In Hard Times

by Archbishop Jose Gomez

We are in hard times. All around us, we have the numbers to prove it.

Last month, our government reported that more than 46 million Americans, about 15 percent of our neighbors, are living in poverty. The percentage here in California is higher — more than 16 percent. Here in Los Angeles County it is higher still. One in six of our brothers and sisters is officially “poor.”

Every one of these “numbers” is a person, a child of God who was created for a purpose in God’s plan.

So it is sad and worrying to see so many without work, or without enough work to be employed all the time, or unable to earn enough to pay their bills.

These hard times have exposed deep problems with our economic system and also with our government’s approaches to economic matters at all levels — federal, state and local.

We see now very real signs in our society of a permanent “underclass,” a kind of “culture of poverty” that continues through generations in the same families and communities.

Also, more and more we are seeing signals that the gap between the earnings of the wealthiest Americans and the rest of the population is getting much wider.

An article about that last month in the magazine, The Atlantic, is getting a lot of attention. The title is provocative but it raises the question that’s on everyone’s minds these days: “Can the Middle Class be Saved?”

It is a thoughtful article and worth studying. But I would pose the question about our present economic situation in different terms.

The question for me is: What are we going to do — as individuals, as citizens, as Catholics, and as a Church?


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