Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

the ministry of the word

By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 20, 2006

Gumbleton gives us the four-square Gospel:

Did you ever ask yourself why so many people from Mexico and from Central America come north and are crossing our borders? No one likes to leave his or her home place, their native land. What caused the poverty down there, made it worse the last 10 or 15 years? It is the so-called free trade agreement that we have imposed upon Mexico through the North American Free Trade Act and the Central American Free Trade Act. It has caused millions of people to become poor. They can't support themselves and so they come north.

Marvelous, your Beatitude. But it fails to explain why thousands of underpaid Mexicans aren't rafting over to Haiti: no NAFTA there, after all.

Gumbleton's concern for the poor is honorable. Yet he's a bishop, not an economist. So why can't he use his pulpit to instruct us about our duties to the poor within the terms that the Gospels instruct us about them? Jesus teaches us in language everyone can understand: If we don't take care of the wretched in our midst, we'll burn in hell ("Father Abraham, send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame"). No mention of free trade agreements.

We know that we will be damned if we neglect those poor whose misery we are able to relieve, but the Gospels do not tell us whether this relief is to be accomplished by personal acts of generosity, or by creation of private charities to distribute alms, or by compelling our neighbors to fund a state-administered welfare system. Gumbleton, and you, and I, may have three different ideas about which approach is more meritorious for the soul of Dives and three different ideas about which is more effective for the relief of Lazarus. We may all be wrong. The Scriptures aren't.

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