onsdag 7 juli 2010

Condoms and Catholics

The Archbishop of Westminster was recently interviewed about the church's attitude to condoms, in particular, in relationship to HIV in third world countries. The church's position is difficult to defend. I am not going to comment on this, because there there is another issue behind it. Poverty. That is why there are so many prostitutes in some countries, and that is the principal mechanism through which HIV is spread. There is major economic injustice, institutionalised. That is the greater sin.

And what does the church say and do about poverty? Very little. It is seen primarily as an issue of charity hand-outs.

The church preached quite rightly against the evils of communism but with a few honourable exceptions has always supported the ruling unjust economic structures. The Social Teaching encyclicals are good as far as they go, but they fail to spell the situation out as clearly as they might. In fact, it is hard work to extract anything solid out of them that could be used as the basis to develop policies that were in accord with economic justice. The most recent one, Caritas in Veritatis, certainly points in the right direction but there is a need to be more explicit. And the laity seem to prefer to focus on issues to do with sexual morality that seem easier to get to grips with.

The fundamental cause of poverty everywhere is one and the same - landlessness. The landless have no option but to work for whatever wages a landowner will offer them, or else pay rent to the landowner for the privilege of working on the land. And who made this land? God made it.

Now when has the church spelled this out plainly? And why not? A clue was revealed a few days ago. The church has substantial property empires which are used to support various activities. And so it has vested interest in protecting its revenue stream.

Last Sunday's readings were about missionaries being sent out with little more than the clothes on their back. Isn't it time we returned to this model and divested ourselves of property empires so that we were free to preach the truth about economics?

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