Sunday, March 17, 2013

Who are the Poor, Pope Francis?

Many people are excited about Pope Francis' commitment to poverty.

But that raises the question: who exactly are the poor?

It is still largely politically incorrect to ascribe poverty in the West to people's poor lifestyle choices.

Promiscuity, drug use, family breakdown, over-spending, these-- more often than not-- are the sources of chronic poverty.

There are people who are the victims of circumstance: the handicapped, the mentally ill, those who lose their jobs, those who suffer through natural disasters, etc.

There are people who are poor through no fault of their own. But most able-bodied people who suffer economic adversity do manage to get back on their feet.

Which suggests that, when it comes to chronic poverty among the able-bodied, it's usually the product of their own choices.

So the question becomes: do the poor deserve sympathy for their poverty when it's self-inflicted?

Should they be helped if we can predict they will waste their help?

Is there a point at which there is too much help?

Is the State obligated to help if private means are sufficient?

I raise these points because I know that Pope Francis' commitment to poverty will be a stick with which the left will use to beat the right with. They will accuse faithful right-wing Catholics of neglecting the poor for opposing the Welfare State.

I hope that Pope Francis can set us all straight about who is genuinely poor, who deserves help, what help they should get, and what Catholics are obligated to do for the poor, and what is a matter of discussion.

It seems that much of Catholic social thought is rooted in an age before widespread drug use, promiscuity and family breakdown. I think it needs an update.