Recently, Pope Francis issued forth the apostolic exhortation Evanellii Gaudium, which has set forth his vision on the direction that he wants the Roman Catholic Church to take during his papacy. In his exhortation, Pope Francis urges Roman Catholics and all Christians to be more involved in helping the poor and it offers a stinging critique of the flaws of the capitalist system. This critique has drawn the ire of many American conservatives, who point out that the free market system has produced great economic growth that has lifted large segments of the world population out of poverty and has produced many technological advancements. Pope Francis points out though that this same economic system is brutal to those who are left out of the economic growth. Those that are left behind are trapped in a cycle of poverty that destroys the spirit and leaves many of the poor struggling to maintain their dignity. Unfettered free market economic systems cause vast inequalities where wealth is concentrated on a small group of people. Pope Francis’s critique of the capitalist system is not a new teaching that Francis is introducing to the Church. A critique of capitalism’s flaws has been an integral part of Catholic Church teaching since the encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891. This inspired a cartoon I did for the December 4, 2013 edition of the Philippines Today.
Ever since Pope Leo XIII issued the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891, subsequent Popes have been consistently critical of the capitalist system’s flaws. Rerum Novarum advocated the organization of workers into unions or guilds, the right of a “just wage”, the right of private property, and the obligation of the government to intervene for the “public good”.
Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, issued in 1931, stated that the right of property must be subordinate to the common good and it delineated the idea of subsidiary, the idea that a greater and higher association should not do what a lesser and subordinate organization is able to do. Pope John XIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra, issued in 1961, asks Christians to join in the fight for social justice as enumerated by Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, issued in 1967, focused on the responsibilities of former colonial powers to its former colonies, the need of the state to help the poor, and called for a more equitable relationship between industry and labor. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens, issued in 1981, extolled work as dignifying people and was concerned on how workers would adjust to the changing technologies and new industries. Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate criticizes the financial systems that cause vast economic inequalities between the rich and the rest of humanity.
Rerum Novarum states:
In any case we clearly see, and on this there is general agreement, that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen’s guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.
Quadragesimo Anno states:
Property, that is, “capital,” has undoubtedly long been able to appropriate too much to itself. Whatever was produced, whatever returns accrued, capital claimed for itself, hardly leaving to the worker enough to restore and renew his strength. For the doctrine was preached that all accumulation of capital falls by an absolutely insuperable economic law to the rich, and that by the same law the workers are given over and bound to perpetual want, to the scantiest of livelihoods. It is true, indeed, that things have not always and everywhere corresponded with this sort of teaching of the so-called Manchesterian Liberals; yet it cannot be denied that economic social institutions have moved steadily in that direction. That these false ideas, these erroneous suppositions, have been vigorously assailed, and not by those alone who through them were being deprived of their innate right to obtain better conditions, will surprise no one.
Mater et Magistra states:
In economically developed countries, relatively unimportant services, and services of doubtful value, frequently carry a disproportionately high rate of remuneration, while the diligent and profitable work of whole classes of honest, hard-working men gets scant reward. Their rate of pay is quite inadequate to meet the basic needs of life. It in no way corresponds to the contribution they make to the good of the community, to the profits of the company for which they work, and to the general national economy.
We therefore consider it Our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful. It must be determined in accordance with justice and equity; which means that workers must be paid a wage which allows them to live a truly human life and to fulfill their family obligations in a worthy manner. Other factors too enter into the assessment of a just wage: namely, the effective contribution which each individual makes to the economic effort, the financial state of the company for which he works, the requirements of the general good of the particular country—having regard especially to the repercussions on the overall employment of the working force in the country as a whole—and finally the requirements of the common good of the universal family of nations of every kind, both large and small.
Populorum Progressio states:
The introduction of industry is a necessity for economic growth and human progress; it is also a sign of development and contributes to it. By persistent work and use of his intelligence man gradually wrests nature’s secrets from her and finds a better application for her riches. As his self-mastery increases, he develops a taste for research and discovery, an ability to take a calculated risk, boldness in enterprises, generosity in what he does and a sense of responsibility.
