Sunday, May 13, 2007


Lots of folks have a theory of poverty and its causes. In Brazil, the Pope took a stab at it. Interestingly, he blamed two economic\political systems that are opposed. Benedict XVI blamed Marxism and "unbridled" capitalism for Latin America's problems.

Sounding like his immediate predecessor, Benedict said capitalism had negative effects on Latin America. However, the effects he mentioned were not really effects of the economic system. The use of drugs and alcohol are not effects of capitalism. They are the effects of immorality and lack of self control.

He also sais the Marxist system "left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction" as well as "a painful destruction of the human spirit". It will continue to do so if Latin American countries continue to move to the left. History shows us that socialism and communism never help the poor. They talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. The people at the top will continue to live well, while the people at the bottom are supposed to sacrifice for the benefit of the people. In addition, all Marxist based systems are Utopian and anti-Christian. Because they are Utopian, the always have to confront the fact that their vision of Utopia has failed. As people point that out, they become enemies of the state and are killed.

The Pope also criticized globalization. I'm not sure how that could hurt Latin America, but, regardless, seems contradictory coming from the Roman church, which certainly embraces globalization where it benefits the growth of the influence of the church.

The thing Benedict did not address is whether Roman Catholocism is at least partly to blame for the problems of Latin America. After all, the church until recently claimed that about 90% of South Americans have been Catholic for a long time. How could that be the case without the church bearing some of the responsibility for the way things have turned out?

In fact, couldn't you make the case that it is more the job of the church to help the poor than the government? Jesus certainly advocated for the poor. And the Catholic church is certainly wealthy. Maybe some introspection is in order. Benedict noted that the church's leaders must halt a trend that has seen millions of Catholics turn into born-again Protestants or simply stop going to church. Maybe one way to do that is to change how the church does business in Latin America, as opposed to trying to change the government while living in luxury in Rome.

A good thing Benedict said was his criticism of immorality, especially in premarital sex and divorce. He said the bishops must convince Catholics from all walks of life to bring the light of the Gospel into public life, into culture, economics and politics. Again, that should not be simply to advocate a change in government, but to change society through the gospel.

Brazil has 120 million Catholics. They have the numbers. If they had the answer, you'd think the country would have benefitted by now.
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