On feast of St. Vincent de Paul, prelates express concern for mistreatment of America’s poor, unemployed

Geraldo de Jesus, right, gets a hand from volunteer Nancy Perez, with his food selection at the Sister Regis Food Cupboard in Rochester, N.Y., last Oct. 3. (CNS/Mike Crupi)

Poverty was on the minds of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., yesterday, the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th-century saint who devoted his life to serving the poor.

In The Gospel in the Digital Age blog on the Archdiocese of New York’s website, the two church leaders commended the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, but also lamented the high rates of poverty and unemployment in the Bronx and Brooklyn as pointed out by New York Times blogger Michael Powell.

But it’s not just in New York where poverty runs rampant, the prelates wrote. “The basic human needs of good jobs, food, and housing continue to challenge tens of millions throughout this country,” they wrote.

While acknowledging that “we are fortunate as a society … to provide for those struggling” through the use of billions of dollars donated to charities annually, they also commended government programs that “provide enormous support to poor Americans.”

Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio also raised two concerns about the support offered to people living in poverty, as related here:

It is not enough. Even with the generosity of the American people, and the works of groups like the St. Vincent de Paul Society and so many others, much more needs to be done, and not just by private charity. The government must continue to play its part as well.

There are very dark clouds. Too much rhetoric in the country portrays poor people in a very negative way. At the same time, this persistent sluggish economic (sic) and slow pace of recovery does two things that hurt the poor: it does not provide sufficient jobs for poor people to earn decent living to support themselves and it provides less resources for government to do its part for Americans in need.

These situations are “devastating to struggling families,” they wrote.

In conclusion the prelates called for solidarity with the poor.

“There is too much finger pointing and not enough joining hands,” they said.

13 Responses

  1. There’s not a word from these two prelates about the causes of the current conditions nor about the utter failure for over four decades of government programs alledgedly designed to combat poverty. Allegedly.

    There hasn’t been enough finger pointing, not too much of it, largely because of the distaste among Church leaders in this country for criticism of the politicians for their failures to develop programs that have any possibility of succeeding. Rather than look at the very construction of some of these programs, our leaders have done nothing more than to ask government to do more.

    Ah, but bishops wish not to get into the political fray. They fail to realize that our problems center on the very nature of government. Unless they are willing to take positions against one side in this great debate, they will not have any influence in the continuing struggle.

  2. To Duane Lamers: I know it’s hard to express feelings on this matter in a few words. I am not going to argue your point, which I do understand. I believe that “finger pointing” is useless though and counter-productive. Also, I should add, you failed to even generalize any or even one position concerning the “one side in this great debate,” and so I really have no understanding as to what you are precisely addressing here. I will present three of many possibilities concerning the US Catholic Church in regard to this issue. I believe that our Council of Bishops need to seriously think about their current priority of Church issues in relationship to the problem of poverty in the US & the world. The most recent priority is their fight against same-sex marriage, which in my opinion stomps on the rights of others (non-Catholics) toward their own pursuit of happiness, especially concerning the benefits that they are denied by such discrimination. The other is the fight against abortion (again for the same reason). Since Roe vs Wade, billions of dollars have been spent concerning this issue. It is my opinion that the Catholic Church’s main priority should be to try – to the best of our ability – to help our [so called] weaker brothers & sisters without the use of moral manipulation but, rather, with the genuine outpouring of unconditional love (which in this case also requires much money). Then, and only then, will non-Catholics possibly be able to see the light that we have been so blessed with. Lets try first to eliminate poverty, and then tackle these other issues. My third issue would be the support of a [supposed] free market, work-ethic society; in a word, capitalism. I do not believe that everybody must have to work the way we do in our society. Most work seems to me to be most futile. This is only because I see a society being over-worked: services for those who work too much and therefore need things so quickly; like take-out food, coffee, etc. The US is truly spoiled in this way, but more importantly, it creates a society where concerns for the poor are greatly diminished. More obvious is that capatalism breeds economic inequality which breeds poverty & un/deremployment. Now I run into the problem of wanting to explain myself better with many well developed, lengthy examples which I cannot do here. (One quick one: where were our Church leaders during the Occupy Wallstreet protests?) The problem is so complex that just pointing fingers at individual leaders is senseless, but I do agree with you – though I may be here revising your comments [pardon me please] – which is that it is depressing that our leaders (social, political, religious) make such vague statements concerning such complex issues as to apply a bandaid to a lethal wound. I am grateful for your comments though since yours was the first, written almost 24 hours ago, and now mine being the second: perhaps this could be the greatest of our concerns! Peace be with you {8~)>

