Poverty is a Sin

Dr. Farmer and Father Gutierrez

In the Company of the Poor edited by Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Block is an interview book.  The editors are talking to Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez.

Dr. Farmer is a medical anthropologist and physician who teaches at Harvard Medical School.  He is the Chairman of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.  He spends a good deal of time ministering to the needy in Haiti.  He is also a co-founder of Partners in Health, an international non-profit organization that provides health care services to desperately poor people.  Dr. Farmer is also the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti.

Father Gutierrez is a Dominican friar, who is best known as a proponent of liberation theology.  Even though he is in his 80's he still teaches at Notre Dame.  He has written numerous books on theology and the poor.  In fact, Father Gutierrez's ideas are the foundation for Partners in Health.

Both men refer to Bartolome de las Casas as a spiritual role model.  Las Casas, in the sixteenth century, noticed that the Indians were dying before their time.  They were being exploited by the rich and powerful upper class.  Gutierrez, also a Dominican friar like las Casas, saw a connection to the poor of today.  They also die before their time, due to sickness and lack of nutrition and medical care. Poverty is a challenge to theology.  Father Gutierrez insists that poverty is not only a social challenge, it must be a theological problem.  One must feed the stomach before the mind can be fed.  One must be healthy to feel God's presence.

Father Bruno Cadore, O.P., the Master of the Order of Preachers wrote the Forward to the book.  In it, he states that Gutierrez developed his proposals for a liberation theology in the course of a human, pastoral struggle with the structural poverty affecting so many people in the cities of South America.  Farmer was faced with the scandal of inequality in health care...  I will point out that the Master knows what he talks about since he is a priest like Father Gutierrez, plus, he is also a physician like Dr. Farmer.

Poverty is an evil, that exemplifies a rejection of God's good will.  Both men work to fight this evil.  This book helped me understand what the phrase "a preferential option for the poor" meant.  I also learned what liberation theology involves.  It also helps that our current pope, Pope Francis comes from the part of the world where Dr. Farmer and Father Gutierrez work.  I see and understand Pope Francis better, now.  It is a good book and I'm happy to have read it.


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