Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Pope on Poverty

This story really hits on the complexities of the religious treatment of poverty in Brazil. The pope is right in condemning the failure to address the extreme divisions between rich and poor (and even middle class) in Brazil. Many people do either ignore the poverty issue or dehumanize it, putting the blame on favelados, a race- and class-based quest that the media also greatly aids.

At the same time, it's not clear if the church itself is going to try to do anything about this, such as give greater aid to the priests who work in favelas, or fund programs that seek to help combat racism and classism or to help Brazil's poor receive better payment or treatment in the workplace. Benedict can talk all he wants, but the fact remains that he was a major warrior against liberation theology in the 1980s, and while some (but not all) liberation theologians were influenced by Marxism, that does not stop the fact that liberation theology was one of the strongest efforts within the Catholic church to try to actively address these economic issues, even while the hierarchy itself was trying to put a stop to such efforts. I'm rather skeptical that the hierarchy will try to address these issues in any way beyond rhetoric. Although she was talking more about divorce and pre-marital sex (issues which are a part of most Brazilians' lives), Elisangela do Nascimento hit it on the head - "The pope is a little too rigid".