  3. Mistreat the poor and uneducated? Just look at the Ryan budget!

  4. Bravo Brother Mussa!!! I get the impression that we are restricted in forming a right conscience to a consideration of one issue–Abortion. Surely, the USCCB has declared that the Ryan Budget fails to meet the moral standards of the Church. (Bishops Blaire and Pates, April and May 2012) For that matter, in forming a good conscience can we consider a candidates and a parties position on the death penalty, immigration, the fair distribution of wealth, and the preference for the poor? Ann and Ralph G Conte

  5. I think Archbishop Charles Chaput has a good answer to all of the above:.

    “As I’ve said many times before and believe just as strongly today: Abortion is the foundational human rights issue of our lifetime. It can’t be ignored or alibied away. We need to do everything we can to support the dignity of women, especially women with broken families or under heavy emotional and financial stress. Our commitment needs to be real, and more than just words. But we can’t do it at the cost of more than 50 million legalized killings since Roe v Wade. We can’t do it with corrupt verbal gymnastics that reduce an unborn child to a non-person and a thing. And we can’t claim to be concerned about “the poor” when we tolerate – and even fund — an abortion industry that kills the unborn children of poor people in disproportionate numbers, both here in the United States, and through government aid abroad.
    Working to give women the kind of material help they need so they can choose against abortion and for the life of their child is a good thing; a vital and necessary thing. But it’s not sufficient. It’s not a substitute for laws that protect developing unborn life – laws that restrict and one day end permissive abortion. Again, law teaches and forms, as well as regulates. It’s a moral exercise. It always embodies someone’s idea of what we ought or ought not to do. Obviously we can’t illegalize every sin and evil act in society. But we can at least try to stop killing the innocent, which is what every abortion involves.
    The abortion debate is important for another reason as well; one that’s less obvious but in a way just as troubling. The case for “reproductive rights” hinges on a politically pious and very American form of idolatry: the idolatry of choice, personal autonomy and an assertion of the self at the expense of others. This is ruinous for human community.
    Selfishness dressed up as individual freedom has always been part of American life. But now it infects the whole fabric of consumer society. American life is becoming a cycle of manufactured appetites, illusions and licenses that turns people in on themselves and away from each other. As communities of common belief and action dissolve, the state fills in the void they leave. And that suits a lot of us just fine, because if the government takes responsibility for the poor, we don’t have to.
    I’m using a broad brush here, obviously. In Catholic social thought, government has a legitimate role – sometimes a really crucial role — in addressing social problems that are too big and too serious to be handled by anyone else. But Jesus didn’t bless higher taxes, deficit spending and more food stamps, any more than he endorsed the free market.
    The way we lead our public lives needs to embody what the Catholic faith teaches — not what our personalized edition of Christianity feels comfortable with, but the real thing; the full package; what the Church actually holds to be true. In other words, we need to be Catholics first and political creatures second.”
    The more we transfer our passion for Jesus Christ to some political messiah or party platform, the more bitter we feel toward his Church when she speaks against the idols we set up in our own hearts. There’s no more damning moment in all of Scripture than John 19:15: “We have no king but Caesar.” The only king Christians have is Jesus Christ. The obligation to seek and serve the truth belongs to each of us personally. The duty to love and help our neighbor belongs to each of us personally. We can’t ignore or delegate away these personal duties to anyone else or any government agency.”

