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Catholic laity and religious on poverty.

SISTER DOROTHY PAGOSA'S article in the Winter 2005-2006 issue reminds us of the faithful tradition of Catholic religious and the laity's resolute efforts to provide services and advocacy for those made poor in society. Besides all that Dorothy reported, I believe Catholic religious wo/men and the laity increasingly understand the interconnectedness of the political, economic and religious systems that are at the root of the world's pandemic of poverty. The post-Vatican II years have moved us into the long haul work of focusing our energies on resisting the power-over/dominating character of what Vandana Siva describes as "capitalist and religious patriarchy."

Vandana Siva, in her new book, Earth Democracy--Justice, Sustainability and Peace, summarizes well these connections when she reminds us that "the concept of control is old, but the expressions are new.... When food and water are hijacked by corporate profits, women's economies and knowledge systems are destroyed ... and the marginalization of women increases, and so does the violence against them." She makes the point that both capitalist patriarchy and religious patriarchy share similar aspects: "domination of men with religious or economic power over other humans and Earth; devaluation of women, workers, and other beings; disconnection from Earth and living cultures and economies."

Many religious today are grounded in a deeper understanding of the power paradigms at work creating the economic crisis and the violent effects this is having on Earth as well as its inhabitants. Many religious congregations took the lead by their involvement in the environmental movement by returning their land to its organic state, initiating Community Service Agriculture (CSAS), raising consciousness through educational programs and using their land, resources and power of influence to build with others toward a more sustainable economics.

Dom Helder Camara, the Bishop of Recife, whose untiring work to publicly challenge both the church and societal systems that contributed to the poverty for the people of Brazil, knew the problem of power-over when he said, "My experience has taught me that if the church wishes to stay free for the gospel and free to hear and serve Christ among the poor, it must not be tied to any power, right or left." Individual Catholic wo/men will continue to "resist in place" the powers-that-be. However, these times, I believe, call us to step out of our comfort zone to use our collective power of influence on behalf of justice. It's risky business for sure, but it's what it will take to "stay free for the gospel." It is our legacy. We cannot do less.

KATHLEEN DESAUTELS, SP

Chicago, Illinois
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Title Annotation:LETTERS
Author:Desautels, Kathleen
Publication:Conscience
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jun 22, 2006
Words:427
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