Catholicism does not come with material rewards guaranteed despite promises of charismatic preachers…
Editor’s Note: The statement attributed to Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me,” (Mt: 26:11) is readily quoted by Evangelical fundamentalists as justification for the status quo. The poor are often the object of charity and, if we are honest, an act of ego and the balm to ease a guilty conscience.
What did Jesus really mean? Rather than a statement of inevitability and preordination by God, was it not, perhaps, an admonishment for our failure to translate the Gospel into a living faith of sharing and justice as the early Church most certainly did?
The false gospel of prosperity is spreading throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. Largely funded by evangelical movements of the American deep south, it preaches a gospel of content and acceptance of the prevailing social order, often rooted as it is in deep-seated injustice and corruption. Poverty is presented as a personal punishment for sins and as a failure to live ones faith adequately. Whereas the real sin is in the accumulation of wealth that condemns the masses to lives of poverty and hunger and all the degrees of suffering they represent.
Catholic Social Teaching is clear that ‘Living Faith is Living Justly’. It is a recognition that poverty is a question of wealth and wealth is a question of poverty. The growing divide between rich and poor, between the powerful and the weak, is not God’s will. It is a human choice and imposition that has become an ever greater threat to the future of humankind. The unjust distribution of the resources of the earth is not only responsible for the subhuman conditions of over three-quarters of humanity, but it is also impacting the animal kingdom and the necessary biodiversity of the planet’s future wellbeing.
In recent months the hierarchy of Africa have begun to grapple with ‘the false gospel of prosperity’. Below we share an article which appeared in October 2018 in La Croix International.
In this, the 150th anniversary year of the great Hindu soul, Mahatma Gandhi, let us reflect on one of his most insightful nuggets of wisdom. Wisdom that is also a basic law of nature:
“The Earth has enough for everyone’s need,
But not enough for everyone’s greed.”
Subscribing to Catholicism is not like buying a winning lottery ticket or getting access to a magic formula that can instantly make all of your dreams come true, African Church leaders have warned.
The issue came to the fore amid talk of a false “gospel of prosperity” gaining traction at Catholic parishes in Africa, notably in the Ivory Coast.
Widespread poverty is drawing Africans, especially young people without jobs, to preachers who make outlandish promises of prosperity resulting from demonstrations of devotion and piety, according to Monseigneur Lazarus Anondee, secretary-general of the Ghanaian bishops’ conference.
But each diocese has been alerted to the threat posed by such skewed biblical teaching and has formulated its own pastoral plan to combat it, he told the Catholic News Service.
“The Catholic Church will never endorse such ideas, which deceive people into thinking that, by some so-called miracle, manna will fall from heaven.”
“You have to work to achieve something, and the church would rather empower people through education and vocational training,” he said.
Ivory Coast Bishop Paul Sandi cautioned parishioners against being “hypnotized.”
“People seeking quick solutions are being hypnotized into believing a single prayer can become a magic formula for riches and the good life,” he said.
“Although it isn’t rampant yet in the Catholic Church, we’ve had to caution charismatic priests not to encourage the prosperity gospel, especially when it’s brought in by outsiders,” added Bishop Sandi, who also serves as secretary-general of the Inter-territorial Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Gambia and Sierra Leone.
U.S. televangelists often default to preaching the prosperity gospel, which has become popular among the Pentecostal and charismatic movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America over the last four decades, the report said.
Writing Aug. 31, 2018 in the Rome-based Jesuit journal, La Civilita Cattolica, theologians Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa said Pope Francis had warned in several speeches and homilies against “prosperity theology,” whose adherents generally lacked “compassion for the poor” and viewed their plight as signaling they were “not loved by God.”
The original La Croix article can be accessed by clicking here.