It Costs More to be Poor

A row of identical signs arranged like landing lights at an airport repeat the appealing offer: "Borrow $200, Repay $203." This modern spider-to-fly invitation displayed in front of the office of payday lenders appeals to hard-strapped workers who just need a boost till payday. What's three bucks? Technically, since the loan spans only 14 days, three bucks in this case represents 39 percent interest (APR). After this introductory offer, the second $200 loan will demand a $230 repayment — or 390 percent APR.

Payday lenders, together with pawnshops, check-cashers, tax refund lenders, rent-to-own stores and "buy here/pay here" used car lots represent the fringe economy. The term "fringe economy" refers to those businesses that engage in financially predatory relationships with low-income or heavily indebted consumers by charging excessive interest rates or exorbitant fees and prices for goods and services. Other parts of the fringe economy include credit card companies charging sky-high late payments or over-the-credit-limit penalties, cell phone providers pushing excessive prepaid plans and sub-prime mortgage lenders hiding the real cost of the mortgage.

The scope of the fringe economy reveals a structure for the poor and credit-challenged that parallels the mainstream economy for the middle class. Fully 10 percent of U.S. households — more than 12 million — have no relationship with a mainstream financial service provider, such as a bank or credit union. These "unbanked" must rely on the fringe economy for services like check cashing, bill payments, short-term loans and appliance rentals.

The exorbitant fees and prices demonstrate why the poor pay more for basic services. The $6.6 billion a year rent-to-own (RTO) industry, for example, serves 2.7 million households with 8,300 stores. Typically, a dinette table and chairs might rent for $11.99 per week till full customer ownership after 61 weeks. This arrangement doubles the cost of the furniture, and if the customer misses one payment, the item can be repossessed.

 Other examples from the fringe economy include tax refund anticipation loans with fees and interest that take 16 percent of the tax refund. "Buy-here/pay-here" used car lots frequently charge 28 percent APR for a high-mileage, grossly overpriced vehicle, and money transfers from the United States to Latin America can easily exceed 9 percent of the transferred amount.

Corporations participating in the fringe economy argue their high interest rates and fees reflect the increased risks of dealing with the economically unstable. However, ACE Cash Express reports transaction losses for check cashing at less than one percent, and pawnshops generally loan only 50 percent of the item's value to buffer themselves against loss. Tax preparers are guaranteed repayment when the refund check arrives, and payday lenders require a post-dated check.

While credit should be helping low-income people improve their lives, the fringe economy encourages people to live beyond their means and takes advantage of their lack of financial sophistication. Fringe economy firms are basically growing rich from their financing arrangements and from keeping customers continually enmeshed in debt.

Around the world the poor have fought the money lenders through collective action with institutions like the Grameen Bank and credit unions. These are structures people of faith can explore as more middle class families slide into the ranks of the working poor. Universal health care would save countless families from bankruptcy, while a standard living wage would shrink the pool of the financially desperate. Add to this stricter and enforced usury laws and you create rungs on the ladder for moving up.

The vision: replace the spider-to-fly economy with one permitting a-place-at-the-table for everyone.

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  • Guest

    This is one situation Father acurately descibes.  It's despicable and evil.  I get the creeps just driving down a road with "Rent to Own" or "Title Loan" signs along it.  It becomes a teachable moment though. 

    We do not prey on the weak and "sell the poor for a pair of sandles." (Amos)

  • Guest

    Thank you Fr. Glenmary for listing so many of these predatory and downright sinful practices within our economy. These fringe money grabbing schemes are creeping more and more into the mainstream. They should be outlawed. These thiefs then have the nerve to hire consultants to produce false statistics in support of this racket.

    I can appreciate your zeal for this because you are so close to the poor. Your solutions however, scare me. A gov't with the power to provide all of that also has the power to give us Romanian style hospitals for poor children. Readers were sickened by Mary Kochans article yesterday showing us the logical conclusion of what probably started out as a well intentioned socialist scheme.

  • Guest

    Predatory lenders and rent-to-own stores do prey on the poor, this is true.  But, and please do not take this the wrong way — they prey on the vices, and to some extent on the ignorance of the poor and the poor who practice virtues do NOT become their prey.

