the ill-advised investment practices of recent times is becoming all too evident. In these circumstances, there will be additional calls on the characteristic generosity of British Catholics, and I know that you will take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need. The prophetic voice of Christians has an important role in highlighting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, who can so easily be overlooked in the allocation of limited resources. In their teaching document Choosing the Common Good, the Bishops of England and Wales underlined the importance of the practice of virtue in public life.'
There was a moment at Hyde Park, when the video montage of a part of the documentary entitled 'The Heart that Seeks Justice' really rankled with me. It portrayed the 'justice n' peace' element of the Gospel in a quite embarrassing light. Yes, there was some good aspects to it, such as the focus on the work of Catholics who work in the services providing care to the elderly, who work as nurses and the like, but, perhaps not surprisingly, given that this piece of video footage was sponsored by CAFOD, it appeared that the overwhelming majority of 'justice and peace' work was all about campaigning for fairer trade.
This continual emphasis on 'Fairtrade' at a Diocesesan level and the bucket-grabbing, nausea-inducing banality of reading through the seemingly endless campaign literature on climate change is so thoroughly depressing that it makes me want to weep, presenting, as it regularly does, the poverty and misery of the Crucified as something 'out there' in the developing World or so called 'Third World countries'. The Holy Father goes on to say...
'Today’s circumstances provide a good opportunity to reinforce that message, and indeed to encourage people to aspire to higher moral values in every area of their lives, against a background of growing cynicism regarding even the possibility of virtuous living.'
I know that the St Vincent de Paul Trust does excellent work with those in poverty and distress and that in Westminster, Cardinal Hume's Passage Day Centre does some great work in helping men and women to find their feet in life, but, in general, I still find that at a Diocesan level (though I suspect this trend is nationwide), poverty and the radical call of Christ to preach the Good News to the Poor, to 'feed the hungry, clothe the naked' has been lost on the Bishops of England and Wales. Perhaps they are too sheltered from the very visible poverty of many in the United Kingdom and just imagine that somehow, addressing issues of fairer trade and campaigning for it (and blasted climate change) will make the Gospel known to the World and bring about a 'just and fair society'. It is, without doubt, the biggest load of garbage I have ever heard.
The kind of 'justice n' peace' work promoted by the Bishops of England and Wales is one that doesn't really promote the idea of the rich actually ever coming into contact with the poor, so that the chasm of understanding between Lazarus and Dives is perpetuated until the End of Time. There is a collection for CAFOD, the once Catholic charity who now, apparently, promote contraception and abortive procedures in total and utter contradiction to Church Teaching, but it is almost as if the Bishops really believe that the Gospel is somehow about Fairtrade, rather than emphasising the Works of Mercy, which not only help to act as reparation for our own sins, but touch the lives and hearts of others in a profoundly human way. Somehow, I do not think that when Our Lord preached that at the Last Judgment, He would gather into His Kingdom those who fed the hungry, gave shelter to the homeless and visited the sick and imprisoned, that He imagined the souls of a large gathering of Benetton-clad youngsters holding hands and being photographed by the Diocesan rag to raise awareness about 'climate change' ascending up to God.
To imagine that raising awareness about Fairtrade (TM) and climate change can somehow act as some kind of a replacement for the Corporal Works of Mercy is a total cop-out and a disgusting insult to Christ's Poor, in every town and city in the United Kingdom. This would be totally out of character for our Bishops, obviously, because if there is one thing that they never shirk from doing, it is proclaiming the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ 'in season and out of season', never seeking a comfortable life for themselves or us, but it needs to be seriously drawn to their attention because, the last time I looked, the Bishops of England and Wales have it very nice thank you very much. They live in fantastic houses, live very happily and from all appearances, live a very comfortable life indeed. On this issue, as well as those well-beloved doctrinal issues which they defend resolutely week in, week out, they need to be told and I am thoroughly over the moon that the Holy Father brought their attention to the plight of the Church's Poor.
I know and understand that the Poor we 'have with us always', but it needs to be said, and firmly so, that it is through loving and ministering to the Poor that the rich learn to love Jesus, in them. The giving of alms, the holy tradition of showing compassion, mercy and generosity to those neglected by society has been a hallmark of the Cloud of Witnesses whom God has given to the Faithful as models of virtue, from the foundation of the Church built on the Apostles to St Francis of Assisi to Blessed John Henry Newman to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. All of them preached through their words and their deeds that the defense of the Poor, the 'orphan and the widow', and the Gospel's message of love for the Poor is an essential part of our salvation.
'address the refusal of physicians to perform legal abortions'!
We are here to serve God, to serve Him in our neighbour and to serve the Poor first. Yes, there are a lot of poor people in the developing nations, but they are also on our doorsteps, at the end of our very own gates and in the Lord's Churches, and it is quite obvious that, as far as they are concerned, the latest Fairtrade coffee morning and eco-bulb stampingly awful climate change publicity stunt will make absolutely no difference to their lives, bringing them neither assistance nor the love of Christ! Meanwhile, I look forward to the Bishops of England and Wales taking heed of what Pope Benedict XVI has asked and joining him in 'calling for solidarity with those in need'.
This is Jason Evans discussing homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction and life on an ASBO.
He currently resides in prison for breach of his ASBO. How can the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton and the Catholic community in general show the love of God to him because it is clear that Brighton and Hove City Council, Social Services, the Police and Probation Services do not? Apologies in advance for the swearing...