Terminate ... the poverty?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 10, 2005

From Ekklesia:

Apparently undeterred by the controversy surrounding Bob Geldof's call for a million people to descend on the G8 summit, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is urging Catholics in England and Wales to mobilise and join him at the Make Poverty History rally in Edinburgh on 2 July.

Together with the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor will lead the rally, which is calling on the leaders of the G8 wealthiest nations to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are pledges made by the G8 to halve world poverty by 2015.

I wish I could feel better about the UK Church's involvement in the program called Make Poverty History. Probably the bishops view it innocently under the general rubric of almsgiving, but the phrase Make Poverty History has a "Final Solution" ring to it that's disturbing. The beautiful people who are splashing the effort (actresses, designers, models, rock musicians) are almost unanimous in their enthusiasm for eliminating poverty by eliminating the poor -- via state-sponsored contraception, abortion, sterilization, selective infanticide and the other euphemisms of Population Control. Whereas Mother Teresa, for example, had a love of the poor that tugged her toward them -- that moved her to want to spend time in their presence, where she found Christ -- the glitterati manage to convey a purely visceral revulsion at the sight of squalor that trumps any concerns for justice or any love for the afflicted person they may harbor. In coarsest terms, "Make Poverty History" translates into "Let's turn Africa, Jamaica, Thailand, Brazil into nature preserves where we can enjoy ourselves without the disturbing sights of limbless beggars and flies swarming on blind babies. We deserve guilt-free beaches and a guilt-free rainforest."

Ironically, the Catholic Church has long been the "expert" in reducing poverty without decimating the poor -- namely, through the work of her missionary religious congregations in running schools in areas of destitution. It would be a pity if media-driven sentimentalisms allowed the rock concert relief model to eclipse the example of missionaries and the teaching orders, especially among Catholics. It would be a tragedy if churchmen, even inadvertently, gave permission to governments to implement contemporary statist solutions to the problem of the unproductive poor. We see how the Dutch Approach deals with expensive nuisances like sick babies and sick elderly. Do we want to let these folks teach us how to make poverty "history"?

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  • Posted by: Ancilla Domini - Jun. 10, 2005 4:46 PM ET USA

    Wow - and I thought we had resigned ourselves to the fact that "the poor will always be with you." Not that we shouldn't try to help, but isn't the slogan by definition asking for the impossible?

  • Posted by: - Jun. 10, 2005 11:18 AM ET USA

    These bishops should use the precious human resources at their ready disposal. Replace the tedious, number-crunching lectures-turned-mantras that ordinarily guarantee complacency among the cynical powers in attendance with first-hand testimony. Bring along witnesses: professed religious, medical professionals, etc.-- all faithful to Catholic doctrine who have ministered in impoverished, war-torn nations.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 10, 2005 9:03 AM ET USA

    In addition, it is precisely the benevolent actions of industrial nations and the World Bank through its loans to kleptomaniac, inefficient, and absolutely corrupt African governments that exacerbated the poverty to begin with. Responsible world bodies and the Church must demand that these governments respond to the actual needs (political and economic) of their people rather than eternally stealing from them. But this is too effective a solution. Better that aging musicians gain employment.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 10, 2005 8:21 AM ET USA

    Its interesting that the poverty plagued third world has been increasing dramatically in population all the while seeming to lack the spiritual poverty that is destroying the affluent first world. They may not have the creature comforts of the West but they can't be doing all that poorly. Meanwhile the Cardinals home bases are headed for extinction -- is that what they want to convey to the third world?