Reflectionson Poverty Prepared by the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development
Our Catholic faith
teaches that family is essential, "the natural community in which human social
nature is experienced, [which] makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to
the good of society."
~Pope Francis 
Healthy families make
healthy communities, all working together to protect human life and dignity and
promote the common good. To make this happen, and for families and family
members to develop their full spiritual, cultural, educational, and vocational
potential, it's important that their basic needs be met.
We all have basic
needs—a home, healthcare, education—and in our society many of those needs must
be purchased. This is why access to
financial resources like credit is essential. We depend on the availability of
decent work and access to credit to build and sustain healthy and dignified
Blessed John Paul II
called work "a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question." In
speaking of the rights of workers, Catholic tradition ties the question of a
just wage directly to the family, saying, "an element that must be appreciated
and safeguarded is that of a family wage, a wage sufficient to maintain a
family and allow it to live decently. Such a wage must also allow for savings
that will permit the acquisition of property as a guarantee of freedom."
Millions of Americans
are suffering as the result of an economy that does not produce enough jobs
that pay decent wages. There are over three unemployed job seekers for every
available job. So the poverty rate remains unacceptably high, and families
struggle under the weight of increasing costs and stagnant or falling wages. Many
families find themselves without bank accounts and access to credit.
In addition to stress
and anxiety, a situation like this creates dangers of abuse and exploitation.
Some take advantage of people living in poverty with practices like payday lending,
subprime mortgages, or even wage theft. Our tradition condemns this behavior in
harsh terms: "Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger
and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide..."
All people have
dignity, and should have access to the resources they need to meet their needs,
including access to fair credit. As the bishops have urged, "We must insure
fair and equal access to available credit. We urge banks and savings and loan
associations to meet their responsibilities..."
There is much work to
be done to build a society where families can thrive and communities flourish.
Prayer and sensitivity to our neighbor is essential and learning about the
extent of credit abuse and the lack of honest banking options for many can be
eye opening. Don't be afraid to get involved! Some dioceses and parishes have
banded together to provide credit options through micro-lending and the
formation of credit unions, many times with the help of CCHD. And many CCHD
groups are combating predatory lending practices locally and working to provide
Working together, we
can make a difference.
 Pontifical Council for Justice and
Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2004, no. 213.
 Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris,
1963 no. 11-18.
 Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercens,
1981, no. 3.
 Ibid. at i, no. 250.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1992, no. 2269.
 USCCB, The Right to a Decent Home,
1975, no. 31-32.
Questions for Spiritual Reflection in the Parish or in Small Groups
- Has your family—or
another family you know—experienced unemployment or other financial hardship?
What impact did this have on the family?
- What is the
connection between access to fair credit, just wages and healthy families?
- How is God calling
you to lighten the burden of distressed families during this time of economic