Wednesday, June 18, 2014

That Deadly Sin: Greed

'They have abandoned me, the font of living water, and dug for themselves leaky cisterns that cannot hold water.' [Jer. 2:13]

Monsignor Pope writes well about the capital sin of greed, or avarice.  He covers it.  Of course, commenters disagree with him.  We don't like to consider that we, ourselves, may be - probably are - infected with such a tendency...

Too few of us are willing to consider that greed is really a problem we can have. Greed is always something that other guy has.
Of course it doesn’t help that we live in a culture of consumption, which constantly tells us we don’t have enough. The car we’re driving isn’t as good as this other car we could be driving (according to the commercial). And so even though we have a perfectly good car: one that has four wheels, a working engine, and probably even air-conditioning, it still it isn’t good enough, and we are actually drawn to feeling deprived by the clever marketing experts of Madison Avenue. So it is with almost every other product or amenity that is sold to us on a daily basis. Therefore it almost never occurs to most of us that we may have crossed the line somewhere into greed. Despite having even six- and seven-figure incomes, many still feel deprived.
Once again, it’s the other guy that’s greedy; I’m not. It’s a problem that those nasty rich and powerful people have. Never mind that I’m pretty darned rich myself, living in a home with running water, air conditioning, and amenities like granite counter tops and widescreen TVs.
But when do I honestly look at myself and wonder if I am greedy? When do I ever conclude, on a very personal level, that I have more than enough and that I need to be a lot more generous with what has become excessive in my life? When do I ever apply the old precept that if I have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor? And yes, I understand that it’s good to have something laid up for a rainy day. But when do I ever ask myself if I’m really trusting in God, or just trusting in my rainy day fund? When do I ever wonder if I’ve crossed the line?
I realize that some of you who read this post will find it disturbing. Let me assure you, so do I. These are uncomfortable questions. - Monsignor Pope


This vice has been on mind recently. I often think of the Gospel passage, "Avoid greed in all of its forms."  There are many forms of greed, many motives, many expressions - which may explain, in part, why it is so difficult to detect in ourselves.

This morning, the prayer from the monthly novena to the Infant Jesus touches upon it:

O Little King, attraction of all hearts, we hail that blessed hour and moment in which you were born of the most pure Virgin Mary in the poverty of Bethlehem.  You did not need earthly pomp or riches, for they could add nothing to your Infinite Majesty.  Teach us that true riches are within and that it is not what we have but what we are that counts. Amen.
Maybe that has little to do with what Monsignor wrote - but like I said, I've been thinking about this a lot.

Some of those thoughts ...

  • Bloggers can be greedy for stats and followers, praise and affirmation.  

  • Some bloggers who accept donations can up their donation quotas as donations increase.  Enough is never enough.

  • Some people online, poor though they may be, flaunt their education, academic degrees, and expertise - which are a form of riches.  They are greedy for the recognition they believe these gifts deserve.

  • Michael Voris recently came out with a video advising Catholics not to give their hard earned dollars to the Church, suggesting it is like giving money to an alcoholic.  Though I understand what he is saying, especially in light of church closings and selling off church goods - more often than not, such churches built and appointed on the back of the working-immigrant poor; and considering dubious charitable contributions by the USCCB, as well as money spent on legal issues connected to the sexual abuse crises.  I get it.  Nevertheless, the emphasis is on money.  Voris and his network do fundraising as well.  In this recent contest, the emphasis is placed on money. It appears to always come down to money - which is obviously something highly esteemed by all.

Show me the money.

Then there is the Acton Institute.  I have difficulty understanding priest involvement in the Institute.  I have difficulty understanding why someone who lives on the kindness of strangers, a sort of gyrovague priest, would take such an active interest in the world of finance?  Especially after a comment like this:
"I enjoyed the phrase: “Social Justice” is a catch word for something that I want and therefore the government should provide.  I would add: With someone else’s money." - Fr. Z
They all take donations - they all live on someone else's money.  And they keep asking for more.

"Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God."

Historically, the Popes have addressed economic issues, Pope Francis is no different.  Cardinal Dolan recently stepped into the conversation as well - pretty much to soften the effect of what the Pope says upon Americans.  I'm just not sure Cardinal Dolan is on the same page as the Holy Father.

