February 15, 2005

"We Are on the Side of the Poor"

I finally tracked down a quote I first heard a few years ago at a conference of financial leaders of religious institutions. A nun was giving a speech on the Church's role in economic life, and said, with heavy emphasis: "we...are on the side...of the poor." I have wondered about this phrase. Her delivery suggested that she was quoting, but I didn't know the source. The earliest use of it I can find is from an article by Dorothy Day from 1950:
"It is not avoiding the question, and it is being eminently realistic and practical to repeat, to affirm, that we are on the side of the poor. And who would not want to be?"
In 1999 Duncan MacLaren, secretary-general of the Catholic charity Caritas Internationalis, echoed Day's line:
"You are unlikely to find a government or International Monetary Fund official who would be able to distinguish scripture from a Morris West novel, but those values we stand for say something truthful about the human condition which resonates with everyone. It also says whose side we are on - the side of the poor and marginalised, the ones excluded by society but loved by God. A major reason why we are taken seriously by what people in the World Bank like to call the 'real world' is because they know what we stand for."