A Catholic Social Justice Perspective: The National Catholic Reporter Editorial on Politics and a Pandemic

This is a National Catholic Reporter editorial on politics being played during the COVID-19 pandemic here in Washington, D.C. It looks at the polarization and asks what should a Catholic do? 

“These days there is a lot of poverty in the world, and that’s a scandal when we have so many riches and resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.” 

Pope Francis

 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’ 

Matthew 25: 35-40 NRSVCE

I read this editorial from the National Catholic Reporter the other day while cleaning out my email and scanning through subscriptions. It gives an interesting take on social justice from the Roman Catholic perspective and looks at the issue of politics during a pandemic and asks what is a Catholic to do? This is yet another take on the pandemic which stalks the United States. You can read it in its original form in, “Editorial: Don’t play politics with people’s lives during a pandemic.


At the end of last week, President Donald Trump retreated to his private golf club in New Jersey, where on Saturday he signed four executive actions — of dubious legality and effectiveness — intended to address the economic calamity caused by the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 164,000 Americans and cost tens of millions their jobs.

Club members in polo shirts and golf cleats were hastily assembled as a press conference audience. Most were not wearing masks or socially distanced during the gathering, according to reports.

Meanwhile, in cities around the country, Americans wearing masks are standing 6 feet apart — in lines at food pantries. In in Dale City, Virginia, the number of families receiving meat, milk and fresh produce from the food pantry at Holy Family Parish had already more than doubled from March to June. The Arlington Diocese’s Catholic Charities programs had seen a 154% increase in food aid and a 288% increase in rental aid since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

And that was before the federal $600 a week in additional unemployment insurance benefits expired on July 31.

Many of those seeking help are first-time clients, folks who already lived paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic. With unemployment over 10% — and projected to stay at record highs until next year — tens of millions of Americans are in danger of being evicted and joining the 200,000 people in America who were homeless even when the economy was booming.

On Aug. 1, the rent was due.

Some renters had been protected by their states’ or a federal moratorium on evictions, and the federal stimulus payments and unemployment insurance had been helping people stay current on their bills. Thankfully, too, some generous landlords have restructured rent payments to avoid evictions.

But social service agencies working on the ground are sounding the alarm about an impending eviction crisis, as well as about the numbers and types of people seeking assistance. They are formerly employed, working- and middle-class families, requesting assistance for the first time in their lives. The images are reminiscent of the bread lines during the Great Depression.

Emergency measures to counteract the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic — such as the eviction moratorium and the additional unemployment assistance — were part of the original CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that passed with bipartisan support in March.

That legislation optimistically hoped that we might be moving into a recovery by late summer. Sadly, lack of leadership in addressing the pandemic has led to an explosion in the number of COVID-19 cases. That, in turn, has necessitated a second relief package.

But this time, the politics are anything but bipartisan.

Back in mid-May, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which would provide $3 trillion in aid, plus extend and expand the eviction moratoriums to cover nearly all rental properties in the United States.

The $1 trillion HEALS Act — introduced in the GOP-led Senate in July — does not address eviction protection. The two bills also differ over the issue of state aid, with the GOP bill not including additional aid to states.

Network, the Catholic social justice lobbying group, called the GOP proposal “woefully inadequate,” predicting it would lead to a housing crisis, the collapse of Medicaid and a second Great Depression.

“The plan agreed to by Senate Republicans and the White House would take money away from unemployed people in the middle of the worst recession since World War II,” a late July statement from Network said. “It would leave Medicaid without needed funding, even though over 70,000 new COVID-19 cases are being diagnosed every day.”

Trump’s executive actions would postpone payment of the federal payroll tax, offer new unemployment benefits, seek to protect renters and homeowners from eviction, and extend the deferral of payment on federal (but not privately issued) student loans.

Experts interviewed by Catholic News Service said Trump’s relief measures are not expected to provide significant relief to people most in need of assistance. In addition, they are limited in scope and may face court challenges.

