Kneeling Before the Poor and Other Absurdities

Pope Francis made one of his trademark hyperbolic statements on Tuesday:


Pope Francis said on Tuesday that poverty is the great teaching Jesus gave us and we can find his face among the poor and needy. Stressing that the poor are not a burden but a resource, he said he wished that both the city of Rome and the local Church community could be more attentive, caring and considerate towards those in need and that Christians could knee before a poor person.

Go here to read the rest.  He also said that poverty is the great teaching that Christ left us.

How is a Catholic to respond when a Pope constantly makes statements that are bunk?  If such statements were not frequent, say once a year for example, perhaps passing them over in silence might be the preferred strategy.  When the statements are frequent, I think it is the duty of Catholics to speak out, so here goes.

Saying that Catholics should kneel before the poor is as wrong as saying Catholics should kneel before the rich.  Catholics should kneel to no one but God.  If the Pope was attempting to say that Catholics should attempt to help, care and love the poor, surely he has the vocabulary to do so without making a statement that so easily can be regarded as an attempt to transform the poor into a false idol.

Likewise poverty was not the great teaching that Christ left us.  The great teaching that Christ left us is to love God and our neighbor.  We love God by following Christ and His Teachings as given to us by the Church.  We love our neighbor by attempting to do good to all mankind, which includes the poor, just as it includes the rich, our enemies and those we find personally annoying and offensive.  How this love is demonstrated can be a complex issue in myriad circumstances, but Christ’s teaching that all men are brothers is at the heart of Christianity with love of God.

Really, if a sinful lawyer can get this right, and hopefully express it clearly, is it too much to hope that the Pope do likewise?  Instead, we have a Pontiff who seems to specialize in showboating and sowing chaos and confusion.  Defenders of the Pope often, and erroneously, claim that the Holy Spirit picked him.  That is rubbish.  However, I do think that God sometimes gives us the pontiff we deserve, and that may well be the case with Pope Francis.

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  1. Here is what I need from the Church/clergy: the Sacraments. The Word of God, and help in savng my soul.

    I fear I will faint dead-away if the man mutters a syllable on the salvation of souls.

  2. can be regarded as an attempt to transform the poor into a false idol.

    I’ve noticed in some combox discussions and posts that the poor (and even life) seem to take on almost idolistic features among some Catholics. Which then means talking to them becomes almost like the scene with the mother in the Great Divorce: One isn’t arguing against the poor (or life or motherly love, etc) but pointing out that the sort priority is amiss and there are more important things (namely: God) than even those.

    Not to mention the rather insane positions those idolators can end up adopting. If one regards poverty as an absolute scale, then even the poor in America have greater wealth than the rich man in Lazarus’ parable. So should they be treated as the Rich or the Poor? But if poor is a scale, then it becomes not Christ who take away the sins of the world, but Bill Gates and his cohorts who make us all look penniless by comparison.

    Likewise poverty was not the great teaching that Christ left us.

    WHAT? I hope to goodness something was mistranslated there because poverty being “a great teaching Christ left us” is just nonsensical. That would be like saying breathing is a great teaching Christ left us. No, He didn’t teach or leave us anything like that. It was around long before He arrived, it is the default state of mankind.

    Man that is a colossally stupid statement.

  3. Who contributed more to the poor?

    The widow who gave her all?
    The wealthy who gave from their surplus?

    When it comes to the poor, I take my cue from our Savior’s birth place.

    A cold cave.

    Those that can lead good lives and use their resources for the betterment of man are blessed. Thank God for good Holy well to do Christians. They, like Tom Monahan, are blessed.

    Mother Theresa of Calcutta was moved to tears by the poor sharing the little they had with poorer neighbors. Thy smiled and praised God continually for the gifts they have.

  4. Who contributed more to the poor?
    The widow who gave her all?
    The wealthy who gave from their surplus?

    More like: the widow who gave all or the wealthy who gave a job? Which is more important, for the poor to be fed or for everybody to feel better?

    This is the other problem with many christians (not just Catholics, I’ve seen it plenty among protestants) – we’re not in the 1st century any more. We’re no longer in a world of zero-sum economics. There are more options and ways out there than just throwing money at the people. You want to help the poor today? Then teach them right habits and living. Enforce upon them the seven virtues and the importance of investing in social capital.

