A Poor Prince?
Another very interesting blog post from Father Ray Blake concerning, among other things, a poorer Church.
Whilst this is not the only interesting point Father makes, I would like here to write some reflections on this issue.
It seems to me that particularly after V II poverty has been vastly overrated, if not almost deified. Reading about the Church of the past I never got the impression that the Church feels the need to be poor, or that there be any particular grace in being poor. True, God's providence works with everything, and poverty can be an excellent way to grow in holiness; but in others, poverty will lead to degradation or outright revolt against God, so again there is no indication poverty is a blessing in itself.
Padre Pio did not treat his rich followers differently than the poor ones, nor did he consider them second-class followers. In all ages, pious people have used their riches to give us the massive monuments to Christianity that we find all over the Christian world. Even today, in many countries, an awful amount of the expenses of the Church is actually paid by the rich (I wish I remembered where I read here in the UK donations from wealthy individuals make 40% of the total income). Whilst everything can be a vehicle of God's grace, and God may use poverty and financial misfortune as a medicinal remedy, or even as a special sign of affection for those He loves – and whom He will allow to get, through their poverty, nearer to him – I don't think it can be said that poverty is desirable in itself. If it were so, Catholics would not seek to alleviate poverty, but would rather limit themselves to congratulate the poor for the blessing so copiously showered upon them from God; and the more starving, the better.
In fact, we see that the contrary happens: the poor is given the chance to grow in holiness through patience, perseverance in prayer, lack of envy for the rich, gratefulness for their help and useful activity to better his situation if he can; and the rich can grow in charity by helping the poor, using God's grace ad maiorem Dei gloriam, and grow in charity avoiding the sin of pride, loving the poor and the afflicted, and understanding wealth is, like every other grace, given to one so that he makes good use of it.
This is not the narrative I see too often around me, and which rather states the childish equivalence “poor, good” and “rich, bad”. In this I see the sin of envy that causes socialism, communism, and liberation theology, and that this envy is covered under a blanket of supposed pious feelings makes it the more odious.
I make a point of saying a prayer for every obviously rich man I see on the streets of Central London – you see a lot of Ferraris, and the like – in the same way as I pray for every one I see on a wheelchair or with an obvious disability; not because I think that the rich is more in need of prayers than I am, but because it helps me to understand that God's providence works in the rich and the poor alike, and I do not need to be despondent, much less envious, because others have infinitely more earthly goods than I have.
I know, the one or other can take some saint out of context and let him state that rich people go to hell, & Co;, but these generally colourful encouragements to embrace one's condition or use one's wealth properly can never be used to go against the univocal Church teaching on wealth, about which I have written in the past (the search function is your friend).
The mentality that wealth is “bad” unavoidably leads to the other mistake that the Church and Her components must, consequently, be poor. Again, it is not known to me this is the way the Church traditionally saw itself. Rome alone has several thousands churches all telling a different tale. Granted, it can be part of the rules of a religious order that its members be poor, but such rules do not extend to the order itself, nor to parish priests, much less to the Church as institution.
If you ask me, the Church must not only be rich, but she must be splendid. She must have beauty and splendour to honour God, and the financial muscle to intimidate her enemies; her priests and bishops should be always ready to suffer persecution and death for Christ, but they should also live, whenever possible, in a way at least proportionate to the dignity of their office; if they have special powers and responsibilities, their outward appearance, residence, transport and general way of life should reflect their special role.
Modern bishops don't want to live in palaces, but they would also not be able to justify, with their Christian zeal, their living there. Their modesty is the modesty of the mediocre, and their simplicity the somplicity of the philistine who doesn't know beauty, and therefore thinks doing without it is no big deal; it's the modesty of the one who refuses the fine wine, because his horizon does not go beyond Pepsi. Many agree with such bishops, and with the Pepsi mentality.
Of course such people don't understand why the Church should be rich and splendid and powerful: they would want the Church to be as mediocre and little as they are. Of course they want the bishop to drive a Ford Focus and live in an apartment: they would be envious if he had a Mercedes S-Class and lived in a palace. Of course they want the Church to “sell her treasures”: they will never understand their beauty.
There is nothing wrong with a Prince of the Church living in a palace, provided he is a true Prince of the Church. Princes are not called to be poor. But they are called to be true Princes of the Only Church, rather than caricatures of social workers desperate for approval.
Give me a strong Bishop, truly committed to Christ, truly ready to fight the fight. I will, with many others, make some sacrifices so that he can have the palace and the S-Class Mercedes, the cooks and the servants, the glory and the splendour of the Only Church.
Posted on August 15, 2013, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged Doctrine of Wealth, Envy, Liberation Theology, Pius XII, Vatican II. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.