Voluntary Charity


“The wealthy should help the poor. Jesus taught that. The Church Fathers taught that long before modern popes wrote encyclicals (just read St. John Chrysostom or St. Augustine of Hippo). But what Jesus, the Acts of the Apostles and the Church Fathers all had in common in this regard is that they were talking about voluntary charity. They were not talking about the state.”  <http://wdtprs.com/blog/2012/03/why-a-religious-model-for-the-state-is-not-good/> (boldface my emphasis)

I’ve written on this topic on a number of occasions and am delighted to present to you the blog post by Fr. Z on this same topic as I totally agree with what he has said here and he says what I have been attempting to say so much better than I have managed to say it!!

RELIGIOUS live in a idealized social setting in which each person pays in with their work at the level of their own abilities, and each person is given according to their needs.  This is a VOLUNTARY association of persons with the only coercion being that if one is lazy, one will be reprimanded, punished, and eventually removed as unsuited to the religious life.  Thus there are no leaches, the only unproductive individuals are those who become so with age or illness but whose efforts, however meager, are still valued and their needs are properly met.  There is no such thing as an able bodied religious who does no work.

A FAMILY is run in a similar manner.  Each working adult in the family, generally the parents, pays into the household according to their ability and the old, children and the adults are met according to needs.  The adults who are funding the family do so voluntarily. They enter the vocation of marriage with the intent to love and support their children and other family members. When a child reaches adulthood and is able to add to the household but does not, the family is quite right to eject said young adult into the world and tell them to get a job.  It is reasonable for that adult member of the family to choose to set up his or her own household or to add to the funds for their household of origin while they continue to live within that household.  It is voluntary with the power of the family to expel any able bodied individual who refuses to contribute.

The coercive power of the state is never used as an example of the way to fulfill the commandment to act in charity toward those who need help.  In fact, in Social Justice teaching it is ALWAYS admonitions to the individual to give generously from their own pockets VOLUNTARILY and never admonitions to the state to do charity.

“In the national conversation Americans are currently having over the federal government takeover of health care, what gets obscured is the distinction between the public sector and the voluntary sector, that is, between the state and the Church.”

The Christian pattern of Charity is always voluntary and always individual.  There is nothing voluntary about the actions of the state.  So to press onto the state those activities that are meant to be the realm of the Church is seriously misguided.

SUBSIDIARITY is the concept that a problem should be handled at the most local level that is capable of handling it.  For most situations, the most basic community is the FAMILY. The Family is ideally suited to the upbringing of children and the care of those members who are unable to fully care for themselves: children, elderly and the handicapped.  In a broader sense, the next level of subsidiarity would be the portion of the greater community to which these families belong, such as Church and other social organizations that are locally designed and run.  Such groups get their income through donations voluntarily given by those who have the means in order to help the Church or other local group with their efforts to help the poor in their local. The State, at both the level of the particular state or at the level of the federal government, should not interfere with or usurp the rights and obligations of the smaller community.

Too often the claim is made that the federal government is better able to aid the poor but this is said without regard to subsidiarity or the need for charity to be voluntary and individual.   The state will TAKE by power of coercion from anyone and everyone, not according to their ability to pay but according to the tyranny of who should be fleeced to please the masses.  In practice, the state takes from those who are productive until they are no longer able to fulfill their obligations to their own families to give, not only to those who cannot work, but also to those who will not work (a violation of the admonition in Thessalonians that those who will  not work should not even eat) until the end result is an ever growing population that is choosing to avoid work of any sort and expecting to be provided for at an ever improving level at the expense of those who do work to provide for themselves.  This pattern of taking and giving is inefficient, contrary to human dignity because it makes it more profitable for the poor to remain ignorant and unoccupied than to raise themselves to a better place by putting their own efforts into their educations and finding honest work, and contrary to the Christian pattern of charity being voluntary and individual.

It is time to recognize that Catholic Social teaching condemns socialism as incompatible with the Faith and with Human Dignity and contrary to the common good.  It is time to return to the Biblical model of voluntary charity by the individual and limited government.

Voluntary Charity is to Coercive Taxation as Church is to State.



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