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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Saint John Chrysostom

Churchill Redistribution

 

 

Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm.

Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold form the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift. Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm. Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first — and then they will joyfully share their wealth.

Saint John Chrysostom, from On Living Simply, Homily XLIII

Update:  I have been unable to properly source this with any of Saint John’s work available on the net. The quotation is cited as coming from On Living Simply, a compilation of sayings from the writings of Saint John.  I can see no evidence of the quote itself on the net prior to 2007.  Unless this quote can properly be sourced to an original writing of  Saint John, I am going to assume that it is a fake internet quote, one of the minor banes of modern life.  Sorry for my error in posting this.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

19 Comments

  1. “Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors?” …or keep the wealth for himself?
    .
    Foxfier : “Holy cow, sixteen centuries ago and someone got it….”
    .
    America needs a whole cattle ranch of your Holy Cows, Foxfier. St. John Chrysostom got it, because Jesus gave it and St John passed it on. If we lose it, then, we have lost Jesus.
    .
    Thank you, Donald R. McCleary, for pointing to the saints.

  2. A quick internet search, and it does appear to be consistent with St. John Chrysostom’s writings. I can’t vouch for its authenticity (or that of anything else on the internet, for that matter).

  3. It looks very slightly similar to the last bit here:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220143.htm

    And this I say not as laying down a law, neither as forbidding more, but as recommending a deposit of not less than a tenth part. And this also do thou practise not in selling only, but also in buying and receiving a recompense. Let those also who possess land observe this law in regard to their rents: yea, let it be a law for all who gather their incomes in an honest way. For with those who demand usury I have no concern, neither with soldiers who do violence to others and turn to their own advantage their neighbors’ calamities. Since from that quarter God will accept nothing. But these things I say to those who gather their substance by righteous labor.

    Yea, and if we establish ourselves in this kind of habit, we are ever after stung by our conscience if ever we omit this rule; and after a while we shall not even think it a hard thing; and by degrees we shall arrive at the greater things, and by practising how to despise wealth, and by pulling up the root of evils, we shall both pass the present life in peace, and obtain the life to come; which may it be the portion of us all to attain unto, etc. etc.

    I’m slowly working through all his writings on New Advent that could be called the 43rd. 😀

  4. And of course you have the problem of things being translated into English more than once, changing the phrasing. The quote Donald presented included this line: “The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first”, which struck me as phrasing too modern to be authentic, but that could just be the result of choices made by a very contemporary translator.

    What strikes me, looking over a few of these quotes, is that there appears to be a strain of Catholic economic tradition that I was completely unfamiliar with. I’ve always known that Catholic thinking on the topic extended back before 1891, but I didn’t expect this.

  5. “Sorry for my error in posting this.”
    …wait.

    “Worse still the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of the soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would of prompted the gift.”

    Welfare state explained so well.

  6. Philip: ““Worse still the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of the soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would of prompted the gift.” Welfare state explained so well.”
    .
    Obama and Pope Francis’ agenda came to mind. Eva Peron and Imelda Marcos gave little packets of powdered milk to the poor when they were spotted living in high style off the backs of the people.

  7. ““Worse still the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of the soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would of prompted the gift.”
    “The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first”
    Communism denies the individual and the individual’s personal choices, his conscience, his freedom, his very existence, his life, unless the individual exists solely for the state, the communist group. Both Obama and now, Pope Francis believe that because they are elected, that they have a “mandate” to violate the free will of man, something that God does not do, not even to the devil, and impose their half-baked agenda without recourse to the citizens and the parishioners, whose property, which is given to the people by God for their free will exercise of the virtue of generosity and their practice of charity and the joy of giving is taken from them by another for no reason at all except extortion and pilfering.
    Obama’s and Francis’ agendas are perfect, if their agendas did not have to be operated through stealing. Both Obama and Francis do not own the possessions that they are so generously giving as their own. So, that is a lie.

  8. Involuntary charity is extortion but in the case of Pope Francis it is blackmail. Dr. Peter Kreeft said it better: “(The definition of) the violation of the law of non-contradiction is being forced to do something voluntary in an involuntary way. Intellect and free will do not come from the state, nor from the Pope.
    .
    The secular humanist says that laws come from nature, as if man is not a natural human being. The nature of the devil is liar and murderer. The secular humanist reserves to himself the authority to define law.

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