Pope Francis v. world hunger

The Pope pitched in for a campaign against world hunger with a video message.

His Holiness is using social media.

QUAERITUR: Is the problem of world hunger Western greed and indifference or the rampant corruption in places where people are starving?

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  1. ASPM Sem says:

    Meus responsum ad QUAERITUR: Cur non uterque? [ehem… You need to work through that Latin again, son. Who can help our seminarian today? I will allow this Latin rabbit hole.]

  2. Austin Catholics says:

    “Is the problem of world hunger Western greed and indifference or the rampant corruption in places where people are starving?”

    Probably the latter, but why does it matter? A problem is a problem.

    But yeah, Christians looking to actively practice their faith often default to looking at hunger as a place on which to focus, but more hidden problems (e.g. the loneliness of the old) could use more attention.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said when visiting Manchester, England, that she thought the worst poverty she had every seen was in that city. Of course, the English got upset-the sin of pride. All countries share in the ignoring of the poor and hungry. In the school year of 2012-2103, there were 116,042 Chicagoans who were homeless, and most likely, hungry at times. I saw homeless men in the posh area of Oak Park just a month ago. The reasons do not matter.

    Americans and American Catholics should not think they are immune for the corruption which causes hunger and poverty.

    Praying today.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    I think hunger is critical in the big picture both in itself out of love for each life and hope for people to thrive, and because fear of not having enough, fear of mass starvation or grinding poverty or hunger-related strife becomes one of the (or perhaps the primary) rationales for the population control agenda. I see Pope Francis as squarely trying to position against that, and inviting Catholics to put money and effort into that. Let’s prove the population controllers wrong. Both through solidarity (wealthier people helping by giving, and avoiding practices exploitative of the poor) and subsidiarity (solving local problems like corruption that keep people impoverished and unable to help themselves).

    Pope Francis’ statement is a basic expression of love for all people and their natural life. It also corresponds very much with the fact the Chuch also believes everyone should have the one spiritual Food for eternal life. People will believe more readily that the Church offers the latter, if we are sincere in offering the former where there is great need.

  5. Sliwka says:

    I think the answer is the Catholic “both/and”.

    How much food is wasted in Western culture? The pervasive “myth of over-population” still exists. With the arable land in existence in North America, there is more than enough to comfortably feed the world; more and more is being used for condos and acreages.

    On the flip side, states with no functioning government and/or rampant corruption does not easily allow for the dissemination of aid.

  6. BLB Oregon says:

    “Is the problem of world hunger Western greed and indifference or the rampant corruption in places where people are starving?”

    Depending on where you are going hungry, the answer might be (a), (b), none of the above, or all of the above. I do not think there is reason to think that the various vices that can be behind hunger are confined with regards to culture or geography. The West has not cornered the market on greed or indifference, nor has anyone else cornered the market on corruption. Those who take government charity that they do not need, for instance, can be seen as taking food out of the mouths of those who do need it. If I could have supported myself and did not do it, that is less money available to support those who are truly helpless. We should not think that greed confines itself to just those who have the greater accumulation. Some accumulate much and yet also share much out of their earned accumulations with those who have little, while others accumulate nothing and take from those who need.

    Based on Matthew 25, obviously the eternal concern is not so much why the least ones went hungry in general, but who it was in each particular case who had the power to feed them and yet did too little to help.

  7. Our genial host’s question is excellent. If you want to address the causes of hunger, you have to figure out what they are. After all, we can get more affluent folks to cut back on their own consumption, and give more to provide food for others…

    And that greater supply of food can still end up being diverted or rotting in a warehouse due to incompetence, or destroyed in the context of war. In fact, that is what I suspect happens all too often.

    That said, there are indeed problems with “Western greed.” For example, it is my understanding that when our government provides help in emergency situations, very often we will insist on shipping food, produced here, into areas of need. Even where this may be more costly; and even though it may have a negative effect on the local market. And why does that matter? If you have farmers and related businesses, in say Indonesia or Asia or Africa, and you’re trying to make a living, what happens when people stop buying from you and instead line up for free food from the USA? Is this really what we want?

