Modernity Turns the Gospel on Its Head

Fr Ray Blake's post, 'Contrasts', on Pugin's sketches of the industrial age compared to the pre-industrial age is fascinating.

As well as the liturgical 'progress' documented by Pugin, the most telling sketch is that of the poor houses of his age compared to the monastic servants of the poor in the 'bad old days'.

It documents quite well how the nature of loving and humble service made a shift from the Church's own view - that the wealthy serve the poor and find within that service salvation - to the new paradigm in which the poor serve the rich and find in it their unfortunate enslavement.

It is almost as if, liturgically and societally, the Pugin documents the Gospel, in the industrial age, being turned upon its head.

While I wish to God that Archbishop Vincent Nichols would be as vocal in currently vital areas of Catholic teaching, his recent remarks concerning the nature of the cuts are still important.  Yesterday, I met a friend who claims that his jobseekers allowance has been cut. He is now on 'hardship fund'. This is the result of sanctioning from the DWP. Yet, he claims, the sanctioning he is experiencing (which amounts to a cut to his benefits of £20 a week until March) is the result of his having applied for work! I asked him how the DWP could sanction someone for looking for work and applying for it. He said he doesn't understand it either, but that is exactly what has happened, saying he would show me the letter.

He now gets £45 a week. £20 a week of that he has to give to his landlord for the 'top up charge' for where he lives. That means that he is living off £25 a week to cover his food, electricity, bills etc. Other people I know who are sick or mentally ill are being called in to Atos Healthcare to be assessed, yet there are claims that these assessments are rigged anyway because the company who won the contract have to get 40% of people on sick benefit off of it. That started under Labour by the way. I heard a story from one guy I know who lives in a block in Hove with many people on sick benefit that people with mental health problems are literally committing suicide because of their benefits being cut. It sounds crazy but these people are not totally sane, are they? They're easily sent over the edge.

No doubt, workfare, if it is not already in existence, will be on the way quite soon, in which the poor will be forced to work for companies for half of the minimum wage to ensure that they 'contribute to society'. All of this is condemned by the left, of course, but this kind of economic exploitation of the poor is also condemned by Holy Mother Church.

Cuts will hit the vulnerable hard...but is it the State's' duty to provide?
Part of the problem is that the State has taken on so much and the Church's wealth and power has declined, leaving a large vacuum when the State no longer feels it can support the poor financially.  In days gone by the Church had a great deal of land and a great deal of money. Nowadays, parishes are themselves begging just to be able to ensure their roofs aren't leaky for the next 20 years. There is very little left over in Dioceses for almshouses or monastic communities whose work consists in the service of the very poor and sick. If ever I had a vision of what the Occupy movement should be, it would be just that. Groups of men, preferably Catholics, washing the feet of the poor, clothing them and feeding them outside St Paul's, outside Wall Street, and outside the King and Queen pub in Brighton. That would be an explicit gesture of exactly what kind of society of which the Occupy movement are dreaming. Joking with one man I know there I said it was all very good but, "Where is the friar? You must be requiring a Priest too, to say Mass for your cause?". I'm going to start sending paupers their way soon, as personally, I'm brassic.

I do worry that the Archbishop is too ideologically attached to the left to look for other avenues for the assistance of the poor than more State help. The State can't organise a p**s up in a brewery. It only knows how to take the beer away. Once benefits are cut, they will never be raised again. Ultimately, this is a society that is fragmenting and breaking down all across the spectrum of wealth. Those who have money behind them will survive the coming storm, but the poor will be left out to dry. Attacking the Government over this is one thing, but even Government has a point that their own kitty is running dry amid trillions of debt.

What the Church should perhaps be saying is that if the rich want to show mercy, empty themselves, and their pockets, and come to the aid of the poor, then they are free to do so and that now is the time. If parishes and Dioceses want to start food banks and receive donations from the rich then there is nothing to stop them. It is important to remember that the Church, since Her inception has always held communism in high esteem - its just that for the Church, communism has to be entirely voluntary. This is, after all, the communism that St Francis of Assisi held aloft for the whole Church and World to see. It is State communism that She has always condemned because it always robs human beings of freedom.

Comments