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: Continue reading
Every so often, when dealing with Church projects and non-profit work in general, one hears someone who does a lot of volunteer work toss off a disparaging remark alone the lines of, “Oh, those people. They only give money. You’d never see them down here working.”
Sometimes this is used to support a claim as to “who really cares” about an issue, along the lines of:
“Sure, you’ll find lots of [members of group X] a pro-life fundraising banquets, but you’ll never see them working at a crisis pregnancy center.”
“[Members of group X] may give money to ‘charity’, but you’ll never find them filling boxes down at the foodbank or working with at-risk kids.”
This has always struck me as a somewhat unfair criticism, for reasons I will get into in a minute, but I was particularly reminded of this last week when I had to go down to the diocesan offices to be trained to count and report the collections for the diocesan Catholic Services Appeal. The annual appeal provides a about the third of the operating expenses for the diocese — and since I deal with financial-ish stuff at work and I’m going to be rotating off the pastoral council in a couple months, I half volunteered, half was dragooned, into helping out with the processing of the collection this year at the parish. At the training session, I was particularly struck by the numbers of where the money in the appeal comes from:
From Divini Redemptoris:
55. To give to this social activity [that which was recommended in Quadragesimo Anno -- J.H.] a greater efficacy, it is necessary to promote a wider study of social problems in the light of the doctrine of the Church and under the aegis of her constituted authority. If the manner of acting of some Catholics in the social-economic field has left much to be desired, this has often come about because they have not known and pondered sufficiently the teachings of the Sovereign Pontiffs on these questions. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to foster in all classes of society an intensive program of social education adapted to the varying degrees of intellectual culture. It is necessary with all care and diligence to procure the widest possible diffusion of the teachings of the Church, even among the working-classes. The minds of men must be illuminated with the sure light of Catholic teaching, and their wills must be drawn to follow and apply it as the norm of right living in the conscientious fulfillment of their manifold social duties. Thus they will oppose that incoherence and discontinuity in Christian life which We have many times lamented. For there are some who, while exteriorly faithful to the practice of their religion, yet in the field of labor and industry, in the professions, trade and business, permit a deplorable cleavage in their conscience, and live a life too little in conformity with the clear principles of justice and Christian charity. Such lives are a scandal to the weak, and to the malicious a pretext to discredit the Church. (emphasis added)
Divini Redemptoris is an excellent supplement to Quadragesimo Anno and yet another example of the brilliance of Pope Pius XI.
Viewing the video I am impressed by his sincerity as well as his apology. Anyone willing to continue to berate Mr. Letterman are probably doing it for political reasons as of now. I for one appreciate that he took the time to say it during his show.
Others such as James Poniewozik of TIME magazine, Michael Russnow of the Huffington Post, and others continue to play political games and see in it more than a man expressing regret and contrition. It is unfortunate that there are those still caught up in this scenario playing out their perceived grievances and political agendas.
Governor Palin has accepted and so should we, I do.
Charity is one of those words which, in Christian discourse, is often in danger of meaning everything and nothing. We use it in certain very concrete senses (“giving to charity”) and also in very broad senses (Faith, Hope and Charity). At times it is taken to mean simply giving something to someone — and some even take it in a negative sense in that regard: the rich giving some few spare pennies to the poor. At other times, drawing on the Latin root of caritas, it is taken to be love as a whole in all its senses.
Because as Christians we identify God as being love, love is clearly meant to encompass a wide range of Christian action and experience, and comes in many forms. Right now, I’d like to talk about love of neighbor, and specifically, that love of neighbor which involves providing for the physical needs of others. So for the purposes of this post, I’m going to call the use of “time and treasure” to perform the corporal works of mercy “charity”, and let’s leave aside the other meanings of that term for now.
Now to me, one of the interesting things about the virtue of charity is that it says a great deal about the sort of relationships we can have as human beings. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10, 25-37) we see a scholar of the law (quidam legis peritus) who cheerfully parrots back the great commandments of “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” but then wants to know “Who is my neighbor?”.