    And if you wonder why there is not more flexibility, I’ll explain why: for the same reason that we turn a lot of food into fuel, and our government funnels lots of money to particular food-related industries. It’s politics. Various food-industry lobbies have been successful in writing into our laws any number of preferences and favors, and this drives a lot of our “food aid” approaches.

    All that said, the pope makes a point that decadent westerners can miss, because it can be misconstrued–having to do with over-consumption of food, and wasting food.

    When we waste food, or are over-indulgent with it, that consumes money that we could, if we chose, give elsewhere to help others in need.

    Similarly, it occurs to me that there is a dark side to the efficiencies of our market economy in driving down the cost of food, and maximizing production. Along the way, there are elements of cruelty and degradation of the environment that arise from industrial-scale food production that we, as consumers, would rather not think about. We are just so happy to have the price of bacon, or chicken, or beef, be a lot cheaper than it otherwise would be.

    Something similar happens with clothing and consumer good manufactured in many places of the world, but purchased by those of us at the high end of affluence.

    I’m not going to be glib about solutions; but isn’t the first step to acknowledge there is a problem?

  8. BLB Oregon says:

    Yes, Fr. Martin, you are right that it is important to know the results of our well-meaning actions. For instance, not a few people believe that ethanol use helps the environment, not realizing the effect that generation of ethanol from corn might have on food prices in places where the poorest buy.

    It reminds me of that famous passage from Black Beauty:

    “Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don’t you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness?—and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, ‘Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,’ they think it is all right. I suppose Martha Mulwash did not mean to kill that baby when she dosed it with Dalby and soothing syrups; but she did kill it, and was tried for manslaughter.”

    “And serve her right, too,” said Tom. “A woman should not undertake to nurse a tender little child without knowing what is good and what is bad for it.”

    “Bill Starkey,” continued John, “did not mean to frighten his brother into fits when he dressed up like a ghost and ran after him in the moonlight; but he did; and that bright, handsome little fellow, that might have been the pride of any mother’s heart is just no better than an idiot, and never will be, if he lives to be eighty years old. You were a good deal cut up yourself, Tom, two weeks ago, when those young ladies left your hothouse door open, with a frosty east wind blowing right in; you said it killed a good many of your plants.”

    “A good many!” said Tom; “there was not one of the tender cuttings that was not nipped off. I shall have to strike all over again, and the worst of it is that I don’t know where to go to get fresh ones. I was nearly mad when I came in and saw what was done.”

    “And yet,” said John, “I am sure the young ladies did not mean it; it was only ignorance.”

  9. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Meus responsum ad QUAERITUR: Cur non uterque?”

    Why, it is perfect Google Latin :)

    According to the All-Knowing-All-Seeing Google, responsum is New Latin with the first known use in 1896. Responio, the noun for reply or response is a third declension noun. There is no responsum.

    I have other critiques, which are probably wrong, as well (the reply suggests the subjunctive, which uses quid ni, not cur non, which seeks an answer to a question, and ad quaeritur sounds a little harsh). I eagerly await bring informed from someone who’s knowledge of Latin is more subtle than mine (which is, probably 90% of those reading).

    The Chicken

  10. The Masked Chicken says:


    Good grief!

    The Chicken

  11. ASPM Sem says:

    @The Chicken:

    Thank you for helping a first-year latin student out! I did not use Google Translate, but I did look up the words for “response” and “both” on latin-dictionary.net, which does not state the time when the word came about.

    I promise to improve my Latin ability, St. John Vianney pray for me!

  12. Priam1184 says:

    I saw this on on Vatican Radio’s website about ‘ending world hunger’ and was forced to ask myself: is it the Church’s mission to end world hunger? The answer is unequivocally yes. Is it by giving us bread and meat and food that will fill our bellies for a day? No. “Nam semper pauperes habetis vobiscum (Mt. xxvi, 11).”

