January is Poverty Awareness Month. To help raise awareness among Catholics of poverty and its underlying issues, USCCB has updated its website, www.PovertyUSA.org, and launched a Spanish counterpart, www.PobrezaUSA.org. Our blog is also running a series of posts by guest bloggers reflecting on poverty in our country and the world today. Today’s post is by Monsignor Charles Pope.
The Church needs both wings to fly, to be credible, biblical and authentic. I live for the day when those passionate in either wing will come to esteem the work of the other, grateful that some engage in caring for the poor, so others can engage in protecting the unborn, that some are engaging the life issues, so others can engage the critical needs of the poor, the imprisoned, the marginalized and those isolated by poverty, mental health, disability, and other struggles. When both wings work together, the church soars.
Both wings, both battles are essential. They are really one battle for human dignity. The Church has an obligation to proclaim the Good News and Kingdom of God in all aspects. We must, as St. Paul says, “proclaim the whole counsel of God.” And thus we need each other, we need the two wings.
More than ever the poor, the needy, the unborn, our families, our youth and all who are vulnerable in any way need and deserve our Catholic unity, need the whole counsel of God. We cannot allow politics and ideology to go on dividing us and turning us against one another.
Poverty involves complexity, and reasonable men and women differ on the most effective solutions. But here too, the poor need our unity, not our squabbling. Catholic solutions admit of diversity and transcend political categories. We need more willingness in the “wings” to surrender our cynicism and accept that we all want the same thing: that the Kingdom of God be advanced.
I have spent my nearly 25 years as a priest in African American parishes and many of my parishioners would be clear advocates of vigorous government involvement as a solution to poverty. Many can personally attest that it was largely the federal government that served to protect their rights and provide them opportunities for economic advancement in the last 60 years.
I also serve the Traditional Latin Mass community, which tends (along with many who read my blog), to be troubled by what they see as excessive federal involvement in solutions to poverty. They point to the decline in the family structure in poorer black and minority sectors and to the impersonal nature of government that robs the poor of dignity and responsibility and creates a growing “permanent underclass.”
Both insights are important, and a truly Catholic solution will seek to weave together broad-based solidarity with the poor that includes public, private and ecclesial partnerships.
Subsidiarity does not mean there is no government or federal involvement. But it does encourage us to craft solutions that engage the local level vigorously and involve the poor directly in solutions. It also insists on a growing sense of personal responsibility that the poor must have in their own advancement, and that we are all to have in the care of the poor persons we personally know.
The Church needs two wings to fly. The poor and vulnerable need our unity and are gravely harmed by our divisions and squabbling. Two wings: life and family, love for the poor and hunger for justice. Two wings to fly, but one heart that unites the love of God and neighbor.
Monsignor Charles Pope is pastor at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish in Washington and blogs for the archdiocese and Our Sunday Visitor.