A bit rich?

Published: 4th February 2022

There’s much talk of ‘levelling up’, an apparently worthy aspiration to bring extra resources into historically wealth-deprived parts of the UK. But the difference between the levels of wealth in London and the South East and large parts of the Midlands and North is so great and resources for ‘levelling up’ so limited in view of the nation’s present economic straits, that it is difficult to see that such a strategy will achieve much more than cosmetic benefit. 

At the personal level, wealth inequality continues to rise with the majority continuing to see their real incomes slide downwards, as inflation outstrips earnings, but many others seeing their income and assets grow exponentially as property prices continue to rise and the stock markets flourish. The number of millionaires in the UK continues to mushroom and the super rich have never had it so good.

The Church, at all levels, often speaks out in solidarity with the poor and marginalised and at parish level often incarnates that through individual actions and projects which directly benefit those in greatest need. I recently visited the Good Shepherd Ministries in Wolverhampton, founded by an order of Catholic Brothers fifty years ago, which is as pure and inspirational example of ‘lifting up the lowly’ as you will ever find. Offering every individual in need, love and compassion, respect and dignity, alongside a range of material resources, advice and support services.

This is what levelling up looks like – in the words of Mary - ‘filling the hungry with good things’. But she also spoke of ‘sending the rich away empty’ and ‘bringing down the powerful from their thrones’.

The truth, and it is a difficult truth for the church to witness to as it/we are so compromised by all the wealth that we have, is that the fundamental levelling up which Jesus, Mary and many of the prophets said was in accordance with God’s just will, involves good news for the poor but bad news for those who have much and who prosper within a political and economic system rigged to favour them. There are various forms of wealth taxes that could raise huge amounts of money for redistributive purposes if there was the political will to adopt them.

For the church to be faithful to its Biblical witness we have to have the courage to preach bad news to the rich. Though, as with all preaching, the message may need to be heeded by the preacher as much as by the congregation…


Image: Bishop Clive is pictured with Brother Stephen and Brother Charles, Brothers of St John of God, who still volunteer at the Good Shepherd Ministries Centre in Wolverhampton which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Page last updated: Friday 4th February 2022 4:13 PM
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