Jesus vs. FOX, FOX vs. Atheists

Jesus: Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42)

FOX: You’re an enabler!

By the way, that whole “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” thing? That is not directed at the poor. It’s directed at people within the household of the Church. Outside the Church, as we encounter the beggar in the world our marching orders come from Jesus–not FOX.

On the other hand, gotta give FOX credit for going after the human toothaches known as humanists, who hunt around for ways to kill parties in the name of a sort of puritanical godlessness that proclaims an empty universe while retaining all the lemon-lipped scolding New England charmlessness of a bitter old maid in a John Ford western.  Here’s Megyn Kelly talking to some killjoy busybody who got a toy drive for poor kids cancelled in order to save them from the horrors of YouKnowWhomas.

Megyn Kelly to militant atheist: “Now that you’ve managed to cancel the [Christmas Child] program to help the needy children, what exactly is your humanist group doing to help those children?”

Athiest: Well, we’re an advocacy group, not a charity group, and we do engage in charity from time to time…

Megyn: So nothing? … You have saved those children from a Constitutional violation, and that will be a warm comfort to them on Christmas morning.

Nothing daunted, the actual parents of the kids in the school like the toy drive idea and took matters into their own hands and out of the hands of this Napoleon Dynamite with a mean streak.

"Yes, they have their duties and the temporal rulers have theirs too."

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  • trespinos

    And yet, there are times when a person can have a moral certainty that to give to a panhandler is indeed to enable him. The longtime pastor of the Cathedral parish in Portland, OR, used to periodically urge members of the congregation not to give money to the panhandlers outside the Cathedral, located in a seedy part of downtown, because, he said, the money went for alcohol and ruination.

    • HornOrSilk

      I’m sure the rich man felt the same with Lazarus.

      • BHG

        Here’s something to think about: Perhaps the rich man was not condemned for not giving to Lazarus, he was condemned for not entering into his life and doing something about his condition which is something very different indeed. Giving money to a panhandler is sometimes the very easy way out because it takes so little of ourselves when the needs of the person we meet are so very great and yet can leave us feeling so good about ourselves. Choosing not to give to the panhandler in the immediate moment while investing time and effort into helping him in other ways with deeper support–shelters, rehab and mental health programs, job training–may actually be charity of a deeper kind because we become engaged in the lives of those who are suffering. With those we love, just giving money is not enough, though it is often a start and very often needed. With those we love, sometimes withholding cash is the loving thing to do if giving jot to them will mean a deeper slide into–as the pastor put it “alcohol and ruination.” If your beloved but alcoholic uncle wanted a bottle of whiskey would you give it? The pastor seems to be concerned about the whole person not just the immediate request for money and it is really unfair to condemn him for that.

        • HornOrSilk

          Here’s something to think about: READ WHAT THE CHURCH FATHERS say on this passage. You will see discussion of greed, pride, selfishness all involved with the condemnation, as is the lack of charity. Many fathers even discuss the ideology of people like you who say “well, they could use the money for something bad.” That’s just selfishness coming out, Satanic inspiration to justify rejection of the needy. And you know, something is bad coming from your lack of proper use of money, which is for the common good, not individual good.

          • HornOrSilk

            This principle is the starting-point for understanding the great parables of Jesus. The rich man (cf. LC 16,19-31) begs from his place of torment that his brothers be informed about what happens to those who simply ignore the poor man in need. Jesus takes up this cry for help as a warning to help us return to the right path. The parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. LC 10,25-37) offers two particularly important clarifications. Until that time, the concept of “neighbour” was understood as referring essentially to one’s countrymen and to foreigners who had settled in the land of Israel; in other words, to the closely-knit community of a single country or people. This limit is now abolished. Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbour. The concept of “neighbour” is now universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now. The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members. Lastly, we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgement (cf. MT 25,31-46), in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life’s worth or lack thereof. Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (MT 25,40). Love of God and love of neighbour have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God. (Deus caritas est EN 15)

            In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. LC 16,19-31), Jesus admonishes us through the image of a soul destroyed by arrogance and opulence, who has created an impassable chasm between himself and the poor man; the chasm of being trapped within material pleasures; the chasm of forgetting the other, of incapacity to love, which then becomes a burning and unquenchable thirst. We must note that in this parable Jesus is not referring to the final destiny after the Last Judgement, but is taking up a notion found, inter alia, in early Judaism, namely that of an intermediate state between death and resurrection, a state in which the final sentence is yet to be pronounced. (Spe Salvi EN 44)

            But neither all this nor the private and public funds that have been invested, nor the gifts and loans that have been made, can suffice. It is not just a matter of eliminating hunger, nor even of reducing poverty. The struggle against destitution, though urgent and necessary, is not enough. It is a question, rather, of building a world where every man, no matter what his race, religion or nationality, can live a fully human life, freed from servitude imposed on him by other men or by natural forces over which he has not sufficient control; a world where freedom is not an empty word and where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man. (Cf. Lc 16,19-31) This demands great generosity, much sacrifice and unceasing effort on the part of the rich man. Let each one examine his conscience, a conscience that conveys a new message for our times. Is he prepared to support out of his own pocket works and undertakings organized in favor of the most destitute? Is he ready to pay higher taxes so that the public authorities can intensify their efforts in favor of development? Is he ready to pay a higher price for imported goods so that the producer may be more justly rewarded? Or to leave his country, if necessary and if he is young, in order to assist in this development of the young nations? (Populorum progressio EN 47)

            3. Let no one fear to lay out upon the poor, let no one think that he is the receiver whose hand he sees. He receives it Who bade thee give it. And this I say not out of mine own l heart, or by any human conjecture; hear Him Himself, who at once exhorteth thee, and giveth thee a title of security. “I was an hungred,” saith He, and ye gave Me meat.” And when after the enumeration of all their kind offices, they answered, “When saw we Thee an hungred?” He answered, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these of Mine, ye have done it unto Me.”4 It is the poor man who begs, but He that is Rich receives. Thou givest to one who will make away with it, He receiveth it Who will restore it. Nor will He restore only what He receiveth; He is pleased to borrow upon interest, He promiseth more than thou hast given. Give the rein now to thy avarice, imagine thyself an usurer. If thou wert an usurer indeed, thou wouldest be rebuked by the Church, confuted by the word of God, all thy brethren would execrate thee, as a cruel usurer, desiring to wring gain from other’s tears. But now be an usurer, no one will hinder thee. Thou art willing to lend to a poor man, who whenever he may repay thee will do it with grief; but lend now to a debtor who is well able to pay, and who even exhorteth thee to receive what he promiseth. (Augustine on NT 86)

            Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity,(8) so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.(9) (Gaudium et spes EN 27)

            • Dave G.