    I used to live in a government-subsidized housing complex as a divorced mother of four children. I saw the rent-to-own trucks in there all the time. But one of those trucks never came to my apartment. Why not?

    First because I understood financing, credit and interest. Because I knew that the total of all the payments would be 2-3 times what the item was worth. And because I knew that there were places that sold used furniture very cheaply, so that if I wanted to get something, I could save up for it and buy it for much less than those rent-to-own places.

    Second, because I had the discipline to save. I was not greedy and thinking that I had to have all this stuff now, even if I really couldn't afford it. I was not too proud to get several $5 lawn chairs and put them in my living room as a make shift sofa until I could get a real one.

    Third, I could sleep on a pallet of blankets on the floor — and did for several years (my kids did have beds though) — because I wasn't bringing a series of "lovers" into my bedroom for whom I needed to provide a nice bed, although I certainly watched that going on all around me.

    Fourth, I lived the kind of upright life that meant that I had friends.  Not a bunch of hang-around stoned or party drunk every Friday friends, but friends with jobs and homes.  if I got into a financial  bind such that I needed to borrow money to pay a bill, I knew people I borrow from who would not charge interest. People knew my character — that I would pay it back, or they simply wanted to help because they could see that I was always working, always trying to better myself. 

    I realize also that those things were all gifts of grace and I'm not trying to put down people who were never taught any decent way of life. Instead I think they SHOULD BE TAUGHT. My point is that for every homily against the exploitation of the poor, there should be one for the poor telling them how to get up out of their situation by practicing frugality, discipline, delayed gratification, sexual morality, etc.

  • Guest

    "If they were not meant to be sheared than He would not have made them sheep" is a quote I remember from a Western movie bad guy who preyed on the poor and gullible. All the reasons you mentioned mkochan are what make a lot of the poor remain in their miserable state. I think some of the poor just have a mental incapacity to do the math properly. Acting out of desparation also clouds the senses to make unreasonable calculations. I don't know how the statistics break down but my interest is in protecting this group. I have little sympathy for the derelicts. In my conscience I struggle whether God thinks the same way.

  • Guest

    mkochan, thank you for a dose of reality. The Church is often sincere, but misguided in its efforts to "help the poor". The Church has generally supported government's failed welfare and public housing systems, despite mounting evidence that they were breeding crime and other social problems that made the quality of life of poor people even worse.

    On the other hand, feeding centers and housing privately operated by the Church or inspired laymen have often been successful because services are provided with Christian love. Christ commanded Christians to help the poor, not Caesar (the government).

    Fr. Rausch's suggestion of credit unions and other private institution serving the poor has merit and deserves action by the Church and committed laypersons. But, his advocacy of universal health care and other government solutions will result in political half measures devoid of Christian love.

    I don't think that is what Christ had in mind.

     

  • Guest

    It would be helpful to the poor if basic economics were taught since grade school (instead of more innovative family structures and ways to become sexual prey).  Also, many of the so-called derelicts are the results of a mental illness system that is only geared to provide meds and is not allowed (literally: "it is taking away their freedom") to point out the unwisdom of bad moral choices.  I have struggled with the effects of both systems (I am a teacher with an adult son who has a severe and persistent mental illness) so it is extremely frustrating to me to see this continue, especially since the "poor" have the same wants, needs, and desires as the rest of society, which have been skewed by the relentless marketing of covetousness to all.

  • Guest

    mkochan, I admire and respect your values/courage/ability, you would be a great person to have as a friend.

  • Guest

    Thank you Johnny O. — even though you did make me blush. (At least no one can see that online.)

  • Guest

    mkchochan,  You make some very good points, however I think you fail to understand how much your background helped you.  You had a support structure in place which a lot of the families that are several generations into the poverty cycle simply don't have.  This was not simply in the form of friends who actually had the money to lend you.  It was also in the form of skill sets and values that you probably got from your own family.  There's a wonderful book out there about the working poor called Nickled and Dimed.  The one objection I had to it was that the author could never really and truly experience what the other workers were because for her this was "slumming," a brief experience that she would be able to leave (and even later cash in on).  Those other workers were trapped in it day, after day for probably the rest of their lives.

