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Cardinal speaks on role of theology in ending poverty

| Monday, November 3, 2014

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, came to McKenna Hall Friday to discuss the roles of Catholic teaching and liberation theology in alleviating poverty. The interview, titled “Poor for the Poor: The Mission of the Church,” was part of the weekend-long conference called “Your Light Will Rise in Darkness: Responding to Cries of the Poor.”

“I am not an economist or a politician,” Müller said. “I am a theologian, and these theories and depositions come not from an expertise in economics and politics but from expertise in humanity.

“The Church’s mission is not to be a social lever or economic link. The mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and part of that preaching is to call attention to and solve the denigration of the dignity of man.”

Drawing on his recent book “Arm for the Poor,” Müller said his experience with poverty in the Andes was a sobering one and demonstrated the dehumanizing realities of poverty.

“It is … difficult to imagine a German university professor living on the floor of a clay hut … being able to share the very real experience of poverty as it is lived every day by countless men,” he said. “Poverty leads to extremely difficult situations and emergencies and causes conflict within families, groups and entire societies.”

Müller said first-world society is still plagued by some form of dehumanization, brought on by increasing distance from the Church.

“Mechanical developments and the process of industrialization began to influence ideas about man such that he could be considered nothing more than a mere machine,” he said. “A machine only that would unconditionally serve to further productivity, guarantee deregulated efficiency and produce ever-high profits. In such, the role of man was relegated to an inferior position, and his role of machine exalted.”

Müller said the Catholic Church could act as a powerful answer to poverty, playing an important role in protecting human dignity through the solidarity and teachings of the Church.

“The mission of the Church is to free mankind from the poverty of our poor condition and remind us that we are made in the image and likeness of God,” he said. “In a very important encyclical from Pope Leo XIII, ‘The Church has consistently addressed the changing social situation of the world and its impact on man.’

“So we must all recognize in ourselves our own poverty, our need for salvation, our dependence on God, and we must see in this the fundamental truth of our human nature.”

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