Idolatry On The Altar

No, not THAT idol. This is a different thing; ongoing, underhand and pervasive. No pictures today, just words…
I imagine there are very few of us in this modern world who are unaware of issues of cheap or even forced/slave labour being used to produce items. Hmm, those tasty shrimps so commonly available at the supermarket or coffee or…
And what about environmental degradation in order to produce crops like palm fruit oil?

A slightly different issue is that of fraud. Is that olive oil really from Italy etc.
Don’t get me going about ‘fish fraud’! Or the ‘Irish linen’ at $10/yard online somewhere… really? Really??
Again, most of us have awareness of these issue, they have been written about and discussed and many of us now make effort to purchase Fair Trade items and to examine labels for evidence of country of origin. We also (hopefully) expect big corporations to take responsibility for their supply chains. Not in the sense of that dreadful kind of supply chain management where the very last penny is squeezed out of the ‘lower downs’ in order to maximize profits for the ‘higher ups’ but in the sense of ensuring that workers are treated fairly according to the economic standards of their home country and that environmental standards are met.

The problem is one which economists refer to as externalities and looking at true costs and who actually bears those true costs, and in what fashion.
The basic premise (I’m sure you know) is of unloading costs to an outside party in order to maximize profit, the classic example being that of factories historically dumping their pollutants into waterways at no cost to themselves but at great cost to the people depending on the cleanliness of the water.

So what is our problem? Whatever am I whittering on about now? Simple my dears, look at your altar linens and ask yourself the simple question about their origin. It is so tempting is it not, especially in times where funds may be a little tight, to scour around looking for cheap linens. After all, who doesn’t like a deal! But at what cost, my friends, what cost?

This is what I am speaking about when I say idolatry upon the altar.
The first idol I can think of is Greed, I’m sure you can think of others.

Christ is united to the poor and the suffering but I’m not sure that having the fruits of the sufferings of the poor, abuse of them and abuse of the beautiful Creation God gave to us upon the altar is a good thing. Think about it please.
If you are one who offers the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, have a care as to how the linen has been manufactured and where, from flax fields to bolt, and have a care as to how the linens themselves are made, by whom and under what conditions.

The problem of course, is what to do and how to proceed…

We can each of us only do our own part. We ask questions and state our expectations. If we are lied to by unscrupulous persons then it is upon them when they stand before God, but by simply shining a light upon an issue we can effect change slowly and surely.

You have allies in this work. There are ethical and honest suppliers in many countries, from larger liturgical supply houses all the way down to individual craftsmen and women. Seek them out and ask the right questions. Yes, you may indeed pay more. You will have to decide for yourself if you feel it appropriate to bear the true cost of an item or if you are fine with it being dumped onto someone else. You are the one who has to look at Jesus.

Thanks for reading.

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