Redemptoris Missio 59bc: Addressing Poverty

The poverty we against which we struggle is not just a material lack:

The contribution of the Church and of evangelization to the development of peoples concerns not only the struggle against material poverty and underdevelopment in the South of the world, but also concerns the North, which is prone to a moral and spiritual poverty caused by “overdevelopment.”(Cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis 28)

1990 was before the so-called prosperity gospel became a meme, but the criticism of the approach is here, nonetheless:

A certain way of thinking, uninfluenced by a religious outlook and widespread in some parts of today’s world, is based on the idea that increasing wealth and the promotion of economic and technical growth is enough for people to develop on the human level. But a soulless development cannot suffice for human beings, and an excess of affluence is as harmful as excessive poverty. This is a “development model” which the North has constructed and is now spreading to the South, where a sense of religion as well as human values are in danger of being overwhelmed by a wave of consumerism.

It is a sad truth that consumerism has found its way too deeply into Christianity. Terms, models, characteristics of the business world, deemed to be successful, are adopted into the Church, and not just in terms of institutional investments. There is a vector that works against this, sometimes even in direct opposition:

“Fight hunger by changing your lifestyle” is a motto which has appeared in Church circles and which shows the people of the rich nations how to become brothers and sisters of the poor. We need to turn to a more austere way of life which will favor a new model of development that gives attention to ethical and religious values.

A word of optimism from Pope Paul VI:

To the poor, missionary activity brings light and an impulse toward true development, while a new evangelization ought to create among the wealthy a realization that the time has arrived for them to become true brothers and sisters of the poor through the conversion of all to an “integral development” open to the Absolute.(Cf. ibid., Chapter IV, 27-34; Populorum Progressio, 19-21, 41-42)

This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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