Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm From the Government, and Jesus Wants Me to Take Your Money!

An article (whole thing here) today in the (wildly liberal) British church paper Ekklesia regards statements by the Catholic bishops on matters of poverty and climate change. It states, in part:

In the run up to the G8 summit in Japan, presidents of nine Catholic Bishops’ Conferences have called on G8 nations to honour their commitments to reduce global poverty and tackle climate change.

In a letter to the G8 leaders, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Cardinal Keith O’Brien along with the other seven presidents of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in G8 countries called for the promises made at Gleneagles in 2005 and in Heiligendamn in 2007 to be reaffirmed and built upon.

Responding to the letter Prime Minister Gordon Brown today (Thursday) praised the Catholic Church for its outstanding leadership in tackling global poverty and climate change as he called for a re-doubling of efforts across the world to address these issues.

In 2005, the world’s richest countries promised to spend an additional $50 billion per year on development assistance by 2010, with half that amount going to Africa. The Catholic leaders stress that these commitments must be met “and additional commitments should be made in the areas of health care, education and humanitarian aid.”

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: "Our religious and moral commitment to protect human life and promote human dignity moves us to be particularly concerned for the poorest and most vulnerable members of the human family, especially those in developing countries. The experience of the Catholic Church in serving the needs of poor communities leads us to applaud the forthcoming G8 Summit’s focus on development and Africa."

I'm all in favor of a reduction in global poverty, and - to the extent that it's real - ameliorating man-made climate changes. What I have issue with in the article are it's assumptions about the role of governments - mainly, that governments have the right, let alone the obligation, to sieze the wealth of the people for distribution as they see fit. How did the Church get to the point of believing that wealth belongs to governments and not to the people? If a group of governments can pledge to spend $50 billion, it means that those governments have the right to extort that $50 billion from their populations.

It is not just the Roman Catholic Church that is guilty of this confusion; Protestant groups are always lobbying congresses and parliaments to tell them to spend on one issue or another. When did it become fashionable for churches to start lobbying governments to sieze money rather than lobbying people to share money? And if that's what the church does, then why can't the church be replaced by a government agency?

A lot of modern governments seem to want to do just that. They can grab the funds, and if they can replace the church with a "humanitarian agency," then they won't have to listen to the church talk about all that Jesus crap any more. And the churches can look in the mirror to see where the blame lies.