A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Pope blasts exploitation as sin by bloodsuckers

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, July, 7, 8 or 9

On a recent trip to Italy, I finished Pope Francis’ recent book, “The Name of God is Mercy,” and toured Vatican City with a new appreciation of the Pontiff’s inspirational stand on workers and the poor. His is a fresh departure from centuries of church leaders acting like royalty – and one that closely connects with Jesus of Nazareth, conceived to an unwed mother and raised by a carpenter.

“We consider this drama of today: the exploitation of the people, the blood of these people who become slaves, the traffickers of people – and not just those who deal in prostitutes and children for child labor, but that trafficking we might call ‘civilized’,” he said May 18 during his weekly general audience. “ ‘I’ll pay you this much, without vacation, without health care, without… everything under the table… But I will become rich!’ ”

That’s not only wrong, the Pope said, but sinful.

“If I don’t throw open the door of my heart to the poor, that door remains closed, even to God, and this is terrible!” he continued. “No messenger and no message can substitute the poor we meet along the way, because through them we meet Jesus himself. Thus, the mystery of our salvation is hidden in the reversal of fortunes the parable describes, in which Christ links poverty to mercy.

“We must learn this well,” he added. “To ignore the poor is to despise God!”

Focusing on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Francis said that it’s a reminder of the “harsh reproach” that will come for those who ignore the needs of the poor. Lazarus represents “the silent cry of the poor of all time and the contradiction of a world in which vast wealth and resources are in the hands of a few,” Francis said.

By excluding Lazarus, the pope said, the rich man “made himself the center of everything, closed in his world of luxury and waste.”

The following day, Francis’ homily elaborated.

“Riches in themselves are good,” he explained, but they are “relative, not absolute. No one can take their riches with them. You cannot serve both God and riches.”

The Pope criticized “the exploitation of the people, truly a form of slavery. When riches are created by exploiting the people, by those rich people who exploit [others], they take advantage of the work of the people, and those poor people become ‘slaves’ … .without a pension, without health care…

“Those who do that are true bloodsuckers,” he added, “and they live by spilling the blood of the people who they make slaves of labor.

“This is starving the people with their work for profit!” he continued, “living on the blood of the people. And this is a mortal sin.”

When I went to Mass at the medieval Siena Cathedral in Tuscany, the service was in Italian, but the words of the Pope’s book seemed to echo from the hexagonal dome to the mosaic floor, bouncing from sculptures by Michelangelo and Donatello to colorful frescoes and centuries-old manuscripts housed there.

“How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! [In Matthew, Jesus] describes the attitudes of those who tie up heavy burdens and lay them on other men’s shoulders, but who are unwilling to move so much as a finger; they are those who love the place of honor and want to be called master.

“Corruption is not an act but a condition, a personal and social state in which we become accustomed to living. The corrupt man is so closed off and contented in the complacency of his self-sufficiency that he does not allow himself to be called into question by anything or anyone. The self-confidence he has built up is based on fraudulent behavior: he spends his life taking opportunistic shortcuts at the cost of his, one’s and others’ dignity. The corrupt man gets angry because his wallet is stolen and so he complains about the lack of safety on the streets, but then he is the one who cheats the state by evading taxes, or else he fires his employees every three months so he doesn’t have to hire them with a permanent contract, or else he has them work off the books. And then he boasts to his friends about his cunning ways.”


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