Fr Paddy ByrneIn Ireland, everything, including our basic needs has become a commodity to be purchased by those who can afford to purchase it: housing, education, health, childcare, care of the elderly.

May our Communities and indeed Church grow closer to the call of God, in building a society that affords much more to the opportunities that some take as an inherited gift.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 22 May 2008

Recent rumblings about an economic slowdown are I’m sure very worrying for many in our communities, especially those who have huge mortgages and have accumulated large scale debt in terms of personal finances. Despite a time of plenty that has been enjoyed, the immanent storm clouds of economic uncertainty and recession seem to be gaining momentum daily. Every day we hear of more and more job losses and rising unemployment. This is true particularly in our construction industry where a real slowdown has been dramatically felt since Christmas. Many in our communities are struggling to maintain the standard of living that they have been accustomed too in recent years.

One of the great tragedies of the vibrant Irish economy in the past decade is that the wealth that has been created has not been at all distributed fairly. Yes, the rich are even more powerful and indeed richer but the poor; the marginalized and impoverished within all our communities are a lot more vulnerable because of the Celtic tiger. In a recent interview on the Irish Times, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, described the participants of the Diocese he serves as both middle-aged and middle-class. The Church faces a huge challenge communicating its relevant message and purpose specifically to young people especially where poverty, social unrest and issues such as addiction and crime are the norm. In parts of large inner City areas faith practice has almost totally diminished.

A prophet and relevant voice of Christian hope for such communities is the voice of Fr. Peter McVery, a Jesuit priest who has spent many years working with homeless young people. Fr. Peter’s work with and campaigning on behalf of troubled young people has made him one of the most prophetic voices in Ireland today. He recently wrote a very challenging book entitled – Jesus: social revolutionary? this book attempts to open a debate about the meaning of our faith and the obligations that belonging to our Christian community imposes on us all. Issues such as poverty, inequality, addiction, social isolation affect all of our communities and we are called by our God to be aware and defend the most vulnerable members of our society.

Two hundred and twenty thousand houses and apartments in Ireland are lying permanently empty, while five thousand people everyday are homeless in this Country. That is what happens in a system where housing becomes a commodity to be bought and sold, like stokes and shares, instead of a basic need for every citizen. Often obscene poverty exists side by side with obscene wealth. Increasingly, in Ireland, everything, including our basic needs has become a commodity to be purchased by those who can afford to purchase it: housing, education, health, childcare, care of the elderly, the list continues.

At the heart of the Gospel is a desire by our God, to bring a reign of justice and opportunity to all people, not just to a select handful. Jesus by his solidarity with the most broken and vulnerable was indeed a revolutionary. May our Communities and indeed Church grow closer to the call of God, in building a society that affords much more to the opportunities that some take as an inherited gift.