Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gospel Poverty is NOT... (#2)

Gospel Poverty is not destitution.

Father Dubay defines "destitution" as the "lack of bare necessities for a decent human life."

He says that the Gospel requires that we do our best to stamp out destitution in the world. He points out that in some particular cases, a saint will share in the destitution of the truly wretched. But the kind of poverty he is talking about as evangelical is not identical with destitution.

My notes:

Etymologically, "destitute" means abandoned or forsaken. from Latin de- "away" + statuere "put, place," modern sense "lacking resources, impoverished" comes from the 16th century.

The distinction between wretched poverty (destitution) and Christian voluntary poverty is very useful. It explains why we are called to help the truly poor, not so that they can become crass materialists like the rest of us : ), but so that they can have the basic necessities that allow people to live with the dignity which they possess inherently.

Nevertheless, destitution is no shame to the people who are destitute through no fault of their own. Rather, it is a reproach to those around them, since the corollary to human destitution is the greed and selfishness of others.

Jesus was destitute on the cross, where He cried out in reference to the Psalm, "My God, why have You abandoned Me?" Isaiah prophesied that He would be despised and rejected, a man without beauty, and people would cast lots for His garments. By sharing in human destitution Our Lord showed that the indignities that people sometimes face do not take away from their intrinsic human dignity.

In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle talks about prosperity as conducive to natural (earthly) happiness, though by no means the sum total of happiness.

Yet evidently, as we said, it needs the external goods as well; for it is impossible, or not easy, to do noble acts without the proper equipment. In many actions we use friends and riches and political power as instruments; and there are some things the lack of which takes the lustre from happiness, as good birth, goodly children, beauty; for the man who is very ugly in appearance or ill-born or solitary and childless is not very likely to be happy, and perhaps a man would be still less likely if he had thoroughly bad children or friends or had lost good children or friends by death. As we said, then, happiness seems to need this sort of prosperity in addition; for which reason some identify happiness with good fortune, though others identify it with virtue.
You can see that he thinks that friends, gentle birth, goodly children, good appearance, and some modicum of property are sort of "norms" for temporal happiness, because they enable you to do good things and be generous. But at the same time he makes the case that these things can't truly matter, or else we would call the same man happy and unhappy according to his temporal circumstances, which would make man out to be a chameleon creature.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear your thoughts on this!