    From: ‘We have no king but Caesar:’ Some thoughts on Catholic faith and public life” by Archbishop Charles Chaput September 15, 2012

  6. We are in total agreement with Archbishop Charles Chaput’s position on the immorality of abortion. But that is not the issue which we have raised. This election is not a referendum on abortion. The question to be addressed is whether we are morally required, under pain of sin, to form our conscience on the issue of abortion alone. The Archbishop instructs us that “government has a legitimate role- sometimes a really crucial role-in addressing social problems that are too big and too serious to be handled by anyone else.” On that basis, are we not justified and morally required in the formation of a right conscience to consider, in addition to abortion, the issues of racial discrimination, militarism, the death penalty, the reformation of the tax code to accomplish a Christian distribution of wealth, and the promotion of the Christian preference for the poor? Was the Archbishop justified in asserting that anyone who votes for a candidate who supports abortion cannot receive communion? Was he also justified when he remarked, “If we don’t love the poor and do all that we can to improve their lot, we’re going to go to hell?” The Archbishop has certainly created a dilemma for conscientious Catholics. But the Bishops are also face with a dilemma. They really would prefer to definitively tell Catholics who to vote for, but stop short of doing so. They do not want the Church to lose its tax exemption. Perhaps they should also follow a well-informed conscience and name their candidate and accept the secular consequences. Of course that would not be prudent. On the other hand, would it be prudent for Catholice voters to form their conscience on abortion alone and abandon all their principled moral positions on other extremely important national and world issues? We will always be guided by the teaching authority of the Church, but we will only be judged by Christ. Christ preferred to be our brother-not our King. Hopefully, the days of the trials of St. Joan of Arc are over.

  7. From Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:

    #40:The consistent ethic of life provides a moral framework for principled Catholic
    engagement in political life and, rightly understood, neither treats all issues as
    morally equivalent nor reduces Catholic teaching to one or two issues. It anchors
    the Catholic commitment to defend human life, from conception until natural
    death, in the fundamental moral obligation to respect the dignity of every person as
    a child of God. It unites us as a “people of life and for life” (Evangelium Vitae, no. 6)
    pledged to build what Pope John Paul II called a “culture of life” (Evangelium
    Vitae, no. 77). This culture of life begins with the preeminent obligation to protect
    innocent life from direct attack and extends to defending life whenever it is
    threatened or diminished.

    #42As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single
    issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a
    single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the
    promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from
    receiving support.

    Blessed John Paul declared: “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf
    of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home,
    to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right
    to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition
    for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum
    determination. (Christifideles Laici, no. 38)
    We have in on the national ticket a candidate who supports and promotes abortion without any limitation, expanded embryonic stem cell research, supports same sex marriage and violates conscience and religious freedom through the HHS mandate requiring religious employers to pay for contraceptives including abortifacients through their insurance plans. How many intrinsic evils does it take to disqualify a candidate?

  8. We have no faith In Romney’s position on abortion:As a Mormon Bishop he opposed abortion; as a candidate for governor in a Democratic state, he supported abortion; as a candidate in the Republican primary he opposed abortion; as the presidential candidate,he opposed abortion with exceptions. Can anyone predict what his position will be as President? For that matter, the President has no part to play in an effort to amend the Constitution. Of course, he could try to pack the Supreme Court with those who pass a litmus test on abortion. Abortion will only be abolished when our Church and other communities convince a majority of their members to do so. In a Demoracy important changes cannot be made by fiat.

  9. Eucharistic consistency

    83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms (230). These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature (231). There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them (232). (Pope Benedict XVI Sacramentum Caritatis)

    I just checked the news this morning. Obama continues to press ahead with forcing religious institutions to include sterilization and contraceptives including those which work by causing abortion in their insurance plans. Bishop, John LeVoir, joined every bishop in the country in objecting to this. In his January 25th letter he said this:

    ” In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.”
    So, this is more than a referendum on abortion. It is a referendum on religious liberty.”

  10. The welfare state has been a disaster for Western civilization. It undermines the family and civil society by increasing dependence on government; it makes it politically impossible to reduce unnecessary spending; and it hinders economic growth by requiring high taxes. It’s also totally unnecessary. The U.S. became the most prosperous and charitable country in the history of the world when all the federal government did was deliver the mail.

