February 16, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Submit a letter to the editor electronically | For our letter writing policy, click here


We must follow Christ’s example where poverty is concerned

I’m confused as to why The Criteron would publish such an embittered letter to the editor in the Feb. 9 issue that completely misrepresents the state of poverty in our country, implies that the poor are their own worst enemies and, as a result, apparently exempts those who are not poor from embracing the preferential love for the poor that Church doctrine requires.

The letter writer is certainly uninformed of the brutal, grinding poverty that existed in this country—that utterly degraded the value of the poor’s life here—prior to the implementation of the Great Society programs he criticizes as being failures. These programs are far from perfect and are probably outdated, but there’s no denying that poverty is now qualitatively and quantitatively much different in our country because of them.

The letter writer might also want to consider that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, fewer than one-third of the poor in this country are unemployed adults. More than 40 percent of these shiftless masses—who, according to the letter writer, are responsible for their own poverty—are actually children under the age of 18 or adults over the age of 65, those who are either unable to work or find that, after a lifetime of work, their pensions and Social Security checks are unable to afford them the minimum means for a dignified and secure life.

Perhaps the greatest insult is left for the 9.3 million working adults who also find themselves in conditions of poverty despite their best efforts.

The letter writer also seems to have forgotten that Christ himself was born into a poor family, among those who, by the letter writer’s definition, are unable to practice the virtues of chastity, temperance and diligence. That’s quite an unfamiliar image of the Holy Family.

The letter writer seems to have further forgotten that Christ spent a large part of his life ministering to the poor and, through his Beatitudes, gave us an eloquent and undeniable charge to continue that ministry.

The Church cares about poverty not so much because of their material want, but because it recognizes that those material wants can act as obstacles to hearing and accepting Christ’s message of salvation.

According to Church teaching on social justice, when we attend to the needs of those in want, we’re actually giving them what is theirs, not ours, so that, more than performing works of mercy, we are really paying a debt of justice.

Christ’s poverty, his ministry to the poor, the Beatitudes, the history of the Church’s service to the poor and its teachings on social justice, the corporal acts of mercy and preferential love for the poor all compel us to do more than simply blame the poor for their own situation.

The doctrine of personal responsibility that underlies the letter writer’s views is at best a half-truth and is, therefore, a false doctrine.

As much as Church teaching admonishes the poor to take responsibility for their own lives, and as much as public policy should encourage that sense of responsibility, the mandate that Christ gave us to support the poor is not conditional on whether they actually do.

-Frank Z. Riely, Jr., New Albany

Reader is happy to see bishops do not support illegal immigration

After reading the Feb. 2 issue of The Criterion, I decided to comment regarding the letter to the editor that addressed immigration.

I appreciated the editor’s note regarding illegal immigration. It is very comforting to know that Indiana’s bishops do not support illegal immigration.

This is the most sensible statement in the article.

-Dorothy Sisson, Brownsburg

Local site Links: