The government is not commanded by the Lord to care for widows and orphans. It may very well have programs to do so, but the responsibility is not given to the government.
Christians were given this commandment. The pattern is in the New Testament. Widows and Orphans were to be fed, clothed and cared for, but those able bodies who would not work, Paul wrote, should not eat either.
How could that look today?
Well, PARISH planners spend a lot of time on this and that but not a lot of time on fulfilling this commandment at the parish level. Subsidiarity and Solidarity are all well and good to talk about but what about actually DOING them?
What would happen if each parish were to take on the task of making certain that no Catholic within the boundaries of their parish was lacking in food, clothing, and education? What would happen if the parish assigned deacons and laypersons to the task of locating each Catholic in the parish and determining what they needed? Just like in the Early Church?
If EVERY child within a parish were targeted for a good education, either by tutoring programs or creating trusts to enable the parish schools to pay the teachers without any tuition. Once there, if the parish made sure they were getting three healthy meals a day and had the clothing they needed. Nothing fancy, Jeans and T-shirts donated by businesses (yeah, lots of advertizing but people BUY clothing with ads on them all the time, so why should it matter?), decent underwear and socks, etc.
Parish classes on cooking on the cheap that aim at healthy meals that will help people avoid obesity. Perhaps dance classes to help people get moving in low impact healthy ways for exercise? Tools for life so that people can help themselves in meaningful ways.
Parish tutoring for anyone who needs the help (the Catholic High School wants the kids to do community service–well, how about having them tutor the younger kids after school?) No immigrant within the parish ought to be without a working use of English and they ought to be able to get it at the local parish! Use Catholic Bible studies for the English classes– no reason to waste the opportunity to spread the gospel!
Of course, it should all be done without any government funding at all–NONE. Keep it purely religious!
And if there is too little money for a single parish, then perhaps a wealthy parish could partner with a poorer parish and together they could fund the programs– do what St. John Chrysostom did– preach on it!! Educate everyone in the whole big picture of the New Testament, Early Church, care for the widows and orphans among them.
Preach on the fact that he who will not work should not eat. Preach on the fact that none who cannot work, the widow, disabled, elderly, or child, should be without essentials and that it is NOT the governments job to handle it. Note that in the Early Church it was ONLY to the local members of the Church that charity went– not to everyone– and this was why in Thessalonica people were joining the Church to avoid working, instead wanting to be supported by alms so they could skip the hard labor needed to make a living.
If the local Churches just tended their own territories and members– then people might begin to notice something different happening in those parishes– “see how they love one another” is what was said about the Christians of the Early Church. Be an example so that other religious groups start to consider doing the same for their members. Be an example so that secular groups begin to think about doing the same for their members too.
Start within the Body of Christ proper and then let that example influence the rest of society.
Dear Lord, please help us all to begin where we are, within our families, and within our parishes, to try and find ways to bring about that ideal of the handicapped, elderly and children never being in need. Help us begin to apply subsidiarity and solidarity to our immediate circle of influence. Thank You for the guidance You provide through scripture. Amen.