              It isn’t an either/or issue. If all you can do is give cash then fine. Understand however that what is done with the cash could be destructive to the individual being helped. Better is to get personally involved with the individual. Or at least support those who do. In any event, It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

              • HornOrSilk

                No, what is happening is the same old excuse: if I give them money, they will use it for evil. But that is something which isn’t proven; on the other hand the fact that the poor need money to survive (get things like food) is ignored. And it continues to be the same, “The poor are evil, lazy beings who only squander money” ideology of the right-wing ultra-rich, which goes completely against the Gospel. Yes, help them more than just giving money, however, to excuse oneself because of what you assume they will do with it is the ultimate lack of charity!

                • Dave G.

                  Not necessarily. It’s a valid concern. Most who work with the poor have safeguards for that reason. And while some may use it as an excuse to not give, that doesn’t invalidate the concern. Remember, some use handing out money as a way to avoid doing anything else. That doesn’t make handing out money automatically a bad thing.

                  • HornOrSilk

                    It’s also a valid concern that the rich saying this might be projecting their own vices on the poor to excuse themselves from being charitable. Indeed, this is all about destroying the reputation of the poor man or woman in front of them, using an excuse of what they “might do” with the money to justify not helping them. Again, calumny — look it up. This is just another way the rich justify their injustice. It’s funny how the supporters for greed justify their selfishness by projection of their own sins upon the poor.

                    • Dave G.

                      No it isn’t. It’s about concern for those being helped. Again most agencies that help the poor have safeguards because they admit the real problem. Can some abuse that as an excuse not to help? Sure. Just like some can dismiss the concern in order to just hand out a few bucks and be done with it. The real challenge is to become personally invested in the lives of those being helped.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      The Fathers make it clear we give in charity unreservedly, not finding excuses of how those who receive it might use it for evil. I mean, let’s think about grace. How many of us squander it and let something like confession, knowing it is available, allow us to do some evil? Should that stop confession and grace? No. The same with this. This is the ultimate in excuse — because everyone can be presumed free to do evil if they continue to live, so no one should be helped (heck, some use it as a justification to kill people off too). Again, this is very much the spirit of anti-Christ and it is not funny.

                    • Dave G.

                      What part of “it doesn’t have to be either/or” are you missing? Give all you should. But do so to help the poor. Not ignoring real concerns for the poor’s well being.

                    • BHG

                      Perhaps another angle will help: There is a difference between assessing risks, benefits and outcomes in a particular course of action in order to be a good steward of one’s gifts and ascribing a poor motive to avoid acting or to dismiss the efforts of another. For example, in encountering a homeless man on the street begging for money, I may decide that, because there really is a great risk that the money will go for drink (he is already intoxicated and standing outside a bar) and I know he has far greater needs (he’s coatless and it’s cold and he is at risk of dying from exposure, especially since drunk). I may then equally well decide to give him money anyway, just to make present the generous love of Christ in an immediate sense or I may decide not to give him money and instead to seek out the local shelter and give money and time there because that seems to me the best and most prudential use of my gifts at that moment and the plight of than man moves me to it or I may go to the cart peddler down the street and pay for a coat trusting he will deliver it as I ask. In all three cases, I have stepped out of my own world into his, with very different immediate results, but it has made me grow in my relationship to the poor and to God; and all the ways met the needs of the man in some way or another. That is far different than saying “The poor are lazy and underserving” or “The rich just want a reason not to be generous.” Really, HornOrSilk, I find it very hard to make this the simple black-white issue you see it as. The reality is, we always have mixed motives and mixed outcomes. We can never do anything fully good but we rarely (please note that word) do anything fully evil either–it’s one reason we are still working out our salvation with fear and trembling–unlike the angels. There are always circumstances and imperfections of will that shade our choices whether we know them or not. The best we can do is work with what we have and who we are at present and try with prayer and engagement with God and each other to move closer to the people we should be serving in the ways we ought. Doing what we see best with God’s help at the moment and asking for the grace to move closer to God ‘s will is about the best we can hope for. And we all do it very, very differently. Good for you in your choice. Can you perhaps now see some value in mine?

                    • Dave G.

                      Well said.

                    • Iota

                      If I may join in…

                      I think I have to partly agree with HornofSilk

                      (only partly because I CAN imagine situations when NOT giving anything is a good idea ).

                      All of your examples, BHG have one flaw – they aren’t really personal. You buy a coat form a peddler *hoping* he will deliver as promised (is it a good coat, BTW?), you might give money but generally assume the guy will blow it on booze, you give to a shelter *instead*, without going back and notifying that guy that the shelter will now take him in.

                      The problem with this is pretty easy to spot if I put myself in a scenario of such destitution that I’m reduced to asking strangers for help. I wouldn’t want them to help someone somewhere but me specifically, because I need it. (Of course, at this point I’d possibly not be drunk, like our imaginary drunk here, and I would be happy to accept information about organised assistance, it it actually results in getting help)

                      The problem with this is that helping really personally requires personal engagement. And that’s dangerous and messy. Also, it’s something I personally fail to big time. But I would say that Christian charity shouldn’t, in principle be about “growing in my relationship to the poor” but to a specific person or a specific community. Because, let’s be honest – if I ever hit rock bottom and went destitute, I probably wouldn’t care if people are “growing in their relationship to the [generic] poor”, I’d care if I had food on my plate or not.

                    • BHG

                      Iota: I said trust not hope. And the coat was as good as I could get at that particular moment for a man who was cold right then and there–is there some standard of yours I would have to meet for that gift to be adequate and appropriately personal? I chose to do it anonymously so as not to incur thanks and because when you get right down to it talking to strangers is intensely painful for me–I thought almsgiving in secret was to be commended.

                      I said trust not hope. I trusted the peddler I knew rather like you would trust the shelter to help him and not to do him harm. I can understand your concern about “growing in relationship to the poor”–perhaps that was a poor choice of language. But the reality is, we do grow in our relationship to everyone–and if you can talk about giving to the poor, I think I can talk about growing in relationship to them both as a group with needs to be served and as individuals whom I encounter. It is a kind of shorthand language and please understand that I do not mean it to be just a substitute for relationships with individual persons.

                      But the reality is, we are not called on to be personal social workers (in the societal sense) for every panhandler we see. And the reality is, we can do a great deal of harm by trying to do just that. We are all give different gifts and talents–we are to use them the best way we can in the situations that we encounter. I wonder, by your same reasoning, are we all required to visit criminals in prison? (An honest question not meant to be provocative, just wanting to understand the scope of your thinking)

                      What continues to bother me about this thread of discussion is that there is a reluctance to admit that there might be several equally good ways to achieve the same end–and in fact, getting to that end might actually require all those ways–and not all of us have to do each one equally well, nor need we apologize for having different gifts, strengths and weaknesses. Better perhaps to say, “Sister–I know how hard this giving to panhandlers is for you–let me do that. And you go raise funds for the shelter, because I cannot do that. Between us, we can make a change and care for these very real people in front of us.”

