Jesus: Friend or Foe of the Poor


Sooner or later the world’s 1 billion Catholics will have to make up their minds where they are living: this world or somewhere else. In the U.S., the church currently remains mired in sex scandals. The church is known worldwide as anti-feminist. Spain’s Conference of Catholic Bishops put out a manifesto in February 2004 blaming the sexual revolution for the abuse of women.

“The sexual revolution has separated sex from marriage, and procreation from love,” it said. Its “bitter fruits” are “domestic violence, sexual abuse, and homeless children.”

The church, on the whole, turns a deaf ear to the millions of desperately ill people in Africa and South Asia infected with HIV and AIDS. It rants and raves against gays. Catholics are forceful, but not alone, in arguing that marriage is the basis for having a family. But many millions of people pay little heed to that idea.

Often the Vatican becomes a caricature of itself, as when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said, “Don’t read and don’t buy The Da Vinci Code. This book, read by millions, perverts the story of the Holy Grail, which most certainly does not refer to the descendants of Mary Magdalene. It astonishes and worries me that so many people believe these lies.”

The church has experienced rapid growth in the developing world, especially Latin America, where Brazil has become the country with the largest Catholic population.

Latin America has been the center of the Vatican’s attack against liberation theology, which has sought to portray Jesus as a friend of the poor, encouraging them in the struggle against exploitation and oppression. And the church remains, like the rest of Western Christendom, out to lunch on the subject of Islam.

Most of the cardinals gathering to elect a new pope either come from Europe or were educated in Europe. Will they have the foresight to elect a pope from the developing world who can address spiritual and economic issues of the 21st century?

Additional reporting: Nicole Duarte