     I know people who are struggling to get out of poverty.  Some of them make good choices, others do not.  However, they are easy prey for unscrupulous employers, unscrupulous lenders, lousy landlords, etc., etc. ad nauseum.  Even college financial aid programs tend to work against them.  In our state the only free ride scholarships to our state university go to valedictorians of their high school class.  Yet in the vast majority of cases those valedictorians come from families who could fairly easily afford to foot the bill themselves.  Meanwhile people, like a couple of young men we know. who have had absolutely no financial support from their parents since their were 18 years old are having to finance their education substantially with loans.  Unfortunately, the economy in our state doesn't make it look like finding the kind of job that will make paying those loans back easy is likely means the picture is even bleaker.  So the cycle continues.  The rich get richer, those with the skill sets necessary escape from poverty, those who don't sink deeper.  And the advertisers on television keep selling stuff to those who buy it because it makes them feel better for the moment.  Tell me that some of this is more moral than the drug pusher who gives you a few freebies until you're hooked.

     I'm not advocating socialism, and I'm not sure that simply throwing more money at the problem is the solution.  I do think that we've forgotten that high interest rates like that used to be seen only with loan sharks and they were illegal (and that fact didn't destroy our economy).  There is a place for regulation and protection of the poor.  Of course, that might hurt the income of those who have invested in the banking industry, the credit card companies, etc.,etc. so with our current government in place we're not apt to do it.  We still believe in trickle down economics, no matter how much it's proven to not work.

  • Guest

    True, true, mkochan. Teaching should also be included in schools/youth groups, training the young who are influenced by that lifestyle. Some adults resent what you may think is a gentle counsel, fearing that you are only trying to keep them back as they try to 'brighten' their lives. It is also a challenge that is faced by all earners of 'irregular and uncertain' incomes, e.g. farmers, fishermen, tradesmen. Hardworking men and women.

    My grandmother had explained to us that per annum most fishermen (artisanal) earned more than she did, but most of it was over five months of the year. What made her seem 'middle class' even though income level was 'working class.' Education & thrift, choices re kind of family life wanted, strong back and chest to take the ridicule of the moment for the long term benefit of her children. But, there's always need for credit, in her days were shops that didn't charge interest. You paid for the last week or month's items while taking for the current.

     

    Let us pray that within all our communities those who need credit would have access to reasonable credit. Let us thank God for the blessings of examples of good stewardship.

  • Guest

    Since I left that place, I know of two more single mothers who have also left. One has two daughters and while I was there she was in nursing school.  I saw her in the grocery store within the past year and she now owns a home. The other one had three daughters and she also escaped — one of her daughters is married to a cop and so she is now a grandmother and having a very good life.

    I assure you that they worked their way out and sacrificed to get their kids a better life. It isn't just a "skill set;" it is the determination to put that skill set to use.

    I completely agree that some of these lending practices should be illegal. I'd make these rent-to-own places close and the car title lenders too.  But I've been around the poor long enough to know that some of them will figure out how to blow their last dime several days before payday no matter what the situation.  Ever see one of them get a nice chunk of change from an insurance settlement and watch it go right out the window — I have seen it time after time.  My point is that evenif you made all these predatory businesses illegal, you would not help the poor all that much because many of them will just figure out on their own how to stay poor.

    The problem is a combination of vice and ignorance (which can be helped by education) and stupidity (which cannot be helped by education). There are a lot of people who simply don't know how to run their own lives and do not care to learn. So should they be forced to learn? How? Or we just keep taking care of them. Which is what charities do for the most part. Should charities and maybe even government programs have more power to promote changes in "lifestyle?" How can we do that without infringing on basic liberties?

    In my state just anyone can go college for free. Although that is funded by a lottery that gets most of its money from the poor — so how moral is that? But then again, no one puts a gun to somebody's head and makes him by a lottery ticket…

  • Guest

    It seems to me that the definition of poverty changes depending on where in the world you live.  It also seems like the concept "cycle of poverty" is a uniquely modern invention that is perpetuated by rich societies and nourished by the welfare state.  That said, Appalachia is an excellent example of the decades long practice of "company store" that perpetuates real human suffering through material poverty.  It is sinful.

