My article for Aleteia today analyzes the Catholic understanding of poverty.
Pope Francis speaks so much about poverty and wealth that you might assume that the Catholic Church thinks wealth is intrinsically evil and poverty intrinsically good.
This is to misunderstand what is a subtle and profound understanding of the relationship between the spiritual and the physical.
If poverty is a virtue, then one must conclude that riches and material possessions are evil. If possessions are sinful then they must be so because they are physical and therefore lower and unworthy of one who seeks a higher and more spiritual path.
This is not the Catholic understanding of the physical world, wealth or poverty, and to impute such unsound teaching to the Pope one must take his words out of context. The Holy Father was speaking to consecrated people who, like the Jesuit pope himself, have taken vows of poverty, and to understand his words, one must examine another term which he used far more frequently in his impromptu teaching — “detachment.”
When a Catholic priest or religious takes a vow of poverty they are not espousing poverty as a good thing in and of itself. Instead their path of poverty is intended to lead them to what mystics of all stripe call “inner detachment.” A vow of poverty eschews material possessions in order to cultivate a higher love; it frees a consecrated person from material things, that they may be properly attached to all things.
Go here to read the whole post.