Sunday, January 25, 2015

'Justice is All About Asking the Questions'

At Bread Gathering in Washington
How are we, as a faith community, called to address poverty? In a recorded interview on the Web site of the Office of Peace and Justice of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Bro. Graham Golden discusses the mindset of how we perceive “the poor” in the Roman Catholic tradition, our response and responsibility as a Church and the way we bring our perspective to the public sphere to tackle this issue. The interview was part of an observance of Poverty Awareness Month, promoted by theU.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Here is a calendar from the USCCB)

Bro. Graham--a solemnly professed member of the Norbertine Community of Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey in Albuquerque and a transitional deacon--is completing his studies in Chicago.  He has been involved advocacy efforts through Bread for the World and Office of Social Justice and Respect Life of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. In the picture above, Graham chats with Bread for the World activist Terrance Ruth  of Florida at a gathering in Washington.  He currently serves as the Coordinator of Program Development, Evaluation, and Research for the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe where he guides the evolution of grassroot, parish-based anti-poverty initiatives in rural communities.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview (some paraphrased)

Image from Poverty USA (CCHD) Facebook Page
Social Sin
Bro. Graham and the interviewer addressed the definition of "the poor," as those who are lacking in sufficient nutrition or health care or access to education or whatever the basic necessities are restricted in a particular context.  "I think we can understand what it means to be poor, in a material sense," said Bro. Graham. Then the discussion turned to the concept of social sin: the teaching in the Catholic Church that we all bear responsibility for poverty and its causes and, therefore, we must respond in a collective manner.
 "As relational beings we are all part of the body of Christ."
"It's not an individual factor or an individual person, but our collective reality that exists within a society that manages to relegate or marginalize certain people. Everyone in the society is collectively participating in this, either by acting or not acting... Racism, sexism, segregation, access to education, the way we understand and approach social programs, economic participation opportunities.. all contribute and are part of a collective way in which we imagine what it means to be a social being (and then we)  create boundaries--that certain people are in and certain people are out.  This goes goes into our fundamental Catholic anthropology; as members of the church we are all part of the body of Christ."  Read blog post on social sin from Jesuit Jose Aldunate

Charity and Justice
Charity is often understood as the immediate response in which most people participate in through their parishes, the soup kitchen, the clothing banks, the programs that help keep people keep their electricity and heating on in the winter .These are the type of initiatives that respond  to immediate needs for a short period. They're kind of stop-gap measures that allow people to continue living but are not necessarily changing the causes of what has placed people and communities into the situations they're in.
 "Justice comes in,where we talk about systemic change, where we say, "What can we change in the way that our community, our society our nation is constructed that can allow for that need  to even exist?"
That leads us to the notion of justice. After a period of time, communities ask, "We have been feeding these hungry families, why are they hungry don't they have access to sufficient nutrition? Why aren't they able through their own initiative and activity able to participate in the broader life of the community? That's where justice come in, where we talk about systemic change. Where we say, what can we change in the way that our community, our society our nation is constructed that can allow for that need  to even exist?  Those are issues that [lead to] church involvement in local state, and public policy  how we approach of issues of  homelessness, nutrition, access to education, prison reform... 

Listen to the full interview

Read article on Poverty Awareness Month on Archdiocese of Chicago Web site

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