    I have lived in countries with dire poverty.  These places have a year of drought and people suffer pain in their bellies.  Two years of drought might mean death to a few.  Several years of drought means famine and mass starvation.  That's poverty!

    In many locations around the world people bathe, launder, and drink from the same water source. That's poverty.

    Dropping your infant off at an orphanage never to return.  That's poverty.

    Poverty is envy of other's possessions.
    Poverty is seeking to live beyond your means.

    Poverty is thinking you are owed something, by "them".

    Poverty is believing you have a "right" to things.

    Poverty exists in many people's minds and souls.

    My "rock farmer" Italian grandparents came here half starving.  They wer rich in human dignity.  They exploited that wealth and accumulated a nest egg.

    Mother Theresa called us the "poorest nation on earth".  Yes, we're poor because most of us have too much, including the "poor".  Yes, we're debters, because we owe a debt to God which no Department of Social Service can teach us to pay.

    And as a closing personal note, I've always told my husband that regardless of how much he makes, it would never be enough.  For that reason, I never worried about money, even when I couldn't afford to turn on the heat. 

  • Guest

    "You will always have the poor with you" Christ tells us. That's just part of the fabric of every community. In Haiti and other places like that it's systematic, in our country it's mostly personal because there is so much opportunity for people to help themselves and there's tons of charity out there. However, we know that when we're in church saying: Let us pray, there are others in the business world who are saying: let us prey.

  • Guest

    Mary, you are an inspirational person.  The challenges you have overcome and your insights into these issues are very impressive.

  • Guest

    mkochan, My late mother-in-law used to say that she thought television had made the whole problem worse because it made people think that "everyone had" or "everyone should have" the things that were advertised.  She thought that poor people were enticed to spend their money on "stuff" rather than on saving it so that they could move out of poverty.  Television was a new thing when I was a child, my family didn't own one until I was 7.  The working poor family across the street from us has two (one in their 5 year old's bedroom) and multiple tv households are now the rule rather than the exception.  I think my mother-in-law may have been right.

     However, I didn't just say you had the right skill set to escape, I said you had the right values as well.  So many of the generational poor have not been given those types of values and they certainly aren't being encouraged by much of the mainstream media.  The sad thing is that in some cases the values were there in the great grandparent (immigrant) generation, but have been lost as time went on.  Things like alcoholism, drug addiction, out of wedlock births, have taken their toll.  What is truly sad is that there are families in our area who have a Catholic heritage, but where the actual Catholic practice got lost two  or even three generations back.  With the fall from actual practice came unwed pregnancies, substance abuse, and poverty.  Yet so often, the local church may deal with the economic poverty while not really attempting to deal with the poverty of spirit which is ultimately one of the root causes. 

     I do think that the Church has a role to play in all of this, but I also think that some of the policies which were instituted to protect the consumer have been laid aside since the 1970's.  We used to have laws regulating monopolies that protected the consumer, we used to have laws about credit that protected the consumer, now it sometimes feels like the only people being protected are the stockholders and CEO's of big companies.  With jobs being outsourced to other countries it has become harder and harder for Americans to find jobs that truly pay a living wage.  Unless you work in health care, education, or some service industry more and more your job is at risk.  Our state government even outsources jobs to India that used to be done by citizens of our state.  When even college educated young people are having a difficult time finding jobs at a living wage, or finding housing that is affordable, what chance does the person have who doesn't even have the college degree?  

    And Goral most of the charities in our area are overwhelmed by the need, it isn't all that easy for people to help themselves when rent eats up 75 or 80% of what they make.  In our area there is virtually no public transportation so a vehicle is nearly essential, housing is tremendously expensive, and most of the jobs are under $10 an hour.  If a couple tries to be two income they have to deal with child care expenses which frequently eat up most of the second income.  The increased cost of gasoline has really hit the working poor in our area.  While the soccer moms in Darrien, Ct. are still driving their huge SUV's and merely complaining about the cost of gas, it makes a real difference in the lives of people who need a car simply to get to work.  The checker out the grocery store told me one day (she was a college student) that nearly her entire paycheck went to pay for gas to get to and from work and to and from school.  Someone is making a profit on this and they are making that profit substantially on the poor. I certainly agree about the lottery.

