Government Cannot Love
Archbishop Charles Chaput writing in First Things this month:
We need to rededicate ourselves to the work of Christian charity and the Catholic soul of our institutions. Charity is a duty for the whole believing community. But is also an obligation and privilege for every individual member of the Church, flowing from our personal encounter with the mercy of Jesus Christ. Government cannot love. It has no soul and no heart. The greatest danger of the modern secularist state is this: In the name of humanity, under the banner of serving human needs and easing human suffering, it ultimately, ironically – and too often tragically – lacks humanity. As Benedict foresees in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est:
The state which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person – every person – needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a state that regulates and controls everything, but a state that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something that often is even more necessary than material support.
It seems to me that Archbishop Chaput always teaches in true Catholic style: he is always giving principles, not policies. Even in this passage, where he is speaking about the extent of government, he does not specifically iron out government’s limits – just that there ought to be some. These limits are for lay people to decide. The good Archbishop is not justifying my particular political predilections or anyone else’s – he is laying out good authentic teaching, which ought to be listened to and absorbed.