Meanwhile, most of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ lobbying has been around the issue of including aid for Catholic schools in any new stimulus bill. Catholic leaders made three pleas in 10 days, encouraging lawmakers to include money for emergency tuition scholarships for low-income families who attend nonpublic schools in any stimulus legislation.

What are Catholics to do?

We get our instructions from Jesus in Matthew 25: Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick. The church’s charitable organizations have already amped up their services, but private charity cannot handle an economic catastrophe of this level.

Catholic social teaching recognizes that personal charity is not enough, that just societies must be measured by the degree to which they ameliorate the conditions faced by the poor — not by the amount of money they bestow upon the wealthy. Under the leadership of Trump and the inaction of Senate Republicans, our nation is failing the basic standards of justice.

Social safety nets are the concrete embodiment of the moral vision of Matthew 25. Without work, people cannot pay their rent. When they don’t pay rent, they end up out on the street. Without shelter, the spiral into deep poverty accelerates.

Even if moral considerations were not part of the equation, basic economics recommend avoiding the falling dominos the Senate and the president are inviting by failing to accede to the more generous provisions in the House-passed bill.

We can’t waste time with extraneous debate and partisan politicking. People’s lives are at stake.

 

6 thoughts on “A Catholic Social Justice Perspective: The National Catholic Reporter Editorial on Politics and a Pandemic

  1. And yet, you want to tax the churches, while they give away free stuff to the needy.

    If wondering would stop flying around the country, there is a lot of money here could save in the cost of a flight and give that flight money to the needy.

    Social justice… do we not have court houses with judges? Prosecutors? Defense attorneys? Juries? Nobody knows the phone number to 911? Are there not civil rights attorneys in America?

    Imagine if black people stopped committing crime. Imagine the black lives saved if only they would LOVE THEIR OWN NEIGHBOR and stop robbing them at gun point.

    This is the 21st century. Why is there poverty around the world? Is it the fault of Americans?

    Christians are pretty much obligated to give 10 percent of their income at church.

    The Catholic church is RICH with money already given. They use the money for ther riches of big beautiful buildings, paintings, stained glass, etc.

    The Catholic church, in recent decades, has spent the congregations money on the victims of abuse.

    Maybe if the catholic church would stop sinning, stop buying paintings, and riches, they can then use the money that the congregation already gave to give the thirsty a beer, give the hungry a steak and lobster, give the naked an Armani, and, like oprah did, give everyone a new car. The catholic church can afford it…if…

    The congregation already gave.

    Ed Chapman

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  2. Oh, when did Jesus have a chat with Ceasar? Did they discuss that taxes are to feed the poor?

    Matthew 25 is INDIVIDUAL, not tax payers.

    As a matter of fact, all of the GIVING verses are FOR the poor CHRISTIANS, aka Saints, brothers, sisters, etc.

    For example…

    1 John 3:17-18 (Nivr)

    “Suppose someone sees a BROTHER OR SISTER in need and IS ABLE to help them…

    THE ATHEISTS will say, “I PAID MY TAXES ALREADY”, or, “I GAVE AT THE OFFICE”

    So, you, wondering, as are the Catholics, DEPENDING on the GOVERNMENT to give to the needy, when jesus never spoke to government officials on feeding ther poor.

    So all of this, including Matthew 25, is about the BRETHREN, saints, brothers, sisters.. in short, Christians helping Christians.

    There is a verse about feeding our enemies, however, but its purpose of why? To heap coals of fire on his head (Romans 12:20).

    So the Catholic church is dictating to the government… I’d tell the catholic church to sell what they have, and give to the poor… that is, poor CHRISTIANS.

    Oh, and those Christians who can work, but refuse to work… they don’t eat. You know that verse, I’m sure! We do not give to the LAZY.

    Taxes is not charity. Taxes are an obligation to the government, not an obligation to God. On judgment day, we are judged as individuals, not as taxpayers. What did YOU do to give to the poor? Will your answer to Jesus be, “I paid my taxes”, or, “I gave at the office”?