But it is unfortunate that on these new conditions of society a system has been constructed which considers profit as the key motive for economic progress, competition as the supreme law of economics, and private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right that has no limits and carries no corresponding social obligation. This unchecked liberalism leads to dictatorship rightly denounced by Pius XI as producing “the international imperialism of money”. One cannot condemn such abuses too strongly by solemnly recalling once again that the economy is at the service of man. But if it is true that a type of capitalism has been the source of excessive suffering, injustices and fratricidal conflicts whose effects still persist, it would also be wrong to attribute to industrialization itself evils that belong to the woeful system which accompanied it. On the contrary one must recognize in all justice the irreplaceable contribution made by the organization of labor and of industry to what development has accomplished.
Laborem Exercens states:
We are celebrating the ninetieth anniversary of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum on the eve of new developments in technological, economic and political conditions which, according to many experts, will influence the world of work and production no less than the industrial revolution of the last century. There are many factors of a general nature: the widespread introduction of automation into many spheres of production, the increase in the cost of energy and raw materials, the growing realization that the heritage of nature is limited and that it is being intolerably polluted, and the emergence on the political scene of peoples who, after centuries of subjection, are demanding their rightful place among the nations and in international decision-making. These new conditions and demands will require a reordering and adjustment of the structures of the modern economy and of the distribution of work. Unfortunately, for millions of skilled workers these changes may perhaps mean unemployment, at least for a time, or the need for retraining. They will very probably involve a reduction or a less rapid increase in material well-being for the more developed countries. But they can also bring relief and hope to the millions who today live in conditions of shameful and unworthy poverty.
Caritas in Veritate states:
We recognize, therefore, that the Church had good reason to be concerned about the capacity of a purely technological society to set realistic goals and to make good use of the instruments at its disposal. Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty. The economic development that Paul VI hoped to see was meant to produce real growth, of benefit to everyone and genuinely sustainable. It is true that growth has taken place, and it continues to be a positive factor that has lifted billions of people out of misery — recently it has given many countries the possibility of becoming effective players in international politics. Yet it must be acknowledged that this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems, highlighted even further by the current crisis. This presents us with choices that cannot be postponed concerning nothing less than the destiny of man, who, moreover, cannot prescind from his nature. The technical forces in play, the global interrelations, the damaging effects on the real economy of badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing, large-scale migration of peoples, often provoked by some particular circumstance and then given insufficient attention, the unregulated exploitation of the earth’s resources: all this leads us today to reflect on the measures that would be necessary to provide a solution to problems that are not only new in comparison to those addressed by Pope Paul VI, but also, and above all, of decisive impact upon the present and future good of humanity…
…As John Paul II has already observed, the demarcation line between rich and poor countries is no longer as clear as it was at the time of Populorum Progressio. The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase. In rich countries, new sectors of society are succumbing to poverty and new forms of poverty are emerging. In poorer areas some groups enjoy a sort of “superdevelopment” of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation. “The scandal of glaring inequalities” continues. Corruption and illegality are unfortunately evident in the conduct of the economic and political class in rich countries, both old and new, as well as in poor ones. Among those who sometimes fail to respect the human rights of workers are large multinational companies as well as local producers. International aid has often been diverted from its proper ends, through irresponsible actions both within the chain of donors and within that of the beneficiaries. Similarly, in the context of immaterial or cultural causes of development and underdevelopment, we find these same patterns of responsibility reproduced. On the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care. At the same time, in some poor countries, cultural models and social norms of behaviour persist which hinder the process of development.
Evangelii Gaudium states:
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
Pope Francis hopes his exhortation inspires Catholics and all Christians to do more to help the poor and the marginalized in our society. Here in Silicon Valley, several churches have joined with other groups to help feed the poor and hungry and to help shelter the homeless. They provide a needed service in these hard economic times, as federal and state governments have been cutting social service programs in an effort to resolve severe budget deficits.