A recent study of 33 countries by Anthony Gill and Erik Lundsgaarde found an inverse relationship between religious observance and welfare spending. Countries with larger welfare states, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, had markedly lower levels of religious attendance, affiliation and trust in God than countries with a history of limited government, such as the U.S., the Philippines and Brazil. Public spending amounts to more than one half of the GDP in Sweden, where only 4% of the population regularly attends church. By contrast, public spending amounts to 18% of the Philippines’ GDP, and 68% of Filipinos regularly attend church.
One of the great principles that tends to be ignored in our debates about economics, social justice, and governmental involvement in the lives of the people is solidarity. We argue about how involved the government should be in our lives, what kinds of safety nets it should provide, and to what extent it should mandate and appropriate in order to provide for the most needy of society. We argue about how well certain economic theories–capitalism, Keynesian economics, socialism, etc.–work in providing justice, or even providing just shelter and food. We argue about subsidiarity, and how it should be practiced, and while that touches on solidarity, it doesn’t fully overlap.
One of the arguments about governmental involvement is how the aid provided is cold and distant. By the time the welfare check is spat out of the massive, convulsing, bureaucratic mess that is the government, any principle of charity has been rendered flat. The recipient is a name on the list, judged worthy to receive a handout based upon an entry in a database. At first this seems like an argument of aesthetics. If a man receives a welfare check from the government rather than from friends in the community or local charities, he still receives the money he needs to survive. Yet there is a deeper problem here than merely looking at from whom the money comes, or how much charity exists in the entity delivering assistance. The continual reliance on the federal government to solve our problems aids in the breakdown of solidarity.
Is it any wonder that we have become so polarized, so factious, so estranged?
In the last four years I’ve learned a great deal about a host of topics, including my Catholic Faith, while blogging, reading other people’s blogs, and participating in comment box discussions. And yet there are some notable dangers that come with blogging as well.
A few months ago, I did myself no great credit in a combox discussion on a friend’s post. Someone against whom I carried paper left a comment I disagreed with, and rather than sticking with a basic refutation I went all out: questioned motives, brought up old arguments, put words in his mouth, the works. An hour or two later I got an email from my friend. “Wow. Next time tell us what you really think…”
But I knew I was right. I hit reply and was pouring out the reason I’d been 100% justified in behaving that way at 70wpm. A year and a half ago, this other blogger and said such-and-such. And when I’d pointed out his obvious errors, he’d said that. And then there was that other time. And remember when over on that other guy’s blog he’s said this in the comments? And…
I took a moment to stare at the paragraphs I’d written and realized this would sound a lot more appropriate coming out of my six-year-old as an explanation for why she’d hit another kid than coming out of a thirty-year-old man who fancies himself intellectual.
As bloggers we sometimes live by the word in rather the same way that a duelist lived by the sword. And slights which, when explained to anyone else, would immediately sound small and petty, fester and become long term rivalries.
Given the source of my recent embarrassment, I’ve tried to make it a rule to think how I would feel writing an explanation of my behavior in any given conversation to a disinterested party. Given my pride, this is a strong incentive to charity, or at least calmness. Naytheless, the temptation remains. I suspect that it is a built in feature (or bug) in an avocation such as blogging.
Over at Human Events, Ben Shapiro has an article about how Israel will lose the conflict in Gaza again. His initial premise states that we keep seeing an essentially endless cycle repeated: Hamas strikes Israel, Israel retaliates, the world comes down hard on Israel, Israel retreats and gives Hamas another chance to strike Israel. Elsewhere, the debate about how justified Israel is in its current cycle of retaliations continues heatedly and almost unanimously denounces Israel’s actions.
As a personal opinion, I believe that Hamas, despite claims to the contrary, is directly responsible for its strikes into Israel. I believe that Hamas deliberately hides behind civilian shields in order to protect themselves from retaliation and to milk the public for sympathy when Israeli attacks kill those civilian shields. I believe that Hamas is single-mindedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and that Israel is justified in trying to defend herself against Hamas’ attacks.
During the election season, I made frequent references to the kinds of evangelical leaders who publicly supported McCain, people like Hagee and Parsely who believe that the US is the instrument of God against evil in the world, actively condoning bloody war. Rick Warren is supposed to be a moderate. And yet when Sean Hannity called for the US to “take out” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Warren had this to say in response:
“Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped…. In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers.”
God help us.
What interests me about the post above is the title. I have no interest in defending Mr. Warren’s wrong-headed exegesis, but I think this method of indictment is problematic.