Poverty is too Complex to Simply Blame it on the Poor
What do people think the reasons for poverty are? The results split along religious lines in a surprising way.
Christians were much more likely than non-Christians to believe that the reason a person is poor is a lack of effort on their part rather than because of difficult circumstances beyond their control. And among Catholics polled, 50 percent blamed lack of effort while 45 percent blamed circumstances.
It’s Not the Gospel to blame the poor for their own mess
Those numbers seem out of tune with Christ’s message that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” If we accept the notion that the only barrier keeping people in poverty is a lack of effort, it can be too easy to turn our back on our call as followers of Christ who came to us “to bring glad tidings to the poor” and abandon those in poverty. It would clash with the gospel message to conclude that the poor got themselves into this mess, so they can get themselves out.
If we accept the notion that the only barrier keeping people in poverty is a lack of effort, it can be too easy to turn our back on our call as followers of Christ who came to us “to bring glad tidings to the poor” and abandon those in poverty.
It would clash with the Gospel message to conclude that the poor got themselves into this mess, so they can get themselves out.
God Loves us, We Must Love Each other
Christ and his church are calling us constantly to care for the poor, to have a preferential option for the poor. That is at the core of Catholic social teaching. For just as God loves us, we must love one another.
And to love one another, we must understand one another. It seems hard-headed to ignore that there are complicated, systemic issues that create obstacles in the path out of poverty.
We all recognise that a good education can be a ladder out of poverty. And we also recognise that too often the poorest performing schools are in poor neighbourhoods, where the resources so many of us take for granted are unavailable to the schools or the families they serve.
Our Culture Undervalues Family
It’s no secret that one of the best anti-poverty programs is growing up in a family headed by two parents in a committed relationship. But as our culture continues to undervalue the family and its contributions to a healthy and stable society, we see too many single parents trapped in poverty, struggling alone to take care of their children. All too often it is a struggle that is passed from one generation to the next.
A health crisis can send a family spiralling into poverty, overwhelmed by the cost – both financial and emotional – of caring for a loved one battling a serious illness or a catastrophic injury.
If a person doesn’t have the job skills needed to compete in our ever more technological economy, they can be left behind.
The Church is in the Thick of It
The Catholic Church is working every day, in every corner of the globe, to help alleviate the conditions that breed poverty by giving people the tools to change their lives.
And that’s just the work of Catholic Charities. Our schools, our parishes, our ministries are also at the peripheries, as Pope Francis has urged us, to help those in need. And we do all this because of the dignity that is inherent in every human being, bestowed on them by God.
Each of us an invaluable member of the human family and a child of God. When we show our love for the poor, we show the love of Jesus Christ. For in Christ’s love, all people can find hope, which is the greatest tool to help people out of poverty.
– Tennessee Register, diocesan newspaper of Nashville.
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