Faith In Action Silicon Valley Rotating Shelter provides an opportunity for the faith community in Silicon Valley to open their doors to the homeless and allows the entire community to connect with and support the guests of the shelter. The Silicon Valley Rotating Shelter moves from one host church or synagogue to another each month. Each host site provides adequate space for the guests to sleep, a secure area for them to store their belongings during the day and an area where they can have their meals. Volunteers from the collaboration of organizations and the host site provide dinners each night and groceries for the guests to make their own breakfasts and lunches. The shelter opens each night at 8:00 p.m. and closes at 7:00 a.m. The shelter supplies are moved from one host site to the next each month by the guests and a team of volunteers. Here are the churches and synagogues supporting the program:
Bethel Lutheran Church (Cupertino)
Congregational Community Church (Sunnyvale)
West Valley Presbyterian Church (Cupertino)
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (Saratoga)
Los Gatos United Methodist Church
Sacred Heart Catholic Parish (Saratoga)
St. Vincent de Paul Society (Sunnyvale)
Silicon Valley World Mission Baptist Church
Another faith group that provides help for the homeless is InnVision The Way Home Peninsula Services. InnVision provides services to homeless and low-income individuals and families with several programs including a 15-bed rotating-church shelter for singles, a church-rotating hot meal service, a 40-unit transitional supportive housing program, and a 20-unit permanent supportive housing program. Through these services InnVision Peninsula Programs provide food, showers, clothing, emergency assistance, medical care, and counseling to those in need in our communities in Northern Santa Clara County and Southern San Mateo County.
Hotel de Zink is a shelter program managed by InnVision and hosted by twelve Bay Area churches each month during the year. Twelve midpeninsula churches have taken turns each month providing food and shelter for 15 or so homeless men and women. The current Hotel de Zink host churches are Trinity Lutheran, Wesley United Methodist, First Congregational, Church of Christ, St. Mark’s Episcopal, First United Methodist, First Presbyterian, Christian Reformed Church, Unitarian Universalist, All Saints’ Episcopal, Friends Meeting (all previous of Palo Alto) and Menlo Presbyterian. Emeritus host churches include St. Andrew’s United Methodist, First Baptist, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
There are two Catholic Worker homes in Silicon Valley that serve the needs of the homeless and the poor. The Catholic Worker House of Redwood City serves the needs of the homeless and hungry in the local community. It also has a program in place for teenagers, a breakfast program for day laborers and classes for immigrant women to learn English. The services are free and all work is done by volunteers.
The Casa de Clara San Jose Catholic Worker provides emergency shelter to homeless women and children. They have been engaged in this ministry for over 30 years.
The San Jose City Team Ministries provides hot meals, safe shelter, showers, and clean clothing to this city’s homeless population. Cityteam also has a wonderful staff that care for and meet the needs of the youth and families in San Jose. A recovery program is in place for those men and women that are on a road away from the destruction from drugs and alcohol.
The Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County helps people of all cultures and beliefs rise up out of poverty and overcome the barriers to self-sufficiency. They have a broad range of services, including job skills training and placement, older adult services, mental health and substance abuse counseling, housing assistance, financial education, immigration support, and refugee resettlement. They also provide educational programs that help young people develop into self-sufficient adults. Each year, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County serves more than 37,000 people in need.
