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Hope for Housewives — Or Dishonor?

Concern for the poor has been a cornerstone of Catholic action and doctrine since Jesus issued the Beatitudes, chief among which is the first, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus came to vindicate the suffering of the poor and give them hope for eternal life.

But who are the poor? The American Heritage Dictionary defines the poor as “People with little or no wealth and possessions considered as a group.” The Church calls upon her members to perform Corporal Works of Mercy, which include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, tending to the sick, and visiting prisoners. The Church has a good handle on who the poor are and what they require.

But if you were to ask Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, he would tell you that the Church’s understanding is inadequate. Sen, whose article “Will There Be Any Hope for the Poor?” appears as part of Time magazine’s “Visions 21” series (May 22) speculating on the future of “Our Work, Our World,” claims that “Economic poverty is not the only kind of poverty…,” and that the definition of the poor must include “subjugated homemakers in male-dominated societies, common in Asia and Africa, who lead a life of unquestioning docility….”

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