     I guess all I'm saying is that it isn't any easy thing to get out of poverty and there are things that the government could do that would help make it easier.  Will everyone make strides ahead if interest rates are capped, a higher minimum wage is put in place, rent control is established, monopolies regulated again, better paying jobs brought back to America?  Of course not, but it certainly would give those people who truly are making an effort more of a shot at actually succeeding.

  • Guest

    What is the definition of a "huge SUV"?  And, is it ever appropriate to drive more than a Honda Civic?

  • Guest

    "All the reasons you mentioned mkochan are what make a lot of the poor remain in their miserable state. I think some of the poor just have a mental incapacity to do the math properly." — goral

    I think not that they are incapable of the math, but that they are not taught.  And the lack of fathers to teach the math, the discipline, and responsibility certainly contributes.

    "Should charities and maybe even government programs have more power to promote changes in "lifestyle?" How can we do that without infringing on basic liberties?" — mkochan

    A government relief program (i.e., any which gets so much as a cent from the taxpayers) dare not differentiate between the virtuous and those who indulge their vices, because that is the textbook definition of discrimination.  For the same reason, they cannot promote one lifestyle as being better than another.  The Church can promote one lifestyle over another, and say one person is doing better than another, as long as she takes no tax money, because nobody is forced to support or receive her help.

    "Will everyone make strides ahead if interest rates are capped, a higher minimum wage is put in place, rent control is established, monopolies regulated again, better paying jobs brought back to America?  Of course not, but it certainly would give those people who truly are making an effort more of a shot at actually succeeding." — merrylamb2001

    I would rather not have the State restricting choices, as it would be at gunpoint, if necessary.  I think we, and the the poor we hope to help, will do much better if instead we make every effort to teach them the foolishness of bad choices, and how they lead to worse situations.

  • Guest

    Yes, elkabrikir, however, not all readers are from the US either. One of the reasons why many of us also pray for the US is in thanksgiving for the opportunity for improvement for others. Like your grandparents, many of our relatives have also benefitted from the opportunity of US immigration.

    The power of hope, the power of a dream, are riches in a family experiencing the hard bite of material poverty, wherever they are. No matter our circumstances, how can we be a kind hand to assist those who fear that their dreams are just that, or those who have stopped dreaming, result of repeated betrayal and injustice.

    Who among our readers will sponsor or co- sponsor the education or vocational training of one person? Who among our readers will invest or encourage investment in areas like the Appalachia? Who will look at alternative delivery of basic primary/preventitive healthcare to make it more affordable to all?

    I always pray for one of our family benefactors. She bought a basket of fish one weekday morning from my father, when he was a teenager. Why was that so important?

    He had to sell it all before going to school that day, a day he had an all important exam that would earn him his student/teacher certificate. She looked at him, made a comment & bought all the fish. There must have been something in his eyes. Running back from the outer villages, my father said that there was no time to bathe or change. He just managed to wash hands & grab his things. He was in his mid thirties (married with 6 children) when he was awarded a scholarship to study 'overseas' at university. Student loans or 'saving up' could not have been part of the equation, no collateral, insufficient income. Even today, many 'take courage' from the lives  of my father & others like him, who themselves were inspired by the lives & stories of great men.

     

    Around here, we acknowlegde that we've only grown really poor since we've stopped sacrificing to help each other as our foreparents did.

    Pray for me.

  • Guest

    I have a daughter (divorced — and not in anyway her fault — with three children) moving into my house with my husband and me this weekend. We only have three bedrooms and one of them is the school room.  But we are making this adjustment so she can cut back on work and go to school to get a better job. So, spice, you are correct that family members do have to sacrifice for one another. This is why immigrants to the US do so well — the whole family pulls together.

  • Guest

    Oh, mkochan this is quite a sacrifice for you. Sorry about the divorce. I hate to use this example here but it is germain to the topic. There are more poverty issues out there because of broken families than any other. Statistics bear out how single moms struggle. This is a big plague on our society. The gov't actually causes a lot of the fathers to abandon families in inner cities. When families stay intact they can pull through any hardship. I pray for you to be able to provide some stability for your daughter in this terrible situation.

