Catholic doctrine teaches that both poverty and wealth are means that can serve to reach our main goal, which is eternal salvation.
For this reason, the Church does not condemn the fact of being rich or poor, but only people’s attachment to riches and contempt of poverty, attitudes at odds with the first Commandment of God’s Law: “Love the Lord thy God above all things.”
However, the Church does encourage the proper use of earthly goods to serve oneself and others. Our Divine Savior teaches us: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Lk 12:31). This teaches that “all these things” (wealth, health, beauty, etc.) are good when they obtained because of “seeking the Kingdom of God.”
That is why the Church has never promoted poverty as an ideal for all to practice. On the contrary, she always considered poverty as an exceptional ideal reserved for the few called for greater perfection in the religious state.
Furthermore, according to the traditional doctrine of the Church, all Catholics must seek the necessary means to assure their subsistence and that of their family using their ingenuity and willpower.
That obligation and possibility are not limited to subsistence. Every person, according to his or her capacity, and using honest means, can legitimately obtain self-sufficiency, comfort, and even luxury when ordained to holiness, their ultimate end.
The Church, Mother and Teacher, gives us an admirable example of these truths with her own existence. She has splendid cathedrals, sumptuous abbeys, magnificent vestments for celebrating the liturgy, and at the same time praises the ideal of poverty and total renunciation of earthly goods for those wishing to practice it voluntarily.
Those who choose the ideal of poverty are not thereby promoting a “pauperist” ideal of life. On the contrary, everyone knows how men and women religious produce many of the most delicate liquors such as Bénédictine, beer, and famous cheeses such as the camembert, many developed in convents.
A reader could say that we are wasting our time recalling obvious truths known to all Catholics.
Unfortunately, that is not true. Theologians billeted inside the Church under the false name of “progressives” are denying these truths, which until recently were obvious and beyond discussion. Poverty, they argue, is the ideal that the entire society must practice as if it were a Gospel beatitude.
Curiously, in so doing, “progressives” oppose any material progress; for them, any scientific advance is an attack on the original ideal of poverty. Accordingly, they preach a return to the primitive life of the most backward peoples.
This preaching has contaminated the editors of the Amazon Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris, who now indicate the uncivilized indigenous lifestyle as an ideal to be imitated by all Catholics. That is what they call the “Amazonization of the Church.”
Faced with this preaching, which many ecclesiastics who stay away from the “progressive” choir consider utopian and romantic, we need to get to know well the lifestyle, life expectancy, and deficiencies that Amazonian peoples suffer even as those theologians propose them as an ideal for everyone else.
Let us draw some information from the UN report titled “State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples,” produced by the Secretariat of its Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and disseminated simultaneously in Rio de Janeiro, New York, Brussels, Canberra, Manila , Mexico, Moscow, Pretoria, and Bogotá in January 2010.[i]
A High Percentage of Extreme Poverty
According to the UN report, “One third of the world’s 900 million people living in extreme poverty are indigenous.”
The same document points out that “in the Latin American region, indigenous poverty rates are always higher than those of the rest of society: in Paraguay, it is 7.9 times higher; in Panama, 5.9 times higher; in Mexico, 3.3 times higher; and in Guatemala, 2.8 times higher.”
In Brazil, “About 285,000 (38%) of the 750,000 Indigenous – 2000 Census figures – live in extreme poverty.”
It is not surprising then, that according to the same report the life expectancy rates among members of indigenous peoples living in extreme poverty are substantially lower than in non-indigenous populations: “Indigenous peoples live less than the average population. Australia – 20 years younger; Nepal: 20 years younger; Canada: 17 years younger; Guatemala: 13 years younger; New Zealand – 11 years younger; Panama – 10 years less, and Mexico – 6 years less.”
The study also notes that infant mortality is 70% higher in the indigenous communities of Latin American countries compared to the rest of the population in these countries.
Malnutrition is another obstacle highlighted in the document. It is “twice as common in indigenous children as in non-indigenous children. In Honduras, 95% of children under 14-years suffer from the problem. … The study shows that Indians have disproportionately high levels of infant and maternal mortality, malnutrition, cardiovascular diseases, HIV, among others, such as malaria and tuberculosis.”
The UN reveals that, “between 2000 and 2005, the suicide rate among Guaraní Indians was 19 times higher than the Brazilian average.”
Other sad conditions affect the indigenous peoples such as illiteracy, a lack of minimum hygiene, complete absence of medical care, etc.
Given this incontrovertible reality, how can indigenist neo-missionaries present this situation of misery as an ideal for all nations to practice, and the Instrumentum Laboris present poverty to these suffering peoples as a “theological place” and the height of a new “revelation”?
It is no wonder that a great connoisseur of the situation of Amazonian peoples such as Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, states: “I am surprised by the optimistic vision and almost utopian appreciation with which the first part of the text [of the Instrumentum Laboris] presents the indigenous population of the Amazon.” “[This] idealistic anthropology of ‘native peoples’ is a far cry from Catholic anthropology.”
To conclude, we must reject the utopias of ecclesiastics who promote poverty and misery as an ideal for all, and especially because they often come from one of the world’s richest churches: the one in Germany.
It is easy to preach poverty when living in wealth.