  11. This will be our last comment in this exchange of views:(1)The article “Eucharistic Consistency” does not deal with the duties of the citizen voter but with the duties of elected office holders in the introduction and support of specific legislation. (2) Gov. Romney, as Governor of Mass. proposed legislation in support of the death penalty. Surely, the death penalty is an “intrinsic evil” by definition. Would a vote for the Governor by a Catholic justify withholding the Eucharist from that voter? (3)Rep. Ryan’s budget has been declared contrary to the moral criteria established by the USCCB (Bishops Blaire and Pates, April 16 and May 8, 2012). We share their view but we do not make ad hominem attacks upon Rep. Ryan, question his morality, urge that he be excommunicated, or support the withdrawal of the Eucharist. Catholics can come to different conclusions in the complex secular world of politics without demeaning each other. (4)The much abused concept of intrinsic evil ” does not provide a detailed blueprint for action” to resolve all moral issues in the political arena. One can easily identify an intrinsic evil but deciding upon a strategy to deal with them is something else again.” Prioritizing abortion does not finally determine how one should vote for a candidate. “Only the virtue of practical wisdom, enlightened by charity, can take us further.” M. Cathleen Kaveny Professor of Law and Theology, Notre Dame University, South Bend. (5) Again, the election of a President is not a referendum upon any one issue. It represents the will of the citizens to select a person who has multiple national and international issues of life-size importance affecting the well-being of of billions of people. On abortion, the principal remedy to render it illegal is a Constitutional amendment in which the President plays no constitutional part. Indeed, the rhetoric of some to prioritize and reduce the election to a refendum on abortion even fails to agree with Gov. Romney’s view. When asked by the Des Moines Register on October 9,2012 about his agenda as President he replied “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” (6) We believe that there are many Catholics who share the view that abortion is immoral and requires action to render it illegal constitutionally. (We are among them.) We must coalesce to construct a vehicle to amend the Constitution to achieve that goal. We believe that those who use this issue to drive a wedge between Catholics and their Church does not serve that purpose. The partisan politization of the issue and the threat to withhold the sacrament of the Eucharist to those who vote for Obama undermines that effort, no matter who wins.

  12. See Above

  13. This will be our last comment on this issue: (1) The article “Eucharistic Consistence” does not deal with the duties of the citizen voter but with the duties of elected officials in the introduction and support of specific legislation. (2) Governor Romney, as governor of Mass. proposed legislation in support of the death penalty. Surely, the death penalty is an “intrinsic evil” by definition. Would a vote for Romney by a Catholic voter justify withholding the Eucharist from that voter? (3) Rep. Ryan’s budget has been declared contrary to the moral criteria established by the USCCB (Bishops Blaire and Pate,April 16 and May 8, 2012). We share their view but we do not make ad hominen attacks upon Rep. Ryan’s morality, urge that he be excommunicated, or support the withdrawal of his participation in the Eucharist. Catholics can come to different conclusions in the complex world of of politics without demeanig each other. (4) The much abused concept of intrinsic evil ” does not provide a detailed blueprint for action ” to resolve all the moral issues contested in the political arena . One can easily identify an intrinsic evil , but “Deciding upon a strategy to deal with them is something else again.” Prioritizing abortion does not finally determine how one should vote for a candidate. “Only the virtue of practical wisdom, enlightened by charity, can take us further.” M. Cathleen Koveny, Professor of Law and Theology, Notre Dame University, South Bend. (5) Again, the election of a President is not a referendum on any one issue. It represents the will of the people , in a democratic society, to select a person who has multiple national and international life-size issues that affect the well-being of billions of people. On abortion, the principal remedy to render it illegal is a Constitutional amendment in which the President , according to the Constitution,plays no part. Indeed, the rhetoric of some to reduce the election to a decision on one issue alone, abortion, even fails to agree wiyh Gov. Romey’s view. When asked by the Des Moines Register on October 9, 2012 about his prsidential agenda he replied: “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” (6) We believe that there are many Catholics who share the view that abortion is immoral and requires action to render it illegal unconditionally. (We are among them.) We must coalesce to construct a vehicle to garner the support to amend the Constitution to achieve that goal. We believe that those who use this issue to drive a wedge betwilleen Catholics who agree on abortion will impede that effort. The partisan politization of abortion and the threat to willhold the sacrament of the Eucharist to those who vote for President Obama undermines that effort, no matter who wins.

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