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.