                      If you want me to go find a shelter for that man, then someone ‘with a relationship to the poor” even if he doesn’t encounter so much as a single a poor man on a daily basis, will have had to provide the money to run it–and thank God for that gift. And the reality is, if I don’t get to work that morning, I may not have money for the man, the shelter or my own needs—there is a matter of balancing all the demands made on us in an instant and making the best call we can in the moment. I don’t necessarily have time to hunt down that shelter if I am to do all the other things I am called on to do. And keeping on my way is not necessarily hard-hearted; it may just be what needs to be done in a fallen world.

                      I celebrate HornOrSilk’s commitment (and yours), recognize its value and rejoice that it has made a difference in the world. But it is not the only way. The Church calls us to make provision for the poor among us, to exercise a preferential option toward them, to give sacrificially for the sake of the Kingdom in all ways and never to dehumanize our brothers and sisters for any reason. The details she leaves in good measure up to us. And how we respond to those needs will change and develop as we grow in our faith and our relationship to Christ and to each other–it is not a static event but a process. Few of us do exclusively one of the other (giving money to the individual panhandler or supporting homeless shelters)–but none of us needs to minimize the efforts of another either.

                    • Iota

                      > Iota: I said trust not hope.

                      My mistake. You deserve an apology.

                      > is there some standard of yours

                      Not really, because it isn’t my business. I have, however, experienced situations where people give as charity stuff that should be in the trash, in a situation where they could have done better, on the assumption that a tattered rag is still better than nothing and they’re already being nice by giving.

                      Of course, asking about the quality of a gift you actually gave (I take it this was a real situation, not imaginary as I first assumed) is a little insulting, so again apologies. It’s possibly a knee-jerk reaction on my part

                      > are we all required to visit criminals in prison?

                      “Unfortunately”, it seems yes.

                      Of course this doesn’t mean everyone has to do it to the same extent, or be as personally involved, either because of safety concerns or some sort of duties, or just plain lack of talent. But I would still say that the people who do this personally (and well) deserve much more respect, on this count, than a donor in a “visit the prisoners” ministry. The donor is doing an important job no doubt. But in the end the thing would have fallen apart if there weren’t any people willing to just go and visit.

                      I’m terribly bad at this For many different reasons I couldn’t be a street worker, for example. So I definitely don’t deserve any praise or celebration But I think it’s incorrect for me to say that my, often less personal, way of helping is “equally good”. Because if the people who deal with it personally NEED to, they can “transform” into people who earn a living and get money for their charitable enterprise. And is doesn’t work quite as well the other way around.

                      If the fact I more often give donations to organisations than go looking for the destitute in my neighbourhood were some sort of privation, such that I WANTED to work with the people and was told to stay put and earn money, it would have been different. But the problem is I’m doing what I like better. And since I like it better, it’s probably a good idea to be suspicious of myself.

                      It’s true the Church makes few demands on us. And it isn’t my business to increase them for anyone but myself. But I’d say that the church still does say that choosing different good things leads to different degrees of perfection. So personally, I find it rather jarring to insist that my way of being and doing stuff, one that allows me to avoid much danger and embarrassment is “equally good”. It might be “good enough”. Eventually I might even reach a level I’d call “Iota’s best”. But that still won’t mean there aren’t any people who do it better, who deserve more praise for how they invest God’s gift. The people who will bring back ten talents of gold, where I might maybe, hopefully, kind of, bring back two.

                      You may be doing “BHG’s best”, in which case God bless you (and have mercy on me). You might be doing “Not BHGs best but still comparably much better than Iota” in which case God bless you (and have mercy on me). You might be trying to get there, in which case God bless you (and have mercy on me). None of this is my business.

                      What I’d object to is the idea that in the abstract giving money to a charity is as good as having a personal connection to a person in need, because fundamentally it all boils down to those connections. Charities exist to facilitate the process, which is good, but they carry the risk of screening me from the personal aspect, which is bad and might lead to a sort of “charity math”.

                    • BHG

                      This is a nice conversation, thanks.

                      Do you see the analogy between visiting in prison and giving to panhandlers? Yes, we all have to be personally involved in some way, but not necessarily that one. And that is my point

                      One thing that keeps surfacing in the thread is the concept of “best” and “better” which I find kind of interesting too because nailing down that standard is a little tricky and it must exist if one is going to judge things as best or better.(My spiritual director would smile at me and ask–whose rule is that?) Is it better to get personally involved–well, it’s always a great thing to commune with another person and in some way, our connection to God is completely related to how well we enter into relationship with other people using the gifts we have. It’s not a good idea to get personally involved if you can’t manage boundaries; it’s dangerous. Nor is it always a good idea to get personally involved if you aren’t in it for the long haul because you can do more harm than good to body and soul.

                      I object rather strongly to the idea that one form of charity or another can be judged better or worse except by our own standards (even when we think those standards are those interpretive of Jesus) that are ultimately flawed in themselves because we really don’t ever have the whole picture. Not to beat the horse any further but just consider this an an illustration, not dispositive: I give money regularly to the homeless man on the corner. I know him, I talk to him, I know his problems, I have a personal relationship. However, my gift of money is just enough to keep supporting his drug or alcohol habit and it keeps him from accepting help from the local shelter which would make efforts to get him into rehab. As a result he dies from his habit perhaps sooner than he might have otherwise leaving who knows what spiritual business unfinished. Is the giving money a good thing–yes–and no, just like all our flawed human actions. I can spin a similar tale from the other side too–this is just easier to see for me anyway.

                      I think the key is that we are to seek connections to each other however they are to be found in our lives–just as we are to seek God however we find Him. Our two recent popes show that there are very different ways to do this: Benedict had the gift of scholarship; Frances has the gift of solidarity. We might like one more than the other, but we need them both and neither is better–value comes from the combination and balance.

                      I’m not sure it’s much use to judge me against you at all or vice versa. The reality is, even things that might look really fantastic, spiffy, great from the outside may not be of much eternal value at all when seen in the whole context. I don’t worry much about whether I am doing my “best” (except in the rhetorical sense) because I am the least capable of judging that. I try to get some sort of handle on whether I am responding to God as He presents Himself to me and permitting Him to change me and the world in the bargain. I rarely succeed but I do manage to carve off some of the distance to the goal sometimes.

                      BTW-as long as I have two dresses in my closet–and I have many more than that–St Basil (at list I think it was he) says I am stealing from the poor. With that as a measure, we are truly quibbling about minor details here.

                      Thanks for good chat–

                    • Iota

                      > Do you see the analogy between visiting in prison and giving to panhandlers?

                      Yes, of course. I could make the same analogy concerning, say, incessant prayer – there are people who devote their lives to that as cloistered monks and nuns. I’m not one of them. And, in fact, if I tried being one of them right now, I’d be doing something wrong insofar as I have other duties. I would still argue, though, that if I get a chance to support a bunch of contemplatives, I’m getting the “steal deal”, insofar as I get to participate in their wonderful, glorious deeds (if they are indeed wonderful and glorious) for a mere pittance. In a sense, I’m thankful if they let me help out because I need them more than they need me.

                      > I object rather strongly to the idea that one form of charity or another can be judged better or worse except by our own standards […] that are ultimately flawed in themselves because we really don’t ever have the whole picture.

                      I guess I work in exact reverse. I object to not having the opinion that some other people ARE doing better in pretty specific ways, because, whatever parts I may be missing from my picture, I know the rough outlines of my biggest faults, know some people have fewer of them, and I sometimes know when my faults end up going against “loving your neighbour”. Consequently, I’d say I know there are people who are more awesome at being charitable.

                      > With that as a measure, we are truly quibbling about minor details here.

                      Comboxes tend to be like that, in the grand scheme of things.

                      Kindest regards

                    • BHG

                      *I’m thankful if they let me help out because I need them more than they need me.*

                      Do you not know that the measure of a good bargain is that each party thinks he has the far better of it? As my favorite confessor once said when I expressed sentiments similar to this: “all roads go both ways.” All we see is what we see–not what others do. I suspect the nuns would say they depend on you too and have the better of the bargain.

                      Happy Thanksgiving. And don’t sell yourself short.

                    • Iota

                      > Happy Thanksgiving.

                      I’m not American or Canadian, so I’ll take that as a very early Merry Christmas. 🙂 But a good Thanksgiving to you and yours.

                      > And don’t sell yourself short

                      Thinking better of other people isn’t the same as thinking badly of myself, at least not in my view.

                    • Alma Peregrina

                      Iota, even though you agreed with HornOrSilk, I liked your comment, just because you tried to engage BHG and the other commenters with politeness and charity. You didn’t try to assume other’s motives, you didn’t judge, you didn’t condemn, but rather tried to understand what they were really saying before writing anything. Your motive isn’t simply to win a debate by all means necessary, but to enrich this discussion with your thoughts on this matter. You, sir, are a breath of fresh air to this thread. Like.

                    • Iota

                      > You, sir

                      I’ll have to disappoint you… I’m not a “sir”. 🙂

                      Also, much more seriously – half of what you wrote is undeserved flattery. 🙂 See BHG’s response to me for some corrections.

                    • Bobby Lawndale

                      Horn, I think you are indeed the expert on projection.

                • BHG

                  You are passionate on this which is wonderful. I appreciate your arguments, there is much in them and I have read the Fathers on this, long before I encountered you on this blog. I must say your “yelling in caps” I thought rather unnecessary. There is rarely only one interpretation to anyone’s writing, which is the beauty and bane of language–it almost forces us into communion to sort out what we really mean or understand. Keep your passion for charity, buy all means, but please do not presume–as it seems to me you have, forgiven me if I am in error– that you know another’s motives or thoughts or the entire context of their actions so that you can condemn them for what has been a considered, prayerful and sometimes very painful decision. There are many ways to respond to the same needs in serving God and each other, and we all see a different piece of the Truth. That is why we are called to live in community, better to see and serve the whole, preferably without discord and harsh words to each other in the course of trying to serve the poor. Please re-read my post in a quieter time. I did not justify (or did not mean to, if that is unclear in the original) ignoring the poor by rationalizing that they would only use the money for evil; I said the greater good is to enter into their lives and help them solve their problems if you choose to deny the request for immediate need and suggested that might well be what the pastor was trying to accomplish. God bless– thanks for an interesting morning.

                  • HornOrSilk

                    Funny, “don’t assume another’s motives,” unless it is the poor person begging for money. Got it!

                    • Dave G.

                      Again. One more time. It’s not an either/or. It’s best when helping those who invest themselves in the lives of the poor or doing so ourselves. That abuses can happen on all sides is acknowledged. But doesn’t detract from the better ways to help.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Again, the excuse was given at the beginning of this thread. And the point is that money often IS the means to get out of homeless situation. It takes money to make money (to even get a job, for example; homeless can use it to rent a mailbox so to apply for jobs, but without it, can’t even do that). What continues is the typical remarks and judgments against the poor, the king Christ spoke out against (and James, too).

                    • Dave G.

                      Of course. Hence my statement that you should invest in ministries and charities that are about responsibly doing such things. But handing a person money will as often as not, be better spent going to those who know how to get those things done.

                    • You know, I’ve heard of people begging for the startup costs to enter the workforce, even read journalism describing concrete cases, but have yet to see it personally as begging. The few times I have come across it, it was portrayed as ‘favors’ and I gave of myself, gladly. I would do the same if it were on the street.

                    • If someone has a sign that says “will work for food” and you offer a job or food, how is that assuming someone else’s motives?

                    • BHG

                      See below following one of Dave’s comments.

                • Marion (Mael Muire)

                  Actually, many of the people who are reduced to begging on the streets are, sadly, caught up in addictions to narcotics or alcohol, or both. There can also be serious mental issues in the picture, as well, the very painful symptoms of which these folks use narcotics and alcohol to medicate.

                  I can understand a reluctance to give cash to such a person, however to simply walk by without offering any kind of helping hand is not acceptable. A gift card to a restaurant, grocery store, or pharmacy might be appreciated. An offer to buy a cup of coffee or a sandwich would be, too. Even to stop and offer a friendly word and inquire if there is anything else one can do to help other than to offer cash.

                  I think from my experience that women who act individually are better off doing so as volunteers and contributors to shelters and soup kitchens, rather than becoming involved one-on-one with strange men on the street, even for charitable reasons. If there are a couple of women present, that would be better, or a woman and her husband, that is best of all.

                  We have a homeless guy in our family, and the family pools our resources to buy him rent in a room in a house with several other guys, just to keep him off the streets. And we give him grocery money and RX co-pays, too. He doesn’t have a car, so we chauffeur him around for his doctor’s appointments, and such, (which Medicaid pays for.) We are so grateful to God that our brother has now been clean and sober for several years, and hope that one day soon, he will feel ready to return to the workforce. Whether he does or not, we will continue to love him and look after him as best we can, without enabling him too much, which is to keep him at a lifestyle at least one notch above the streets.

                  I have a heart for the homeless mentally ill, and am only sorry that I cannot do more for them.

              • Paxton Reis

                Dave G.

                You are correct it is not an either or issue. Unfortunately however, one can find in the comboxes those who trumpet the cause of “social justice”, not for justice, but to look down upon on “lesser” Christians: social justice is then a club wielded from the bully pulpit, not a cause for charity.

                BHG’s post about the call to get personally involved is spot on, so I don’t understand criticism. No where did BHG or the priest cited in the article state that the poor are to be ignored. That is our fundamental calling as Christians…to be personally involved with the other.

                “It is obvious that we are all a mixture of light and darkness; we have all touched the places of hypocrisy and lies. All of us have felt the tendency to want to prove that we are better than others, to go up the ladder, to be respected…” Jean Vanier

          • I think that BHG is touching on something important. It is a good idea to tailor the gift. I would (gently) chide the pastor for a clumsy way of speaking if what he is represented to have said is actually what was said.
            Instead of giving $5 to a beggar, what if you gave a few dollars of your time combined with the cash to enable a useful intervention? Even the poorest will often have time.

            Money’s virtue is that it is a neutral gift that can be converted into most anything, including bad things. If someone is holding a sign saying they are hungry and you buy them a meal and hand it to them, is that a better or worse choice than just giving the individual the money for the meal?

            • HornOrSilk

              Yes, yes, yes, all the rich who have money just get to “tailor the gift” by finding excuses not to give to that “dirty person who might use it for evil.” Of course, are you ignoring St John Chrysostom, who pointed out all these excuses are just another way of the rich to continue their theft? Seriously, we could also discuss the likelihood the rich will abuse the money with some evil, too, and use that to justify taking it away from them. See, we can all do that “they will use it for evil.” But that is the ultimate in lack of charity, for it ignores the personal dignity of the person in need, and indeed, besmears them with rot. This is exactly the kind of rot which the rich use to justify their unjust accumulation of money for themselves instead of letting it be used as it is meant to be used, for the common good.

              • If you own a factory, or a bakery, or a multi-industry conglomerate and you see someone with a “will work for food” sign, your obligation isn’t to drop a $20 in the cup. It’s to see if there’s work that you can give the person and to help them get out of the situation where they are holding that sign. If you think that this tailoring to the specific situation of the poor makes their obligation less, you’re profoundly misunderstanding the idea.

                What is so holy about charity that is fungible instead of tailored to the individual’s situation and less likely to be abused?

                One of my daughters was talking about a song “I want to be a billionaire” so I popped off to youtube so I wouldn’t be ignorant (as an aside, language warning on the song).

                The video had a scene where a person is holding up a sign looking for a ride across the country. The singer tosses him the keys to his car so he can drive himself and walks away. In the spirit of your critique, should we criticize the scene because the guy didn’t give him a $100 for a bus ticket?

          • Bobby Lawndale

            I’ve been a volunteer and benefactor of countless charities for decades, and have given away lots of dough to folks on the street with their hands out. I’ve learned a lot through experience, so let me share a few things for your benefit:
            First, many folks expressing need are in fact con artists who’d rather con than work. Second, many are afflicted with addiction issues and your assistance will function only as an accessory to crime and addiction. Third, most of these folks have family who tried to help them, but they refused assistance because they the assistance came with various requirements of responsibility.
            The best way to ensure that folks who deserve assistance get it is to work with responsible charities. In my city (and this is actually true of many cities) any person can access a non-profit social service hotline by calling 211 or a similar three-digit number, where a trained counselor will direct the person to the closest charities or government agencies that can provide for the person’s specific needs. I have tried to direct dozens of folks this way, though only one actually let me help her. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE AND LEARN ABOUT YOUR COMMUNITY’S RESOURCES (see I can shout too). Instead of indulging your sense of moral superiority (I think you’ve done that enough), do something useful. It is not about you.

            • HornOrSilk


              You might want to hear true life stories of what really goes on, instead of the “look at how great I am” platitudes which ignore the real problems of the people. Yes, government helps, and should work to create a just society so no one is homeless, no one is in a shelter, everyone is fed. However, the reality is more complex, and the mistreatment of the homeless, of those begging on the streets, includes the attack on the dignity of their persons (ignoring the indignity which got them there and they face daily).

              • foulweatherfan

                So you are claiming that the Salvation Army mistreats our homeless? With such easy calumnies no wonder

              • foulweatherfan

                Horn, you are by far the most platitudinous blowhard on this entire thread. Hear true life stories? Hear? Many of us are far more invested in helping those in need than just listening to their stories (let alone yours). What cheap grace! It must be fun (and easy) to just direct your self-indulgent moral superiority toward those you’ve never met or know nothing about as you twist their words into stupid straw men for you to throw a lit match at. You need to take a hard look at yourself, brother. Self-righteousness can be addictive.

                • Guest

                  Hear, hear.

        • Paxton Reis

          BHG- Good observation and I absolutely agree giving money to the panhandler can be the easier way out for us and there are deeper ways to enter their life.. In the immediate situation when they ask for money, another response is to offer food. Carrying some gift cards or certificates to offer helps too.

        • Elaine S.

          Here’s my dilemma. My husband and I live in a downtown apartment building. The building itself is very secure and the neighborhood generally nice but occasionally we encounter panhandlers asking for money. Some of them are faces we see frequently. My husband has ordered me NOT to give any money to these panhandlers because he doesn’t want to encourage them to hang around our apartment building and maybe start harassing other residents. He is also of the firm belief that they are all either con artists or using the money to get drunk or high. He got very upset with me once when he spotted me giving money to one of these people, so I do not do it anymore. I now avoid carrying cash so that if I am asked for money I can honestly say I don’t have any on me. Am I doing wrong or does my duty to my husband/family trump any duty I might have to these people?

          • freddy

            I can’t really speak to your personal situation, but of course you know that authority only extends to what is right: your husband cannot order you to do something wrong.
            However, he may have legitimate concerns regarding your safety or that of other more vulnerable residents. Your duty to the poor can be discharged by volunteer work with or donations to charities such as St. Vincent de Paul; and you can carry with you for distribution cards with addresses and phone numbers of local charities. If your husband permits, you might also carry gift certificates (like for McD’s) that you could give.

          • BHG

            I cannot speak to you personally, either but here’s what I can say. Despite the timber of some comments here in the general discussion about the necessity of giving to the poor generously, the Church does not ask that we give to every panhandler who asks without discretion–she asks that we support the poor, give sacrificially, exercise a preferential option for the poor and never, ever dehumanize anyone (even those we disagree with…) . Some people can give to every panhandler and do; good for them; others are called–or choose–another way that serves another need equally great. Despite the discussion here, I am not convinced that your husband is asking something immoral of you, though like all of us, his motives may be very much mixed. Were I in this situation (married 39 years and counting), I would know that my husband spoke at least in part out of genuine and legitimate concern for me and my neighbors whatever other feelings he had and I would choose to honor his request (not carrying money is pretty day this way and is a good way to do that–freddy’s suggestion of gift certificates is another good idea ). It is, I think, a great sin to cause discord in a household when it can legitimately be avoided and I think it can. By the same token, I would let him know honestly how I felt, and perhaps ask that to honor my heart, we would pray for these folks on a daily basis together–perhaps a decade of the rosary (prayer ought to precede any action anyway–ora et labora, not the other way around–and the very act of prayer might be a way for both of you to see the ways in which your actions toward these poor are lacking–as well as where they are good). And we would have a serious discussion about how we might increase our giving of time, talent and treasure to the poor in a meaningful way and then do it as the Church asks. Life is not an event, it is a process; there are goals and there are steps toward them. I think it best to find a way to make this a positive step in the right direction in the most generous and loving way–for all involved, especially the man who is your immediate Other.

        • Raymond

          That’s not what the text says: “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” Luke 16:25

    • Dr. Eric

      Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Hermann of St. Louis told of a young mand he knows who always encounters people with signs standing at the top of the exit at the stop light asking for money for food. The young man, he said, keeps a bunch of bananas in his car because he knows he will see these people quite frequently and that way he can give them food that won’t perish and he has helped them. Just an idea for everyone to kick around.

      The days I don’t bring my lunch are the days that I see the panhandlers and I only have mints and gum in the car with me. I don’t carry cash.

  • KyPerson

    Our priest had an agreement with the owner of a grocery store and the owner of a gas station near the church. Whenever anyone came seeking money for gas or food, he’d hand them a voucher good for a set amount. At the end of the month, he’d settle with the owners. That way the people who truly needed gas or food got what they needed and the money didn’t go for booze or drugs.

  • Michael McCleary

    You know you’re a good Catholic if your Liberal friends think you’re too conservative, and your conservative friends call you a liberal (o;

    • Andrew Simons

      You got that right.

    • Paxton Reis

      Amen Michael.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    By the way, that whole “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” thing?
    That is not directed at the poor. It’s directed at people within the
    household of the Church.

    You’re right, but I think it has implications for those outside that group, as well. I don’t just mean poor people; the slothful are sometimes quite wealthy.

    Also, I note that the translation in last week’s lectionary specifically renders it “one who is unwilling to work.” There’s a different between someone unwilling and unable.

    That said, Christ’s command of charity supercedes all of that. Paul’s command is to the non-worker, not to the person helping the poor. Paul does not say, “those unwilling to work should be denied food.”

    • Obpoet

      Ummm…….. “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.””

      • HornOrSilk

        The directive principle of just distribution. Without doubt, lest by these false decisions they block the approach to justice and peace, both should have been forewarned by the wise words of Our predecessor: “Although divided among private owners, the earth does not cease to serve the usefulness of all.* . . .” Therefore, wealth which is being continuously increased through economic and social progress should be so distributed to individual persons and classes of men, that the common good of all society be preserved intact. By this law of social justice one class is forbidden to exclude the other from a share in the profits. None the less, then, the wealthy class violates this law of social justice, when, as it were, free of all anxieties in their good fortune, it considers that order of things just by which all falls to its lot and nothing to the worker; and the class without property violates this law, when, strongly incensed because of violated justice, and too prone to vindicate wrongly the one right of their own of which it is conscious, demands all for itself, on the ground that it was made by its own hands, and so attacks and strives to abolish ownership and income, or profits which have not been gained by labor, of whatever kind they are, or of whatever nature they are in human society, for no other reason than because they are such. And we must not pass over the fact that in this matter appeal is made by some, ineptly as well as unworthily, to the Apostle when he says: “If any man will not work, neither let him eat” (2TH 3,10); for the Apostle utters the statement against those who abstain from work, even though they can and ought to work; and he advises us that we should make zealous use of time and strength, whether of body or mind, and that others should not be burdened, when we can provide for ourselves. But by no means does the Apostle teach that labor is the only title for receiving a livelihood and profits (cf. 2TH 3,8-10). (Denzinger EN 3732)

  • Weston

    ‘Mean streak’? You and Meg Kelly have virtually identical spots on the nice-o-meter.

  • Dan C

    “He who does not work, shall not eat.”

    And thusly Fox and other conservatives become Leninists.

  • S7

    I want to comment on the “killjoy” who opposed the Christmas toy program.

    If I understood the program–and the objections to it–correctly, the toys included Evangelical Christian literature, encouraging conversions.

    Is this correct?

    If so, then I have to say, *I* have a problem with public schools distributing that.

    And I’m pretty sure Mr. Shea does too.

    Now, all I have is the video linked. Maybe I’m misunderstanding. Maybe there’s a detail that clarifies this.


    • Dave G.

      Evangelical Christian literature? That would be serious. Thank goodness they put a stop to it. 😉

      • S7

        Evangelical Christian literature distributed by a tax-funded school is, indeed, serious.

        Or do you think it would be all right for tax money to be spent on promoting one particular branch of Christianity?

        In the meantime, I’d love to have a serious response to this question. Still waiting.

        • chezami

          I think something besides a scorched earth policy is the wise approach.

          • S7

            Well, it seems to me there are ways to do this without violating the First Amendment–which I think is exactly what happens when the government endorses any particular religion.

            For example, why couldn’t everything happen after school? Or off school grounds? Announcing, at school, that the “Evangelical Club” is hosting the “Christmas Child” box-assembly party is not a problem.

            It’s very much the same problem with school-led prayer and Bible sessions.

            In any case, why does anyone want government employees in charge of (a) Christmas evangelism, (b) schoolchildren’s prayer or (c) children’s Bible lessons?

            I don’t see moving this away from school-led to student-led as “scorched earth.” That’s all *I’m* objecting to.

            • S7

              By the way, I might add: I am not clear just how this project was conducted; it may be it was done in the way I would support. My point is simply to say that evangelization by government isn’t a good idea–toys or no toys.

            • Dave G.

              If something like this violates the first amendment, then somewhere we have misunderstood the purpose of the first amendment. Which I think we have. Which the various inconsistencies and abuses of it over the decades strongly suggests. Which is why I see Separation of Church and State, not as the goal of the FA, but as the means.

              • S7


                The First Amendment bars an “establishment of religion.” That doesn’t mean the government can’t do anything religious–but it certainly means the government can’t promote or endorse one particular religion–whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, etc.

                Suppose we were talking about Rosaries. Would you want a government school distributing Rosaries? Would you want public employees charged with explaining how the Rosary is prayed? I would not.

                Besides, there’s no need!

                Current law allows religious activities, even in school, provided it is student-led. So, for example, any group of students can form a club with an avowed religious purpose. Evangelicals can meet–outside class time–to prepare these boxes; Catholics can pray the Rosary; Jews can prepare for Yom Kippur, etc.

                All perfectly legal, right now!

                So if you want to go beyond that–to have the school administration, and the teachers give official sanction and support to a particular religious belief or practice, why?

