Friday, March 5, 2010

God and Mammon: Preferential Option for the Poor Redux

Rebel Girl doesn't know what to think when the Catholic hierarchy starts to sound like Leonardo Boff.

First there's the Holy Father's general intention for March 2010: "That the world economy may be managed according to the principles of justice and equity, taking account of the real needs of peoples, especially the poorest." Isn't that what preferential option for the poor is on a practical level? (Incidentally, clicking on that link will give you the Holy Father's intentions through December 2011, proving that our hierarchy is also into advanced planning...)

Ane then the Pope openly praises the Brazilian Church's 2010 Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign whose theme is "You cannot serve God and Mammon: Economy and Life", saying that they "have decided to unite their forces to reconcile people with God and to help them free themselves from slavery to money." "Slavery to money"? Betcha you never thought you'd hear that expression come from the Vatican. The campaign has produced a basic text which offers an analysis of the major issues of economic inequality from a faith perspective, as well as a prayer which we have reprinted below. The campaign also has its own catchy hymn (see video below).

Finally, as I was exploring the Brazilian Bishops Conference Web site -- and also having in mind the question a viewer asked on the Church's position on the controversial proposed Belo Monte hydroelectric plant -- I found the bishops' position...and it is remarkably similar to Leonardo Boff's. The bishops say: "We can not support processes that threaten the lives of traditional communities and other inhabitants of the region and attack, disrespect and destroy the environment." And they call for the project to be suspended until these communities can be heard from and the environmental impact studied more thoroughly.

Well, the most cynical might see all this as just rank hypocrisy, but we want to give credit where credit is due and it sure beats the traditional quiet acquiescent complicity with economic injustice and environmental depredation in order not to potentially upset wealthy donors. We'll take it as a sign of hope...

Ó Deus criador, do qual tudo nos vem,
nós te louvamos pela beleza e perfeição de tudo
que existe como dádiva gratuita para a vida.
Nesta Campanha da Fraternidade Ecumênica,
acolhemos a graça da unidade e da convivência fraterna,
aprendendo a ser fi éis ao Evangelho.
Ilumina, ó Deus, nossas mentes para compreender que
a boa nova que vem de ti é amor, compromisso
e partilha entre todos nós, teus fi lhos e fi lhas.
Reconhecemos nossos pecados de omissão
diante das injustiças que causam exclusão social e miséria.
Pedimos por todas as pessoas que trabalham
na promoção do bem comum e na condução
de uma economia a serviço da vida.
Guiados pelo teu Espírito, queremos viver o serviço
e a comunhão, promovendo uma economia
fraterna e solidária, para que a nossa sociedade
acolha a vinda do teu Reino.
Por Cristo, nosso Senhor. Amém.

O Creator God, from whom everything comes to us,
we praise You for the beauty and perfection of all
that exists as a free gift for life.
In this Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign,
we welcome the grace of unity and fellowship,
learning to be faithful to the Gospel.
Enlighten, O God, our minds to understand that
the good news that comes from You is love, commitment
and sharing among all of us, Your sons and daughters.
We recognize our sins of omission,
the injustices that cause social exclusion and poverty.
We pray for all those working
to promote the common good and lead us towards
an economy at the service of life.
Guided by Your Spirit, we want to serve
and be in communion, promoting an economy of
brotherhood and solidarity, so that our society
will welcome the coming of Your Kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


  1. It is very encouraging to hear words from church leaders that reflect the option for the poor. However, I think we need to be very careful in assessing the real meaning of what is said.

    The Pope has said great things - but what about the treatment of theologians like Jon Sobrino, a priest really committed to the poor. One might also look to the very impressive words of Cardinal Rodriguez of Honduras but then examine his position on the coup and on other issues.

    There is an option for the poor that is connected to what Pablo Richard might call "Christendom" and there's the option for the poor that comes from liberating action at the base, that empowers the poor - or, rather, lets the poor discover their power and wisdom.

    I think what I'm trying ot refer to is the difference between the US bishops' and Father Brian Hehir's approach to poverty and economic issues - really good positions and Fr. Hehir is close to being a saint- and the position of the Catholic Worker and Fr. Michael Baxter.

    When push comes to shove - when prophetic words and actions are called for - where will the church be? Will it be with Romero - willing to take risks? Or will it give in to working with the power elites to try to change things from above?

    It seems that the Brazilian bishops may be much more willing to take risks.
    These are important questions that we need to debate - and then live out in practice.

  2. I agree with just about everything you say, Hermano Juancito, except the saintliness of Fr. Brian Hehir. He was the guy in charge when Catholic Charities in Boston decided to get out of the adoption/foster care business rather than comply with state regs requiring the agency to give consideration to gay couples as adoptive parents. At that point, I removed Fr. Hehir from my personal list of living saints.

    But on the main point, of course, you are right: words are not enough. As one of my friends responded when told about the Pope's March intention: "So when is he going to leave his palace and give up wearing designer shoes?"

  3. I didn't now about Fr. Hehir's role in Catholic Charities in Boston.