    Or, will it be, “I sold my car to help a fellow Christian pay his overdue rent to his landlord”?

    That is charity. Taxes… no, taxes is not charity.

    Oh, and a beggar… Peter said, “Silver and gold, I have none… but…”, then instructed him to get up and walk”.

    But, you go ahead and give to the ungrateful drug addict criminal, and he’ll be back to steal, kill, and destroy, usually with 10 additional criminals”. Give to those people? Free needles? Tents to litter our city streets? Feces on ther side walk? Feed them? Clothe them? No! The sheriff can feed and clothe them upon booking!

    Ed Chapman

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  3. Sorry, Wondering, but just one more comment from me:

    I’m having a hard time figuring out WHY people are broke to begin with. The unemployment rate was DOWN drastically before the pandemic, and since EVERY WORKER was entitled to unemployment in some fashion, whether it be REGULAR, as I am receiving (kinda, since I am working, too), or the PANDEMIC unemployment (for those who would not qualify under NORMAL circumstances, such as the minimum required hours from the previous year, or self employment, etc.)…WHY are they broke?

    The $600 EXTRA per week…that’s $2400 EXTRA per month on top of their NORMAL weekly from the STATE. Why are they broke? People were getting paid MORE MONEY to stay home, than they were to work, so why are people broke?

    During the Obama days, seasonal work caused me to be on unemployment during the months of January thru March. Not much construction goes on during those months due to the weather, but I do work…just not as many hours. I’d stay on unemployment for as long as I had a STATE BALANCE, until either the balance was exhausted, or the date for a year expired, whichever came first. Granted the states unemployment is LOWER than the actual WAGE earned if working, but SO WHAT. If people can’t MANAGE a BUDGET, then they need to go back to HIGH SCHOOL and learn DEBITS AND CREDITS in a MATHEMATICS class, and learn how a BUDGET works.

    If people would MANAGE a budget, you’d be surprised at the things that you can PURCHASE that are CHEAP to begin with, without paying a HUGE amount of money for. Smokers can purchase a ONE POUND BAG of tobacco dirt cheap (about $10 at an Indian Reservation), instead of spending about $10 per pack at the convenience store. Generic cereal, instead of the expensive name brand. Shop for SALES instead of purchasing on a whim, just because you WANT it. A gallon of milk at one store may cost almost $3 per gallon, while at another, a sale at $1.88.

    And one thing I had to teach my daughter…her PHONE. She had NO CLUE that in order to save DATA, all she had to do was to log on to the internet EVERYWHERE she could FIND free internet, and BOOM, data saved. She doesn’t need a PLAN that costs a ton of money each month.

    So why are people at the food bank, broke and hungry? I don’t get it. That extra money that they received, coupled with managing a BUDGET, and shopping SMARTLY for sales, and REORGANIZING spending habits…WHY are people broke? They should have SAVED that extra money in the bank and that EXTRA money would still be there AT THE END OF THE YEAR to use as intended, a STIMULUS to stimulate the economy. Trump did extend that EXTRA money, because the CONGRESS refused to pass a law, failed to LEGISLATE, and therefore, Trump DESERVES a golf game.

    Why are people broke? I can’t figure that out. Doesn’t anyone BUDGET anymore?

    Ed Chapman

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  4. By the way, I’m not blaming the republican senate at all. It’s the democrate house that PUT PORK in the bill, many of which have NOTHING TO DO with the pandemic, and THAT is the sticking point. How you can blame the republican senate is beyond comprehension.

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  5. I just saw that New Zealand is postponing their elections due to coronavirus. They have 53 cases. We have lots more than that. Maybe Trump should postpone our elections too? After all, it’s an emergency! Wear face masks, socially distance, and don’t vote, right? Right?

    (This is sarcasm. Don’t postpone the election due to covid. That would be crazy.)

    Like

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