Sunday, 4 April 2010


Surely for all people of goodwill, and for Christians especially, the growing gap between the rich and the poor is a scandal that screams out for justice.  We are presented, as Benedict XVI has said in Caritas in Veritate, “with choices that cannot be postponed concerning nothing less than the destiny of man” (n. 21). The gap between the rich and poor is not an act of nature, like the weather, something we can complain about, but cannot effectively change.  Our DNA does not include a rich or poor gene.  Wealth and poverty are created by human actions and structures; they reflect the choices we make, as individuals and collectively as citizens, and the choices made by those who came before us, the results of which we simply inherit.

However, it is not merely “the cries of the poor” that call out for God’s justice.  Equally troublesome is the excesses of consumerism and the “overabundance” of the affluent; the modern-day idolatry that drives markets and motivates individuals and businesses, blinding them to the suffering of the poor and to their own spiritual suffering.  Consumerism is a futile attempt to fill our natural longing for the infinite with an infinite amount of what is finite.  We substitute fast cars, expensive clothing and large houses for a deep relationship with God.  As physical beings we have natural needs which are satisfied by natural things: thirst (water); hunger (food); protection from the elements (shelter).  All of these needs are easily satiated.  What we perceive as a longing for more things, more money, more of everything, is really our longing for God displaced onto the material world.  

[Based on an extract from the booklet Rich and Poor, by Charles Clark and Sr Helen Alford, the latest in the Catholic Social Teaching series from CTS.]

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