  13. Siculum says:

    Both. There is a tremendous amount of waste in this country.

    Remember the biofuel boom bust?

    Si, “Nam semper pauperes habetis vobiscum.”

    Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and feed him for life. Give or take.

    If we had less money taken by the govt to pay for food+abortions+contraceptives+sterilizations overseas, and/or give them to corrupt banana republics, we’d all have more $$$ to give to private charities like Food for the Poor and Peter’s Pence, with very low overhead and great on-the-ground capabilities. With particular regard to Peter’s Pence, it’s my understanding that despite the issues with money at the Holy See, to whatever degree they exist, Peter’s Pence donations have a 100% turnover rate. Please correct me if I’m naive or wrong.

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    ASPM Sem,

    For goodness sakes, don’t take my comment as being from someone who knows what they are talking about. There are people who read this blog who know more a Latin in their little finger than I and, they even probably know the Latin for little finger :)

    The Chicken

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    IPad has this annoying auto correct feature that puts an a before every noun. That should be, “who know more Latin…”

    The Chicken

  16. Unwilling says:

    I think he said/read that “having enough to eat is a God-given right”. This is a common way of speaking, that I don’t ‘get’. How can something so contingent as the availability of food be a right, especially, a (serious-sounding) “God-given” one? If your plane crashes into a remote mountain-side, what happens to this “right”? Can a right disappear just like that? Or, what if Mommy sends you to bed without your supper: have she violated your God-given right? [You have a right to life, I understand that: if an evil mother withholds food until death, she violates a right alright.]

    Food is something we all want a steady supply of and taking it is a natural act. Unless, we are talking gluttony, there is nothing sinful about having and eating food. But how can having food be a right?

  17. wmeyer says:

    After all, we can get more affluent folks to cut back on their own consumption, and give more to provide food for others…

    The suggestion that this is a zero sum game is simply wrong. We still pay farmers not to plant, and are far from having committed the use of all (profitably) arable land. Moreover, we seem always ready to give.

    The problem of rampant corruption on the receiving end was amply portrayed in The Ugly American (1958), and 55 years later, there is little sign that remedies have been implemented. Our own people appear to be quite as inept now as then, and the UN certainly has not been as effective as might have been hoped. Of course, while they are voting against us at every turn, that should not be surprising.

  18. WMeyer:

    In quoting me, I think you are missing the point.

    First of all, when I said, “After all, we can get more affluent folks to cut back on their own consumption, and give more to provide food for others…” I wasn’t talking about whether everything is zero-sum; only that in spending less money on self, one can spend more on others. Do you really mean to say that last sentence is not true?

    Of course, increasing abundance and wealth works too. That’s a separate point to which I did not address myself. I didn’t think I had to. Was I mistaken?

    In any case, you missed my point in another way.

    My point was that even if people engage in such self-denial, other problems–if unsolved–will short-circuit their good intentions.

    Since you are insistent that one must always account for the possibility of increasing abundance, then my point might have been restated thusly (with new words in bold):

    After all, we can unleash the full dynamism of nature’s bounty and human ingenuity, resulting in vastly more food for all…

    And that greater supply of food can still end up being diverted or rotting in a warehouse due to incompetence, or destroyed in the context of war. In fact, that is what I suspect happens all too often.

    Get it? The main point remains unchanged.

    Look, I agree with you about not seeing things in a zero-sum way. That wasn’t the point I chose to make, and I don’t see why I had to. Without intending to, it seems to me you’re kind of making a single phrase of mine into a rhetorical whipping boy for your argument.

  19. Mike says:

    I would not presume to say I have any great knowledge, and indeed, I’m younger than most people here, but since “responsum” has generated controversy, are there any objections to the use of contradictio (feminine, nominative, third declension)?

  20. wmeyer says:

    As you will, Fr. Fox. I got your point, and it seemed to misdirect attention. The more affluent do not usually need to tighten their belts in order to give. Even those of us who are far from such levels can usually find more to contribute. However, I was not attempting to refute, so much as to clarify. Clearly I failed.