Here are a list of churches and other groups in the Santa Clara Valley who are helping the poor by providing meals
BETH-EL BAPTIST CHURCH
Tennant Avenue/ Highway 101 Morgan Hill, CA 95037
408/779-2300 email: email@example.com
Provides meal with a voucher, call first for an appointment
200 W 5th Street (Church Street) Gilroy, CA 95020
Provides lunch Monday thru Friday from 12 to 12:30 pm
ST. JOSEPH’S FAMILY CENTER
7950A Church Street (First) Gilroy, CA 95020
Provides brown bag lunches Monday thu Friday 9am-12 pm
IN MENLO PARK
ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA DINING ROOM
3500 Middlefield Road (9th) Menlo Park, CA 94025
Provides lunch Monday thru Saturday 11am-1pm
IN MOUNTAIN VIEW
BREAKFAST WITH FRIENDS- MOUNTAIN VIEW SDA CHURCH
1425 Springer Road (Cuesta) Mountain View, Ca 94040
Provides brunch on Sunday 8:30am-10am
ST. JOSEPH CATHOLIC CHURCH
582 Hope Street (Church) Mountain View CA 94041
Provides lunch bags as long as they last Monday thru Friday 1:15pm-7:15pm
OUR DAILY BREAD
ST THOMAS EPISCOPAL CHURCH
231 Sunset Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Serves lunch Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11:30am-1pm
IN PALO ALTO
INNVISION URBAN MINISTRY OF PALO ALTO
HOLY TRINITY CHURCH (Ravenswood/Laurel) Sunday dinner 2:30pm-3:30pm
GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH (Loma Verde/Waverly) Tuesday dinner 5pm-6pm
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (Lincoln) Wednesday dinner 5pm-6pm
FIRST UMC (Hamilton/Webster) Monday dinner 5pm-6pm
ALL SAINTS CHURCH (Hamilton/Waverly) Thursday lunch 11:30pm-12:30pm
CONVENANT PRESBYTERIAN (Middlefield) Saturday lunch 11:30pm-12:30pm
IN SAN JOSE
CITYTEAM RESCUE MISSION
1174 Old Bayshore (Commercial) San Jose CA 95112
Breakfast 8am, Required Chapel service 11am, Lunch 12pm, Dinner 5:30pm
CHURCH OF CHRIST FEEDING PROGRAM
81 North 8th Street (Santa Clara/St. John) San Jose CA 95112
Lunch on the 1st and 3rd Saturday 12pm
920 S. Capitol Avenue San Jose CA 95112
Lunches for children 11am, adults 12pm (serves no single males 18-59)
EHC OUR HOUSE
31-39 N 5th Street San Jose CA 95112
Dinner for youth ages 11-21 Monday thru Saturday 6pm
COMMUNITY HOMELESS ALLIANCE MINISTRY FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF SAN JOSE
80 S Fifth Street (San Fernando) San Jose CA 95112
Breakfast Monday thru Saturday 8am, lunch Suncay 11:30am
LOAVES AND FISHES ST PATRICK’S CHURCH
389 E Santa Clara Street (9th) San Jose CA 95113
Dinner for Seniors/Couples/Singles Monday and Thursday 4pm
Dinner for Families Monday and Thursday 4:30pm
Dinner for everyone Saturday 4:30pm
LOAVES AND FISHES ST. MARIA GORETTI
2980 Senter Road (Capitol) San Jose CA 95113
Dinner for Seniors/Couples/Singles Wednesday and Friday 4pm
Dinner for Families Wednesday and Friday 4:30pm
SACRED HEART COMMUNITY SERVICE
3181 S First Street (Alma) San Jose CA 95110
Lunch bags as long as they last Monday thru Friday 11am
405 N. 4th Street (Julian) San Jose CA 95112
Lunches Monday thru Saturday 12:15pm-1pm Dinner 5:15pm-6pm
ST ISABEL KITCHEN FIVE WOUNDS CHURCH
1375 E Santa Clara Street San Jose CA 95116
All week 11am-12pm
I end this blog with two passages from the Bible. One passage is from Isaiah 58, which reads in part:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
The other passage is from Matthew 25:31-40 which says:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
A youtube video of Silicon Faith in Action’s Silicon Valley Rotating Shelter, which provides meals, shelter, and other supportive services for 15 homeless men at a time for a period of up to 90 days
Two youtube videos of InnVision Shelter Network
Two youtube videos of Cityteam San Jose
Two youtube videos of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara Valley
If you enjoy this cartoon, take a look at these links for more of my political cartoons at my blog. You could also join my Jasper the Cat facebook page. If you’d like to email me, you can write a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
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