Unless our lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount are no longer valid, the present emphasis of the Church on poverty is a contradiction to his teachings. The problem is just that simple, and just that complicated.
World poverty and hunger are tragedies beyond description. In Biafra and India lives are wasting away through starvation and malnutrition; we all have seen on our TV screens the shriveled limbs and bloated bellies of their victims.
Poverty in America is a stark reality for many, but now that it has become a political issue there is grave danger that its alleviation will become motivated by other than compassion, and its victims will be pawns in a sociological experiment that can cost billions in waste and bureaucratic management while it destroys initiative and breeds dependence on others.
No one questions the compassionate motive that has prompted many Christians to go “all out” to abolish poverty. But one can seriously question the wisdom of the Church in aligning itself with the government in programs aimed solely at giving material aid.
A physician will use all speed to give an injection of Demerol or some other pain-relieving medicine to a patient in the throes of kidney colic. But he does not stop there; X-rays confirm the diagnosis; rest, relaxants, heat are used; and often there must be surgery and removal of the stone.
If the Church concurs with the findings of experts that poverty can be eradicated by education, better housing, jobs, and a guaranteed minimum income, it has surely turned its back on the solution God offers to all men, and in so doing is compounding rather than solving the problem.
I do not question the responsibility of the government to face up to the fact of poverty and its relief. And I ...1
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