St John Paul rather channels his successor a third of a century before today’s outcry against the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. Here in the States, it will be interesting to see how the candidacy of Mr Trump, who nearly tops the one percent, will progress.
All this is happening against the background of the gigantic remorse caused by the fact that, side by side with wealthy and surfeited people and societies, living in plenty and ruled by consumerism and pleasure, the same human family contains individuals and groups that are suffering from hunger. There are babies dying of hunger under their mothers’ eyes. In various parts of the world, in various socio-economic systems, there exist entire areas of poverty, shortage and underdevelopment. This fact is universally known.
Universally known, but largely ignored. Hunger is not a problem of production, or even of error or stupidity on the part of the poor. It is part of the politics of distribution. And when the wealthy receive their overly-large share, the wheels of sharing largely come to a halt, as a cynic might suggest.
The state of inequality between individuals and between nations not only still exists; it is increasing. It still happens that side by side with those who are wealthy and living in plenty there exist those who are living in want, suffering misery and often actually dying of hunger; and their number reaches tens, even hundreds of millions. This is why moral uneasiness is destined to become even more acute. It is obvious that a fundamental defect, or rather a series of defects, indeed a defective machinery is at the root of contemporary economics and materialistic civilization, which does not allow the human family to break free from such radically unjust situations.
We have not really addressed this issue, as stated in this encyclical. People, many but not all, have been content to let things continue, and hope for better days.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana