Wednesday, April 3, 2013


 In The Smoke of Satan I quoted Robert Royal on Catholics and "social justice":

 If we've learned anything from the past 35 years, it is that the world does not need more social workers and activists who also happen to say prayers. It desperately needs contem­platives who understand that their love for God—and the graces they get in prayer—are the source and guide to their love of neighbor. That was the revolution Vatican II introduced into the modern world.

Of late Alejandro Chaufen makes a point on Catholic Social teaching that I share. He writes:

As a thought experiment, let’s imagine the story of the good Samaritan taking a different twist. Let’s suppose that the Samaritan, upon spotting the badly wounded man, also sees a rich man walking by. Let us then suppose that the Samaritan is a big, powerful man who intimidates the rich man into handing over enough money to pay for the wounded man’s care. The man in need would still receive the help that he so desperately needs, but would the Samaritan still touch our heart, and would he have acted selflessly? Would we remember him as a paragon of Christian virtue and charity?
Jesus had not demanded that the Samaritan take money from strangers on the street by threat of force. That wouldn’t feel right, would it?

The obvious difference, of course, is that in Jesus’ parable, the Samaritan acts voluntarily—out of the goodness of his own heart—whereas in my hypothetical, counterfeit version, the Samaritan engages in an ersatz pseudo-charity by forcing someone else to pay for the good deed that the Samaritan wants to be performed. Is it true charity to be generous with other people’s money?
This is the murky moral territory onto which many Christians stray in the name of “social justice” or the social gospel. The desire to help those in need is laudable, but the means often employed by advocates of “social justice” are not.

Many Christians commit a fundamental error when they call for government to redistribute wealth to the poor, the sick, the needy. Government necessarily introduces the additional factor of compulsion into the equation, as government employs organized force.
If we wouldn’t justify an individual collecting funds for the poor by threatening passersby, then how do we justify government using the threat of fines or imprisonment to extract property from some to give it to others’ In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “It is strangely absurd [to suppose] that a million human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind (or liberate) each of them separately.”

This isn’t to say that no collective action should be taken to minister to the poor. Indeed, many churches and various private-sector charities are doing praiseworthy work for those in need, and they merit our financial support. The common factor, though, in these nongovernmental organizations is that participation is voluntary. Nobody compels you to belong to a certain church or contribute to a specific charitable organization. It is your prerogative and choice.
By all means, be charitable. But don’t mix charity with compulsion. Jesus never did.