1985 Oct 27 – 30th Sun Ord Time (Bulletin Letters)
This is the last in a series of four segments ‘of key concepts to help explain why some of us priests are ready to use direct non-violent means of intervention to help keep family farmers on their land. The last three weeks we dealt with Civil Disobedience, Divine Obedience, and Love Based/ Faith Centered Non-violent Direct Action. This week we are dealing with Rights/Property/Persons. I welcome any feedback you might have.
The greatest design flaw in our economic, political and social insti-tutions is the way in which the rights of property are insured, over the rights of people. My experience with the Catholic Worker has been a real educa-tion in this regard. In countless and systematic ways our nations: eco-nomic, political and social structures favor the rights of property over the rights of people – especially the poor. We are in a society in which the rich and the poor are increasingly experiencing two types of justice, two types of medical care, two types of education and two types of oppor-tunities. It is alarming to note that during this “Pro-Life” administra-tion one out of every two Black and Hispanic children born in this country have been born into poverty. An increasing percentage of poverty families are headed by women. The very abuses upon which the prophets chastised Israel are being repeated in this day and age in America.
The current rural crisis is a good example of how the system protects the rights of property over the rights of people. Most farm families in trouble today are there because of high debts, decreasing farmland and equipment values and low market prices. Many of these farmers are good and efficient food producers. They are often the best stewards of the land they farm. Yet, in an economic crisis in which everyone has played a part, the government, agri-business, lending institutions and the farmers themselves, it’s the individual family farmer who stands to lose. They are being kicked off their land by economic and political forces more concerned with recovering an unrecoverable debt than helping to keep our family farming system afloat.
The Church teaches that the rights of property are conditional. Property rights are valid only to the extent that they serve the common good. It is not in the interest of the common good to let the family farming system go down the drain in an effort to preserve a credit system that is unjust. This must be stopped!
In the weeks and months ahead it may be necessary to practice civil disobedience in the rural struggle. As a people of faith, we may well respond with Divine Obedience in our efforts to save the family farm. When the rights of property are held above the rights of people, some of us may use Love Based/Faith Centered Non-violent Direct Means of inter-vention to keep our friends and neighbors on their land. The above descriptions and explanations are not meant to be the last word but a starter in helping our people come to understand what’s at stake in the rural struggle and whey we feel called to act.