                Why would it be so important to you that the school as an institution is giving it’s endorsement and support to Rosaries–or Evangelical “sinners’ prayer”–or some other, specific religion? Why?

                • Jenna

                  Let’s not also forget that we belong to a minority religion that was historically persecuted in this country. You may not be concerned that your children might be exposed to Protestant propaganda but our bishops were concerned enough to create a Catholic school system to protect Catholic children from that kind of propaganda.

                  • Dave G.

                    Welcome to the 21st century’s problems.

                • Dave G.

                  Given where the ‘uphold the establishment clause as a first priority!’ has gotten us, I’ll take allowing people to express and even advocate their faiths. No, I don’t want a school teaching kids to pray Islamic prayers, or the Lord’s Prayer, or advocating Eastern meditation. I don’t want a teacher leading kids to Christ in a classroom. But I also want religious people and organizations to openly proclaim their faiths. We don’t know what happened with this. Some people use the SoCaS as an excuse to censor religion (or at least religious beliefs they reject). So with that, I say bring them on. If a religious organization has coupled with a school to help the poor, and asks to include a tract about what they wish others to believe, have at it. Censorship, I’ve come to conclude, is a poor solution to diversity and tolerance.

        • Marion (Mael Muire)

          I wonder whether this group would have been willing to distribute gifts to needy children without any accompanying literature at all. . . apart from a card which reads “Merry Christmas”. . . ?

          This, to my mind, seems the most Christian approach of all.

          I could be wrong.

        • Dave G.

          It already is used to promote and push for particular beliefs on the subject. Which is why a more balanced response is what I would favor.

      • jroberts548

        Would you be okay with taxpayer funded schools helping Muslims pass out gifts to kids while proselytizing them? If they gave your kid a pamphlet warning them of the dangers of shirk, it’s alright as long as there’s a box of turkish delight attached? Maybe some rock candy and a tract about stoning apostates?

        • Dave G.

          Yep. Since I’ve seen where the other way is going, I’ll take take it.

      • Jenna

        It is serious. Would you want your Catholic children receiving Evangelical literature? When I was a kid growing up in the Bible Belt, one of my elementary school teachers would have the class recite the Our Father. It was the Protestant version and I was very confused about why the it was different from what was said at home and at church. It was the 1970’s and back then kids had more respect for teachers and school so I just assumed that the teacher was right and my parents just did it wrong.

        I also knew Catholic kids who were allowed to attend youth events at the Baptist church who went up to altar calls, were taught the Sinner’s Prayer, etc. Their parents assumed that it was innocent since it was Christian.

        Catholic children should be protected from Evangelical Christian propaganda just like they must be protected from secular propaganda. It’s just as damaging to their souls.

        • Dave G

          Sorry I’m not not into the evangelical bogeyman narrative. I’m more concerned about forces that want my beliefs and values pushed out of the public forum.

          • jroberts548

            Who’s pushing Operation Christmas Child out of the public forum? As noted, the proselytism drive is still happening. It’s just not being carried out by government officials.

            • Dave G.

              The idea that anywhere tax money is, the wrong beliefs should be eradicated is not a healthy one. Not to mention the beliefs and values that are currently pushed through these tax supported government institutions.

              • jroberts548

                Who is talking about eradicating wrong beliefs? As long as the first amendment is part of the constitution, government officials may not do anything in their official capacities to eradicate or propagate right or wrong beliefs.

                • Dave G.

                  That would be Barry Lynn and his pals.

                  • jroberts548

                    Barry Lynn is not a government official. He can talk about eradicating whatever he wants. Likewise, if Franklin graham wants to eradicate non-baptist religions by proselytizing them with toys, can try. If a government official, in his or her official capacity, does the same thing, he or she has broken the law and needs to be stopped.

                    • Dave G.

                      Barry Lynn has made it clear what he wants: a nation where HIS beliefs (which are Truth, as he explained) can join with the government and become one flesh. Other religions that promote hate, bigotry and discrimination (his words) should naturally be banished from the government and all government funding. And given what the schools do teach and advocate, and what they won’t allow, I’m inclined to think ol’Barry is well on his way to getting his way. There are two types of people when it comes to this: those who still naively think there is some magical neutral zone we can achieve by letting poor kids get screwed rather than having any Religion within a 100 yards of a school, and those who are happy with how the current approach to the 1st Amendment is being exploited to impose their own values and beliefs via government funded institutions.

                    • jroberts548

                      What poor kids are getting harmed (“screwed”) here? Operation Christmas Child is still being conducted in these towns, and nothing stops them from doing a toy drive without attempting to convert these kids to followers of Franklin Graham.

                      You know what actually harms people? Letting government officials disregard the legal limits on their powers will harm people. You know what’s naive magical thinking? The absurd belief that government officials should be permitted to disregard the constitutional limits on their powers.

                      Barry Lynn and Franklin Graham can believe whatever whackadoodle things they want. No matter what they believe, the constitution prohibits government officials from promoting religion. Government officials proselytizing in their official capacity as government officials is certainly prohibited. I don’t see how you could even make a good faith legal argument otherwise, unlike some other areas where the Freedom from Religion Foundation has whined about (e.g., Christmas trees, memorial crosses).

                      If you don’t like it, your remedy is to amend the constitution.

            • Dave G.

              Apparently people who see things like you do. I consider schools to be the public forum. I don’t consider the ever shrinking area between private ownership and government funded locations as the only place wrong religions can openly function.

              • jroberts548

                Public schools aren’t the whole public forum. Operation Christmas Child is still free to operate, and they’re free to do so in public.

          • Jenna

            You are not concerned with Catholics being proselytized away from the Catholic faith? Back during the Potato Famine in Ireland, families chose to starve instead of accepting charity from Protestant churches that required them to leave the Church. Exposing your children to propaganda that encourages them to leave the Church is very serious. Leaving the Church is a mortal sin.

            • Dave G.

              Nope. It’s my job to train my children in the ways of the faith, not try to stop others from practicing theirs the way they’ve been taught. Telling religions they can’t be part of anything to do with our government in any way has gotten pretty habit forming in our country. And I wouldn’t mind a roll-back on how we approach the issue.

              • Jenna

                Keeping your children away from harmful Evangelical Christian propaganda that is designed to convert your children to another religion is not stopping Evangelicals from practicing their religion. It’s protecting your children.

                And let’s be clear that this was not telling religions they can’t be part of “anything to do with our government.” It was telling a religion that they cannot directly proselytize children with a government program.

                The kids receiving these gifts are poor. Maybe a single mom household where mom works all of the time. Let’s assume the family is Catholic. Do you think those kids are well armed to resist non-Catholic propaganda that comes innocently in a very nice present? I think you’re extremely naive to assume that it’s not dangerous for your kids who I assume are well educated about the Faith but hopefully you can see the danger for other Catholic children.

