There is a war being waged on the poor throughout the world. And the more vulnerable the poor, the greater the war. In Indianapolis, there is a movement to not only restrict panhandling, but to make it illegal for the poor, and homeless, to sit or lie down as needed in city streets. Thankfully, there has been a large outcry against such a measure, but this does not mean the seed has not been planted for the measure to eventually succeed. Such a ban is not only being proposed in many other cities, but a similar law has found itself welcome in Hungary, where there is now a new ban in Hungary on “rough sleeping,” which forbids those have no shelter or home of their own to sleep when needed on public property (such as city streets). This has effectively made it a crime to be homeless, because wherever they would find a place to sleep, they will find themselves breaking the law. The United Nations has rightfully declared this as a cruel evil to be opposed. The argument its defenders give that such a law will “save lives” is absurd because it does not make room for those who have no place to live. If the government wanted to help the homeless, it would not do so by making it illegal for them to fulfill their needs, but to work to make sure those needs have been met.
Likewise, with such cruelty being displayed against the homeless, it should not be surprising that they continue to face extreme threats of violence against them by those who are better off, and this at a time when the rich elite like to make it seem as if the homeless themselves are the ones who threaten society with violence. Homeless people not only have been mischaracterized as being lazy, uneducated, and good for nothing, but they find that such degradation promotes the lack of help they need from city and state officials. Cities which find their existence uncomfortable try to move them away, to hide them from society, often undermining their rights as their meagre possessions often are confiscated, with the hope that they will be forced to move on and be someone else’s problem. Homeless tent cities, which give them some semblance of society with the goods which society can give to each other, are often disbanded with no just cause. And, what should be a shame to all, statistic show there is a great rise in homeless youth, who, despite their situation, try to work hard to stay in school so they can actually change their situation for the better (in New York, one in ten students suffered at least temporary forms of homelessness last year). We see, in effect, the kind of abuse which Pope Francis said counters the treatment Christ expects of us in relation to the poor:
Sadly, the exact opposite often happens, and the poor hear voices scolding them, telling them to be quiet and to put up with their lot. These voices are harsh, often due to fear of the poor, who are considered not only destitute but also a source of insecurity and unrest, an unwelcome distraction from life as usual and needing to be rejected and kept afar. We tend to create a distance between them and us, without realizing that in this way we are distancing ourselves from the Lord Jesus, who does not reject the poor, but calls them to himself and comforts them.
Those who do such cruel things to the destitute do them to Christ (cf. Matt. 25:40; 45). Our society, with those in power finding new, worse ways to treat the least among us, the poor, stranded, homeless populations which are growing around the world, are encouraging the kind of injustices which early Christian writers like Lactantius knew not only to be evil, but proved Rome and Greece to be unjust:
Wherefore, neither the Romans nor the Greeks could hold justice, because they had men distinguished by many grades, from the poor to the rich, from the lowly to the powerful, from private citizen to the most sublime height of kings. For when all are not equal, there is no equity, and inequality itself excludes justice, whose whole power is this, that it makes equal those who came to the condition of this life by an equal lot.
From the foundation of the Christian faith, justice was tied with equality, with God showing his love to all humanity. When this equality is subverted, justice is undermined:
The other part of justice is equity. I do not speak of the equity of judging well, which is itself laudable in a just man, but I mean that of equalizing self with fellow-men, which Cicero calls equability. God who creates and inspires men wished them to be fair, that is, equal. He set the same condition of living for all; He begot all unto wisdom; He promised immortality to all. No one is segregated from His heavenly benefits. Just as He divides His one light equally for all, lets His showers fall upon all, supplies food, grants the sweetest rest of sleep, so He bestows the virtue of equity upon all. With Him, no one is master, no one slave. For if He is the same Father to all, we are all free by equal right. No one is a pauper with God except him who is in need of justice; no one rich, but him who is filled with the virtues; no one, finally, is distinguished except the one who has been good and innocent; no one very illustrious, unless he has done the works of mercy with largesse; no one quite perfect, unless he has completed all the steps of virtue.
The inherent dignity of the human person requires that decent housing be available to all persons, irrespective of income or access to economic resources. We read in Sacred Scripture: ‘Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God’s face will not be turned away from you’ (Tob 4:7).
The rich, those who gain from such mistreatment of the poor, prove not to know God; what they serve is an idol formed from their avaricious hearts. If they are lucky, they might gain the reward they seek, but it shall not last. “Thence it comes about that the unjust and those not knowing God flourish with wealth and power and honors. For all these are the rewards of injustice since they cannot be lasting and they are sought for with greed and violence.”
The true Christian spirit follows after Christ, giving to the needy, even as we receive from Christ the grace we need in our own spiritual poverty. The Christian seeks justice in equality, making sure none suffer from lack, while the impious pretending to be Christian will show their true faith in their works. If they seek after the world and what is offered in it at the expense of their soul, they might have gained what they wanted, but in the end, it will never satisfy.
In this light, we must take care to see the unjust trends shaping around us, those trends which demonstrate the increasing gap between the rich and poor, but also, the gap between the rich and the rest of society as a whole. The rich are turning more and more people into the poor as they sacrifice the whole of society for their own private desires. This cannot and will not last. In the end, there will be hell to pay; those who have promoted such evil will have to face the consequences of their actions. It is better they repent now and help shape society so it once again promotes the common good than it is for them to wait to see what will come out of their evil. But if they do not, then, when the imbalance becomes to great, the system will collapse, and those who believed they were on top of the world will find how terrible a fall from the top can be.
[IMG=Homeless Man [CC0 Public Domain] via maxpixel]
 Lactantius, The Divine Institutes. Trans. Mary Francis McDonald, OP (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1964), 364-5.
 Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, 364.
 Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, “A Room at the Inn? A Pastoral Letter on Housing and Homelessness” (Dublin: Veritas Publications, 2018), 23.
 Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, 386-7.
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