  • Guest

    I remember when my husband and I were so poor we were selling plasma for cash, well…my husband was…I was pregnant so I couldn't.

    We lived in a slum, or poor side of town…and the local food store charged an average of 40 cents more per item in the grocery store in my poor neighborhood then its counterpart in a nicer neighborhood did.

    Part of me understands they have to pay for more security in the poorer neighborhoods, but I would get angry because in the poorer store the cans were often dented, the meat was older, the bakery goods stale and boxes were often mushed or crushed.

    So you paid more for less. And many of the people in my neighborhood couldn't, like me (because my mother would come get me), leave and go to a nicer store.

    So it is more expensive to be poor.

    maddy

  • Guest

    I am smiling that the Ave Maria planned community runs an

    advertisement right next to this wonderful article.  You may only
    live in these Pulte homes if you can afford $200,000 for a condo.  Sorry  – I guess people unable to afford such a condo will not 
    enjoy the "Catholic" community.  Let's wait up to our own blindness and love the poor not reject them for our communities.
  • Guest

    I've been poor, too: Living in dangerous apartment complex w/ gunfire and police helicopters circling. St. Vincent de Paul society (Bless them!) bringing our family food we couldn't afford to buy. It was a time of great suffering. However…..if you want socialized medicine, be ready for what those who live in Canada face: 12 hour minimum wait in hospital emergency rooms in Toronto. Really. You can also have an MRI if you need one – but you'll have to wait approximately 8 – 10 months. Of course if you're rich you can go to a private physician (leave the peasants to second class treatment). Now, here in the States, you are still guaranteed treatment even if you can't pay; that's without downgrading our medical standards. Like any gov't run program, it fails.

  • Guest

    Mary,

    I'm sorry your family is and will be going through this traumatic time.

    Thank God your daughter and her children have you and your husband to help them.  I experienced the divorce of my parents when I was in my 20s.  It was HELL!  My mother was an emotional wreck for at least two years.  It is good you will be there for your daughter.

    Also, I think my mother would have gone earlier if she had had a safety net.  My father always said he would "ruin" her financially and she was scared (even though she supported us for years while he got his PhD in economics).

    I know your sacrifice will bear the fruit of a strong family and a family that, in the long run, will not be in poverty.

    You are close to my heart and I will offer up my suffering during these final weeks for you…for you are a Safe Harbor as am I.

  • Guest

    Thank you so much. I am very touched.

    My daughter has been caring for the chidren on her own for some years now, but her work schedule is just very difficult because she works retail and works every weekend.

    She needs a regular job, 9-5 Mon-Fri, so she can be at work while her kids are in school. That is why the additional schooling is so needed and there is no way she could make it on her own with the kids — she would have to work too many hours to be ableto go school if she had to pay her own rent.

    Yes, as has been pointed out by others — when men abandon their fatherly responsibilities the result to their wives and children is very devastating.

  • Guest

    Merrylamb, you're absolutely right about the manufacturing jobs. They paid a decent wage to semi-skilled people. Those jobs are gone. There's a lot of money floating out there but it's in different sectors of the market. It is more difficult for the working poor to tap into these jobs. Also we lived in a lower middle class neighborhood in the city when I was going to grade school. The neighborhood was a little rough but Sunday after church people went to the park with their kids and it was safe with some community spirit. Now those neighborhoods are not condusive to family living. It's gov't policies with the minorities that are ruining the cities. By the way, do you live somewhere around Darien, CT?

  • Guest

    Elka, check yesterday's art article. As Fr. McCarthy put it, moms do more of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked than anyone. Just when you thought they're off and running they come right back as in mkochan's case and here we go again. My parents bailed me out many times, God bless them.

  • Guest

    Yes, as has been pointed out by others — when men abandon their fatherly responsibilities the result to their wives and children is very devastating.