  21. WMeyer:

    Well, I appreciate your amiable response, so I want to continue in that spirit.

    But among the more affluent I include myself, considering where I stand in relation to the world.

    But supposing I had 100x my current income, what I say next remains true: were I, for example, to spend less on me, that means I can give more. Irrefutable.

    How much is enough? That depends. But some of us–not all–are invited by the Lord to “sell all you have.” And one reason the Lord gives that advice is for the sake of the one who has the stuff to sell.

    I think that’s why the pope’s advice is worthwhile, regardless of his underlying economic theory.

  22. rcg says:

    I go with indifferenceto corruption. The reason is that the question assumes it is Western responsibility rather than all humanity (certainly not Fr Z’ assumption). Greed is also self limiting without Government assistance. This is because wealth can’t be hoarded without diminishing in value.

    The link, at least in my mind, is the complete lesson of the parables of the wealthy young man who would not give up his fortune to follow Christ and the parable of the talents. Christ did not tell the young man how to give up his wealth. He could have created wealth and loads of work for the poor that would have returned much more than he originally had. So he was another version of the servant who only buried the talents rather than investing them.

    FWIW, I totally reject that as a form of capitalism. That is my biggest beef with what Pope Francis said and also Pope Benedict. It misportrays feudalism as capitalism.

  23. Agathon says:

    “QUAERITUR: Is the problem of world hunger Western greed and indifference or the rampant corruption in places where people are starving?”

    If we are talking the root causes of famine and starvation, it’s largely because those areas of the world lack well defined or defended property rights, the rule of law, and free markets.

    QUAERITUR: Am I permitted to think this in good conscience?

  24. Netmilsmom says:

    The pity of it is, if we would stop feeding the lazy, we could help many more of the hungry.

  25. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Millions of Europeans did not have enough to eat for a decade or so after the end of WWII. Food was expensive for the city poor, was still rationed in some countries (meat for example), was fitfully supplied and generally low in quality and variety. Portions were tiny. Soups with fatty scraps of meat and pulses were a staple. Only three kinds of veg and two kinds of fruit. And not the slightest nutritional knowledge piercing the gloom of that boring diet. Heating and hot water were also in low supply.
    We survived and even flourished. We had educational opportunities, truly Catholic schools, close family life, spiritual comfort. Little opportunity for time-wasting.
    Hunger does not kill or even stunt: it gives the hungry the normal, human ambition to be better off, and less hungry in consequence. We would have thought it ridiculous to think of an unattainable, large, three-course meal as a ‘human right’ – any more than the human right to own a Rolls Royce.
    There’s a passage in Harpo Marx’s autobiography of his childhood, when the Marx family was dirt-poor: he remembers ecstatically Papa Marx turning a bit of grated carrot, a beaten egg and a spoon of flour into ‘angelic food for the gods’. Many have such fond memories of difficult times.

    Starvation is a different matter: a deadly evil – but in areas of the world we cannot usually access, and usually the result of wars or maladministration that we cannot lastingly help except – perhaps – through starving greedy governments of foreign aid rather than giving them more. And promoting agricultural and business self-reliance, and free markets.

    The idea that it is the ‘aim’ of the Church to eradicate hunger seems…[ponders most tactful adjective to use] let’s say, overly quixotic.

  26. NickD says:

    To answer Father’s request for better Latin, my imperfect rendering:

    “Mea sententia quaesito: si unum, quamobrem non alterum?”

  27. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Agathon: The Holy Father asks for us in the above video to cooperate with the poor, so that they can eat from the fruits of their own labors. Also, in “Evangelii Gaudium,” he talks a ton about corruption, people being “excluded” from the law (ie, treated like crud by the government), and so on. So I think he would agree with you there.

  28. Nan says:

    @ASPMsem, I’ll pray for your latin studies through the intercession of St. Jerome, patron saint of latinists.

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