    The problem is, all that is much harder and requires more effort. Easier to just give in to sloth and envy…

  5. It’s getting to the point where you don’t want to listen to whatever Pope Francis says as you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The latest nonsense about the “poor” being the case in point. The kind of “poor” he is talking about is the kind with no money. These are folks who are to be celebrated. God knows for what? Christ made a rather dismissive statement about the “poor”, the kind with no money. He said they are always with us. His point was that it is better to celebrate His presence with some expensive oil than sell it and give a little money to each “poor” person.

    In many places it’s not a bad deal to be poor and beats working. This kind thing, while good for vote getting, is ultimately harmful to the “poor” as we all know.

    The “poor” Christ celebrated were folks who were poor in spirit, not necessarily in the pocket book. Of course, our poor Pope doesn’t seem to believe in preaching holiness. That’s not popular and you wouldn’t get invited to the United Nations with that message. Just like any good Democrat you get votes by sharing someone elses wealth.

    Is that all you have for us Pope Francis? We are starving spiritually.

  6. If Pope Francis had said he wished Christians could humble themselves before the poor instead of “kneel,” would that have made it better?

  7. T. Shaw beat me to the punch; well said. This reduction of the Church to a social welfare agency is troubling. The funniest part of these statements are that Catholics of all stripes are generally real good about assisting others with their time, talent and treasure. The area where we all need work? Morality, but our clergy can’t be troubled with this-they are too busy washing feet.

  8. Nate. Agreed on teaching the poor to feed themselves, work ethics and so on.
    The idea of making the poor a type of idol by the use of the word “kneel” is false. To physically kneel to help the poor is what I do everyday at my workplace. I kneel to assist them in many daily activities. My take is different than Mr. McClarey’s however the idea to kneel to aid a poor person is found in the lives of countless Saints.
    My favorite Saint, Maximilian Kolbe, called this spirit of poverty; Our Lady Poverty. Spiritually poor yes, but he looked upon the physical poor in aiding Jesus himself. “You gave me drink when I was thirsty.” “You clothed me when I was naked.”

    I am not in support of misused Govt. Welfar, never will I be, however the hands on experiences with helping the poor is more than “warm fuzzy feeling.”

    It’s humility and love in practice.

  9. “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”

    –Leviticus 19:15

    “You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; nor shall you bear witness in a suit, turning aside after a multitude, so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his suit.”

    –Exodus 23:2-3

    “And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien that is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike; you shall not be afraid of the face of man, for the judgment is God’s; and the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.”

    –Deuteronomy 1:16-18

    “If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say. Shall one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty, who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’ and to nobles, ‘Wicked man’; who shows no partiality to princes,
    nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?”

    –Job 34:16-19

    “And Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.'”

    –Acts 10:34-35

  10. “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”
    One of my favorite passages in Scripture Dale.

  11. The idea of making the poor a type of idol by the use of the word “kneel” is false. To physically kneel to help the poor is what I do everyday at my workplace.

    Ah, “kneel to help the fallen” is an idea I can get behind and will raise a toast to you there. (though you can find others drifting towards idolatry) It was nonetheless poorly phrased on the Pope’s part.

  12. The Roman Pontiff comes from a nation and a continent with millions and millions of poor people – people born into poverty, live in poverty and die in poverty – because their nations and their governments HAVE FAILED THEM.

    Juan Peron was a fraud. The Roman Pontiff has never figured that out and I doubt that he will until he faces his Last Judgment. Chavez, the Sendero Luminoso, the FARC, Allende – they never made life any better for their poor citizens.

    We have millions of poor in our nation because it beats working. Free or subsidized food, medical care, transportation and housing are quite enough for those who don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. The Democrat Party knows this and counts on their votes.

    Perpetual race baiter Jesse Jackson claimed that we should “emulate the poor”. Yeah, right. I should chain smoke, eat bad food, drink cheap beer and liquor, sleep until 10AM, watch TV shows filled with ads for lawyers who will sue for me, surf the Net with my Obamaphone.

    Somebody needs to tell the Roman Pontiff to shut the hell up.

  13. I kneel before no one but God. How many faithful know enough to kneel when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the monstrance at church, or at least genuflect when He is not. I see people walk into church as if they were entering a meeting hall and forget to give honor to Him, Who’s house it is.
    He would do better to talk and teach about kneeling to Almighty God than to the needy, who (as the rest of us) are merely made in the image of God, no matter how tarnished that image has become.
    As to: “poverty is the great teaching that Christ left us.”? I thought it was “salvation by His dying on the cross”.
    But who am I to judge, though judge, I must.

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