    No argument here, but I'm interested in tying this back to Father Rausch's point about the Grameen bank, credit unions, and other such things. Few would argue with him on these particular points. Universal health care is more disputable, especially when one sees it in practice. Government-paid health care tends to convert time into the medium of exchange, replacing money. Several comments in this thread observe that the difficulties in managing time when you are poor (and working) can equal or exceed the difficulties in managing money. How does one work through nursing school with kids (or something similar) if every doctor visit robs him unnecessarily of an extra hour or two? Better to spend a bit of extra money, save the time, and do homework. Still, the point is well taken.

    However the article completely ignores the prevailing moral climate of the society as a whole rather than that of an usurious few. Here, I speak of the climate in which marriage is denigrated, chastity is dismissed as irrelevant, and people are encouraged to do pretty much whatever the thrill of the moment might inspire. The comments following the article certainly raise these points, at least implicitly, but the article itself ignores them. Nevertheless, the prevailing society exercises real coercion in encouraging people to behave in immoral fashion. And I tire of hearing another proposal for (say) universal health care as if that could possibly be a solution absent the real cultivation and exercise of virtue. I get the impression that some Church leaders are aware of the underlying societal coercion towards immoral behavior and shrink away from confronting it. But the fact remains that chastity has a strong negative correlation with poverty, and unchastity has a strong positive correlation with poverty.

    This is true, of course, because chastity provides the fundamental glue that binds the family together. Many of us have heard that couples who engage in premarital sex wind up divorced 75% of the time if ever they marry and that contracepting married couples divorce at a rate of 50% to 60%. Meanwhile chaste couples almost never divorce. And the comment that led me into this discussion is completely wrapped up in the vice of lust: when men abandon their fatherly responsibilities the result to their wives and children is very devastating. Indeed. Divorce and out-of-wedlock pregnancy are virtual guarantees of poverty, and yet we are too often silent about what causes divorce. Why do these men abandon their fatherly responsibilities? Unchastity. As John Paul observes, contraception not only evades children, it breaks the bonds that might otherwise hold husband and wife together. Ditto with premarital sex, which is greatly enabled by, yes, contraception.

    I'll be blunt: if you want to fight poverty, then teach chastity. And if you don't teach chastity, one must be pardoned for doubting whether you even care about the poor. Certainly Catholic Exchange teaches chastity. Perhaps Father Rausch does as well. But his article doesn't even mention it, leaving one with the impression that he really believes that programs and processes can break poverty. But programs and processes merely treat people as cattle because they are centered on the work being done, not on the person being aided. Virtue, on the other hand, focuses on the person. And chief among the poverty-crushing virtues is chastity.

    It would be nice to hear this once in while from those trumpeting programs and processes.

  • Guest

    Because Fr Rausch has worked for many years in Appalachia, I think much of his thought has been informed by his experience there.

    That region of the US has been poverty ridden for decades and its circumstances predate the "sexual revolution" of hedonism in this country.  It truly is mission territory and the causes of its systemic poverty differ from other regions.  Since the advent of the "War on Poverty" perhaps the region has now succumbed to that disasterous remedy.  I don't know because I haven't studied Appalachia in about 20 years (since college).

    A simple book to read that describes mountain life and mountain people is Christy by Catherine Marshall.  It is a timeless, beautiful story about a Christan missionary teacher to Appalachia.  A picture book for children is When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant.  Its poetic prose warm any heart as she educates the reader about mountain people.

    Fr Rausch's socialism , I think, has been nurtured by his love for these people and the fact that, and it is a fact, that they have been exploited by corporations and neglected by their country for years.  (When I use the term neglected I don't want you to think these people want outside interference.  However, do-gooders can address the legitimate needs such as running water and decent schools without overrunning a culture.  Repectful "aid" is posible to deliver it just requires more character of the giver.  When I say "country" I don't just mean government).

    I believe Father means well, but I don't agree with most of the solutions he now proposes.  In fact, as NFPdad suggests, Father might even be out of touch with the root causes of modern poverty cycles in the USA. (As I posted ealier, I don't believe "poverty" is a strict definition world wide and doesn't have the same causes or solutions.)

    This whole discussion has helped me to refocus on these issues and look into my own soul…..blah! blah!  YOu don't want to go into that dim labrynth!

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