"The Pope's critiques have direct relevance to economic inequality and injustice that clearly exist in the United States today," says Jesuit Fr. David Hollenbach, professor of human rights and international justice at Boston College. The cardinal "needs to reflect on the extraordinary growth of inequality of income and wealth in the United States when he suggests that Pope Francis' criticisms of capitalism do not apply in this country."
"Cardinal Dolan misses what Pope Francis sees so clearly," Father Christiansen says. "The growth of inequality everywhere including the U.S. is a result of American-style capitalism and the financialization of the economy." He continues:
Stagnation in wage growth and the trickle-up economy has shrunk the U.S. middle class and hollowed out the economic power of those who remain in it. Pope Francis understands this when he links addressing poverty to reversing inequality.

For generations, Catholic social teaching has understood and taught that improving the condition of the poor means holding inequality in check. Thanks be to God, that Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have underscored that teaching in the most emphatic ways.
Unfortunately, too many well-to-do Catholics prefer getting their economic ethics from the Acton Institute rather than the Vatican.  - NCR

All of our works are tainted by avarice.

Greed is a deadly sin - it eats away the soul.  It places conditions upon charity and marginalizes those most in need.

Avoid greed in all of its forms.

These greedy persons fall into all kinds of sins out of love for temporal goods, and the harm they suffer is indeterminable. 

The avaricious man, because of temporal goods, is unconcerned about setting his heart on God's law, and consequently his will, memory, and intellect wander far from God, and he forgets him, as though he were not his God at all.  The reason is that he has made gods out of temporal goods and money.  St. Paul indicates this in declaring that avarice is a form of idolatry. [Col. 3:15]

Many in the world today, their reason darkened through covetousness, serve money and not God, and they are motivated by money rather than by God, and they give first consideration to the temporal price and not to the divine value and reward.  In countless ways they make money their principal god and goal and give it precedence to God, their ultimate end.

Likewise included in this category are all those miserable souls who value earthly goods as their god and are so enamored of them that they do not hesitate to sacrifice their lives when they observe that this god of theirs undergoes some temporal loss.  They despair and commit suicide for wretched reasons, and demonstrate with their own hands the miserable reward that comes from such a god.  Since there is nothing to hope for from him, he gives despair and death." - John of the Cross, Ascent, Bk III, Ch 20

Song for this post here.


  1. Much of what you say, well, many of us are guilty of, myself included. I already posted about my concerns with regards to Iraq and all those suffering in many hot spots in the world. I was at the grocery store today and living in Southern California, well, it is a cornucopia of fresh everything and anything...fruits, of all colors, shapes, flavors. Same goes for meats, fish, vegetables, legumes, rice....I could go on.

    Anyway, as I was getting some radishes and marveling at how beautiful they are, how wonderfully fresh they smelled and then my thoughts turned to my brothers and sisters who roam the desert in search of safety and water and food. I wished I could fly them all the food that is thrown away when not sold.

    I prayed and I thanked God and I asked him to give me the will power and the hope and the desire to pray, to intercede, to make sacrifices out of love for Him and for his people especially those who are forgotten.

    I do not want anymore take, anymore, for granted, what the gracious and most merciful Lord has given to me. I am going to pray too for the very rich so that their hearts will be moved, truly moved, to help their brothers and sisters in need.

    Your post is a beautiful one, Terry! Thanks again!

  2. I like the new header! Is that a photo taken from Acton Day One?

    1. And believe it or not, I actually appreciate very much what Pope Francis said back in February about simplicity, the avoidance of preferences and cliques:

      I've wondered too if his critique of "airport bishops" should not also apply to priests as well.

      How self-serving it all seems after a while! The constant conferences and keeping up with this and that.

      "Of the making of many books there is no end, and in much study there is weariness for the flesh."

  3. Somewhere I read, "In America, we flush our toilets with drinking water."

    For some, the more they make, the more good they can do:

    Fortunately there are individuals who will lead us to make a difference:
    Fifty cents over 40 days of Lent would be $20. That would be about $29 today.

  4. Terry, if you have not read the book by Fr. Thomas Dubay, "Blessed Are You Poor," you might want to check it out. It addresses in a very powerful and sobering way this very subject. It is worth reading again and again...and again until it really takes hold (I'm still working on the taking hold part).


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