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December 2005

The Poverty of Affluence


Christ spoke plainly, at times alarmingly [Matt. 19:23-24], about the danger of riches and the blessedness of an accepted poverty. Yet he might have said nothing at all: His life and death alone was a gospel of detachment from material things.

From the primitive Nativity to desolate Golgotha, by word and example, the King of kings taught the ideal of Christian detachment to a world forever seeking spurious happiness in earthly possessions. Not necessarily things per se, but the pursuit of things for their own sake, He cautioned, would divide and darken hearts and minds: 

Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also ... No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. [Matt. 6:19-24]

We need look no further for the root cause of the chronic and seemingly intractable problems we suffer today.

Clearly, the spiritual and material simplicity of the first Christmas has never been a greater sign of contradiction to the complex, self-absorbed, self-destructing consumers of the First World.
Affluence, however, is also killing the Western Church.

In the first place, the Modernism presently ravaging the Body of Christ is a carnal beast: a materialistic heresy for a well-heeled Church with enough money in its pockets and time on its hands to indulge in the sort of prideful navel-gazing that has unravelled the Faith of our Fathers and reduced Our Lord’s radical teaching to social gospel irrelevancy. 

Unlikely to thrive in the Third World where daily survival by the grace of God lends itself to humble faith and belief, Modernism appeals instead to the pseudo-sophisticates of the West - rudderless souls living the good life of our hi-tech age and deaf to warnings about the salvific dangers of their consumerist mindset.

Not that divine exhortations in this regard have often been relayed to the faithful by decadent clerics equally in thrall to the ways of the world. As spelt out in Father Mankowski’s bare-knuckle assessment herein, the ecclesiastical capitulation to Mammon is now endemic. Fostering a preoccupation with the material side of life and holding personal convenience and well-being as more important than anything else, it has fuelled lust, pride and sloth among clergy high and low. Thus, seeking to “serve two masters,” many have fallen prey to vice. The consequent threat of blackmail, in turn, accounts for so much obscene complicity and compromise, especially by prelates.
Meanwhile, in parishes everywhere, the spirit of Bethlehem has been quashed and replaced by the kind of sterile corporate mentality captured in “St Jude’s Annual Report,” barely a parody of the tragi-comic state of play.

There is no escaping the fallout. The rotten doctrinal, moral, liturgical, social and hierarchical fruits of an affluent Church are all about us. Not least in the crushing lukewarmness of this-worldly Catholics who take their cue from sybaritic clerics and Religious clearly averse to detachment and self-control.

Since “nothing but prayer and fasting” can drive out unclean spirits [Mk 9:24-28], a return to self-denial and mortification is surely the sine qua non of Catholic restoration for a Church corrupted, blinded and disoriented by the sensual demons of Modernism and Mammon. To excise that encrusted “filth” he has identified, therefore, Pope Benedict must first re-establish the practice of holy poverty in monasteries, convents, seminaries, presbyteries and the ranks of the episcopate - while preaching its heavenly worth to one and all, as explained by St Bernard in his sermon for Christmas Eve: 

In the left hand of God were riches and glory, and in his right hand length of life. Of all these things there was an eternal abundance in heaven, but poverty was not found there. On earth, however, poverty did abound and superabound; and man knew not its value. Wherefore God, being enamoured of it, came down that he might make choice of it for himself, and that he might also, by his esteem of it, make it precious to us.

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