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The road to justice and equality

In late January, Luis Cardinal Tagle raised a few eyebrows in Cebu during the Eucharistic Congress when he spoke directly about the greed and corruption of Philippine politicians, who are so much a part of the throwaway society of greed, corruption, materialism and waste.

“Politicians, will you throw away people’s taxes for your parties and shopping, or guard them as gifts for social service?” he asked, adding that they seem to consider the public treasure as their own piggy banks and plunder it wherever they can see the chance of not being caught.

But the young cardinal’s statement just touched the painful wound of poverty and low wages suffered by 99 per cent of the 100 million Filipinos.

The painful truth is that The Philippines is just part of the great global inequality that is driving more money into the bank accounts of the superrich and ripping it off the hard working poor and middle class, which drives hundreds of thousands into the demeaning poverty of city slums and brothels for the rich.

There are 62 multi-billionaires on this planet. Each one has more wealth than the poorest half of the population of the entire planet. Oxfam points out that since 2010, the wealth of the richest 62 people—Forbes’ billionaire list—has risen by 44 per cent, while the wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion people fell by 41 per cent.

Yes, it is hard to imagine and harder still to understand how they get so wealthy, let alone how their wealth continues to grow by the second as investment interest keeps rolling in.

Meanwhile, the wages of the majority have shrunk in the past 25 years. The lowest paid of all are women.

The most exploited and abused are young girls trafficked into the sex industry. They will tell you that they do it because of poverty, as their parents, younger brothers and sisters are hungry. National surveys show that as many as 16 million people experience hunger in The Philippines.

The Philippines is a wealthy country, richly endowed with minerals, agricultural land and resources galore. Yet just one per cent of the population owns or controls it.

If that is ever questioned or challenged, the military and police simply remove the troublesome mouth, usually permanently. Death squads are commonly used by politicians to get and retain their power and wealth.

How does such gross inequality stand up to Christian beliefs and values? It doesn’t. There is no contest, such social injustice is in direct contradiction with and opposed to all that the gospel teaches us.

It is in contradiction with all Jesus of Nazareth fought and died for. 

We are all equal before God and equal in God’s family, but others deprive us of that equality through their greed and selfishness. Truly, this is the sin of the world.

What he wanted above all was a world where justice for the poor was paramount and at the heart of human society. 

As the humble son of a carpenter, he confronted the inequality and mistreatment of the poor, but he also ignited the ire and anger of the ruling elite.

The powers-that-be set out to shut him up permanently, especially when he condemned them as corrupt. He compared them with the putrid tombs of the dead, attractive from the outside, but with only dead men’s bones inside. Besides, he said that they were a brood of vipers.

Because he confronted the Wall Street of his day, kicking over their tables and disrupting their grubby business in the house of God—they conspired to have him charged and sentenced to death.

The Eucharist is the goodbye dinner by which he wants us to make him present among us and remember his mission and go out and put it into action through word and deed.

Cardinal Tagle did not get that confrontational in his talk, but it is a good start. He has some of the spirit of Pope Francis, who has been more outspoken against the unjust system of wealth generation and the corrupt form of capitalism that fleeces the lowly paid with high prices and the unjust practices of the government which they control.

But the Philippine Church must divorce itself from the grubby donations and gifts of the rich. They are little more than bribes to cover their sins of greed and exploitation.



 • Father Shay Cullen