Priests in option for the poor in Argentina have proposed a tax on the rich to combat the “virus of injustice”.

– The coronavirus pandemic, “an opportunity to take a step towards greater equality”

The “invisible” coronavirus “has further exposed the virus of injustice, our unjust social life, putting it right before our eyes and making it more ‘visible'”, the Grupo de Curas en la Opción por los Pobres (“Group of Priests in the Option for the Poor”), a group of clerics working in Argentina’s slums, denounced in a statement April 27.

As such, the priests said that the COVID-19 pandemic “is an opportunity to take a step towards greater equality”.

– “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”

Recalling Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke (12:34) – “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” – the Argentinian slum priests said that the breathtaking speed with which the pandemic is destroying former certainties in our societies “urges us to join in any gesture that collaborates with a more just world”.

“A world where nobody feels that they’re left over, that they’re a surplus. A world where we care about the treasure of fraternal and sororal life”, the clerics said.

“Far from this dream, the pandemic that afflicts us worldwide has left inequality between human beings shamelessly exposed”, the priests denounced, adding that Argentina is by no means an exception to that sad reality.

Decrying the “economic consequences” of “extreme” sheltering-in-place measures in Argentina and beyond “that affect the most neglected sectors” above all, the clerics recalled Pope Francis’ observation in a March interview to the effect that “our behaviour always affects the lives of others”.

“It has become evident that those who do not pay taxes do not only commit a felony but also a crime: if there are not enough hospital beds and artificial respirators, it is also their fault”, the priests recalled the pontiff also said in that interview.

– “A permanent tax in favour of the poorest”

Because of that reality of human interconnectedness to which the Pope spoke, the Argentinian slum priests said that they supported the wealth tax currently before lawmakers in the country.

“We not only believe that this tax is necessary, but also that it should not be only for this COVID-19 health emergency, but instead a permanent tax in favour of the poorest and of greater equity in the social body”, the clerics explained.

The priests went on to acknowledge that “we know that there are many interests seeking to paint this initiative in a confiscatory light or seeking to generate fear in the population”.

“There are media working in this regard”, they deplored.

But although they admitted that “this fight will not be easy”, they affirmed the fight for a wealth tax “will always be a fight for a fairer and more fraternal homeland”, and for that reason encouraged all Catholics and other people of good will to get involved.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.