"We have to love one another as Jesus loves us."
A Los Angeles Times report says the pandemic-related lockdown may be more devastating to the poor than the Wuhan virus itself, leading some Catholics to wonder why American bishops, who often have the poor on their lips, appear to be offering no financial or material aid.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) frequently references the poor on its website and in its communications, saying things like "a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring," offering articles titled "Reflections on Poverty in America" and influencing Catholic voters with summaries of Catholic social teaching that include "the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable."
And like the political Left, the conference never misses an opportunity to mention the poor in relation to climate change, talking about "the moral imperative to reach an agreement at the United Nations' Climate Change Conference in Paris that addresses the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change and protects poor and vulnerable peoples."
According to a recent U.N. study, Wuhan-virus fallout could increase the number of poor and vulnerable people by 8% of the human population — half a billion people worldwide — while figures from the U.N.'s World Food Program warn of a dramatic increase in acute hunger that could endanger almost 300 million people in low- and middle-income countries.
And directly in the United States, according to multiple studies, up to 80% of the working poor are no longer working, and the lower 30% of the middle-class are likewise being furloughed.
But despite these dire numbers and warnings, there is nothing on the American bishops' website, including its "Resources for Catholics at Home During COVID-19" page, on what the USCCB is doing to assist the poor in tangible ways or instruction to them on how they can apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money.
The resource page has a prayer by the conference's president, Abp. Jose Gómez of Los Angeles, who himself applied for PPP money, and received $7 million in addition to his archdiocese having a $700 million endowment fund and more than $180 million in cash.
Archbishop Gómez: "[There is an] essential mission that we have as Catholic bishops to speak for the poor and for the disadvantaged."
American bishops certainly speak about the poor, but what they are doing for the poor seems to be anybody's guess.