Is the Church in Ireland silent on the extreme inequality in our land?
An extreme example of inequality has been in the media in the past few days of March. A conference on fuel poverty in Dublin on 11 and 12 March 2013 heard that fuel poverty was the cause of the deaths of about 1,200 more people in Ireland last winter. The previous day, the Sunday Independent reported that the 300 wealthiest Irish people saw their wealth grow almost 6.3% (3.9bn) last year, to a net worth of more than €66 bn.
Where is the outrage at this extreme inequality?
The Constitution of the ACP includes the following:
‘Giving an opportunity for Irish priests to engage pro-actively with the crucial debates taking place in Irish society’
‘recognition that Church and State are separate and that while the Church must preach the message of the Gospel and try to live it authentically, the State has the task of enacting laws for all its citizens‘.
A crucial debate for Irish society is the question of social justice in the current economic situation. The voices of those in authority in the Church seem to be almost invisible. Some of this may be because the media choose to focus on other church matters; some may be because there is little to report.
On 21 January, Cardinal Brady and other representatives of the Catholic church met the Taoiseach and other members of the government. The report of the meeting on the website of the Catholic bishops (http://www.catholicbishops.ie/2013/01/21/cardinal-brady-leads-delegation-church-state-structured-dialogue-meeting-taoiseach-enda-kenny-ministers/) just mentions, among other items, that there was discussion of “the national economy” and “justice and peace issues specifically on poverty and social need”. In December 2011 the bishops issued a document about the budget. I can find nothing on their website on the topic in 2012.
SocialJustice Ireland (www.socialjustice.ie) seem to be a lone voice in the matter, with consistent skilled and detailed analysis, and yet nobody in authority seems to pay any practical heed to what they say.
It is not that wealth itself is sinful, but this inequality cannot be just or Christian.
The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, said in London on 11 March: “Too often, where trust and indeed truth is missing, decisions are not the way they should be”. In my view, Ireland, and the EU, have not been fully truthful about the management of the economic situation; and our goverment, however successful IMF Chief Christine Lagarde considers them, have acted in a way which aggravates inequality and injustice.
I know little about economics; I can only observe what happens and read what others write. Is there a way that some ACP members can undertake a public profile on this unChristian situation? I have written to all our TDs and Senators about the matter in recent months. The silence is deafening. Perhaps what I say is not the truth? Or perhaps we need to find another way to shock those in authority in State and Church?
Do you know what we in the ACP could do? Can we support and reinforce the work of SocialJustice Ireland?
Pádraig McCarthy, Dublin.
Well, if every priest in the world had listened to Pope Benedict and ushered in the “new list of seven deadly social sins”, the world may not be in the state its in right now. See, when the Pope declares that extreme wealth, which is crippling the world right now, is a “sin”, that usually means that the legions of priests in the world have the duty to support the work of such organizations like SocialJusticeIreland and Greenpeace and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, to name a few. The silence certainly is deafening…
And don’t believe anything you read about the economic situation. It boils down to one thing : those who “have” are hoarding right now. They are not investing money locally. Local investment invigorates the economy. The world has bought into an “offshore” investment fund which creates more disparity among the rich and the poor by centralizing investment in areas where profit margins are high due to poor wages among the masses (i.e. China and Bangladesh). I recommend “Caritas in Veritate” which is a good read. Remember, spreading the word is one thing – combating evil in all its forms is another. Unregulated exploitation of the world’s resources (wealth being one of them) is about as evil as it gets.
I like this snippet about one of those capable of being elected Pope, from John L. Allen Jr. quoting Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras:
Rodriguez has represented the Holy See to both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, charging that “neo-liberal capitalism carries injustice and inequality in its genetic code.” Yet critics sometimes whisper that his good intentions are not matched by command of the nuts and bolts of economic policy.
In 2006, Rodriguez responded to such criticism.
“We’re not Noble Prize winners in economics,” he said of socially engaged Catholics, “but we know humanity, and much of the time that’s enough.”
A well written and timely article with a new pope just having been elected.
The Vatican is very guilty of having huge wealth of billions and billions and none of it by work that they have done themselves. The Vatican pay no tax to anyone. Having huge wealth may not be a ‘sin’ but it’s morally wrong to have so much more than one needs because others suffer as a result. To make others suffer when you are in a position to alleviate their suffering must be a sin.
The Church should stop pretending it has any interest in the poor or in justice.
Hypocrisy is the greatest sin of all in my book.
We’ve been making such a fuss lately about the silence and lack of transparency of our bishops in these islands, just because they’ve chosen to follow established procedure through the usual channels, that I think maybe we should be hammering them for their genuinely culpable silence and transparency deficit on matters of greater urgency for those who have always inhabited the margins, and for those who may have always been near the periphery but who never dreamt they could fall over the edge so easily. For them the “hot button issues” have rarely stemmed from ‘Humanae Vitae’, much less from their inalienable rights to same-sex marriage. Life is a bit more basic than that.
Fair play to Vincent Nichols over here. Instead of using his Red Hat week to hide behind the frills of pomp and ceremony, he tore into Cameron and the Coalition about what they have done, in the name of a “moral mission”, to the safety net on which so many depend.
Pace Cameron’s squeals of protest, hard on Vincent’s heels has come a letter from 27 Anglican bishops and 16 other Christian leaders demanding action from the same Coalition government on poverty and hunger.
Has Cardinal Seán Brady or either of the Archbishops Martin been making Kenny, Gilmore and the rest of their Coalition, or the Robinson-McGuinness executive,even a teeny weeny bit uncomfortable over the past 18 months, say? Or do they say, sure we have Peter McVerry to man the food banks and soup kitchens : why keep a dog and bark yourself?
The fact is Vincent Nichols and the 43 Christian leaders who followed his lead today are saying nothing more than Pádraig McCarthy wrote above on the day the Conclave opened (or rather ‘conclaved’) a year ago. But we were all a bit too taken up with the ‘papabili’ and their chances to let our thoughts get distracted by the nitty gritty of Justice and Peace. Pádraig had argued the case even more cogently three months earlier on this site: “Is the Budget a topic for a Homily on the Good News?” (15 Dec 2012).
Did the Irish Bishops or even their Council for Justice & Peace take a blind bit of notice? Did Leadership or members of the ACP accept any of Pádraig’s challenges? Did we? As Ian said: “NEVER! NEVER! NEVER!” Kenny, Gilmore, Noonan, Burton, Robinson, McGuinness and Nelson McCausland can all sleep easily in one another’s arms. Both we and the Irish Bishops have more pressing things to discuss.