          • S7

            Well, I don’t think I’m presenting Evangelicals as “bogeymen.” I consider them allies in so many ways; and I think we Catholics would do well to imitate Evangelicals in many ways.

            But look: let’s say the public school was passing out Rosaries. As good as that is in one respect, it would, to my mind, clearly violate the First Amendment. And, I do not want our government instructing people on the meaning of the Rosary. That’s our job.

        • chezami

          I wouldn’t mind a bit. I’d use it as a springboard for talking about the Faith. I think the entire “make a desert and call it peace” approach to religion in public schools is fundamentally wrong-headed.

  • jroberts548

    If it’s a constitutional violation, it doesn’t matter how many toys they’re giving out. There’s no toys exception to the constitution. Government officials (like taxpayer-funded school teachers) may not help evangelicals proselytize. They can’t help Muslims, Buddhists, or Catholics proselytize.

    And that’s the way it should be. If a teacher wanted to give a bunch of Catholic public school students some Chick tracts, it wouldn’t matter what toys those tracts were attached to. Likewise, a judge can’t give a defendant some Christmas toys in lieu of a jury trial, a cop can’t give a suspect some toys instead of a Miranda warning, and congress can’t exceed its Article I powers in order to pass out toys. Toys aren’t anywhere in the constitution, and I don’t see how any amount of toys could conceivably give government officials power to do what they are forbidden to do.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      Enjoy the taste of that camel while you strain out the gnat. 😉

      • jroberts548

        I’m looking at Matthew 23, and it’s not clear to me how that applies. Maybe it’s in a part of Matthew 23 that’s visible only to you, like the mythical toys exception to the constitution.

        Even if I treat that as just a figure of speech, it’s not clear how that applies. Allowing government officials to exceed their power based on their own feelings is not a gnat. Limited government is vital. The limits that are placed on government are absolutely essential to life in a free republic. If government officials can run around ignoring the law based on their feelings or their own estimations of morality, then we don’t have a limited government. Limited government is not a gnat. I have no idea what the camel is.

        Is the camel my hypocrisy, as in Matthew 23? I don’t see how I’ve said anything that would give rise to hypocrisy. Government officials should obey the law. They shouldn’t exceed their powers. I’m not a government official, and I don’t expect government officials to exceed their powers in my or anyone else’s interests. On the other hand, supposing I were one of the people who whined about every time Obama exceeded his constitutional powers, and then whined when other government officials were kept from exceeding their powers, then I guess I would be a hypocrite.

        ETA: Do you support the HHS contraception mandate? If not, why not? If you think government officials are allowed to exceed the limits placed on them by the first amendment in some cases, why not others? Can you distinguish them by anything other than whether you personally approve of what the government is doing?

  • HornOrSilk

    “For most people, when they see someone in hunger, chronic illness, and the extremes of misfortune, do not even allow him a good reputation, but judge his life by his troubles, and think that he is surely in such misery because of wickedness. They say many other things like this to one another, foolishly indeed, but still they say the same: for example, if this man were dear to God, He would not have left him to suffer in poverty and the other troubles. This is what happened both to Job and to Paul…” St John Chrysostom, On Wealth and Poverty, 31-2.

    The saints constantly point this out; and we see the truth of it in this thread.

    • Bobby Lawndale

      So most Americans believe that folks who are suffering are suffering due to their wickedness or because God does not love them? If you really believe that this is the view of either most Americans let alone any of the combox contributors on this thread then you are either delusional or simply a pathologically self-righteous scold. I’m guessing the latter.

      • No. Not because they’re wicked. Because they have a drug problem, or they’re petty criminals who can’t keep their sticky fingers off of anything in the parish hall when they’re invited in, or they keep living with shiftless boyfriends (when they’ve been told!) and letting the TV raise the kids they have with said boyfriends, or they drink too much, or they keep getting fired from jobs when they don’t show up for work. But not because they’re wicked.

        • foulweatherfan

          Uh, Jon. There are three things that cause suffering: the fallen world that Adam & Eve left us, the choices people make, and some admixture of the two. It is not possible to always discern with confidence which applies. That said, in the contemporary USA there is a lot of suffering that cannot be laid at the doorstep of Adam & Eve. It is certainly our duty to alleviate suffering in all cases, but prudence requires that our remedies take into account causes as we can best discern, lest our assistance be merely a form of masturbation — a sinful perversion of something selfless(helping others) into something selfish (making ourselves feel good). This sin is compounded when it is performed with someone else’s money.
          No one on this thread would suggest that people who find themselves in difficult circumstances due to their own self-indulgent choices are unworthy of help. Instead they point out that the remedy and dosage may be more complicated than simply throwing manna at them, unless one is indifferent to causing more suffering.

      • Alma Peregrina

        As someone who has already been caught up in a previous debate by HornOrSilk’s net of self-righteous quotes of saints sewed with ad nauseam repetition of strawmen… I simpathize with you, Bobby Lawndale. You have been polite, you have spoken from your experience and never did you judge the poor (in fact, you were the judged one in this thread).

        So here’s my experience (which corresponds to what Bobby said in a comment below):
        My family has been conned by a drug addict who used our christian charity to get our money to feed his addictions, while promising us that he’d turn his life around. We even drove him to the rehab clinic. We gave him food when he said he was hungry. But he allways flinched at the last minute… he really didn’t want rehab nor food: all he wanted was cash. During the months while this lasted, my family spent fortunes to help him, and all we achieved was increasing the amount of drug he consumed.

        We do not repent the opportunities we gave him… but there was a time we had to cut every financial help from him, or he would drag us to misery or could even turn against us.

        So, if HornOrSilk wants to keep quoting a Church Father to judge other people’s hearts, fine. I don’t think St. John Chrysostomon would like how his words are being used here to beat up a person like Bobby, who has worked in charities and helped the poor. In fact, Chrysostomon’s quotes are pretty much a condemnation of judging others, so using that quote to judge Bobby is ironical, to say the least. There are certainly rich people who use excuses like those pointed out by Chrysostomon, I don’t deny that. But to absolutize that quote to extrapolate what’s in every person’s heart and conscience in every situation is ludicrous.

        God bless you, Bobby. Keep up that good work in entering into the poor’s lives. Actions speak louder than self-righteous words and judgments.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    I heard a story about C.S. Lewis that may well be apocryphal. But apocryphal or not, it speaks a truth to this point.
    He was walking with a friend one day when a vagrant asked them for some help. C.S. Lewis gave him all the cash in his pocket. As they walked on, his friend asked, “Aren’t you concerned he’s just going to spend it on drink?” To which C.S. Lewis replied, “Well, I was going to spend it on drink, and I have a warm place to sleep tonight. If it’s drink he needs, he certainly needs it more than I do.”
    Give to everyone who asks of you. There is no proviso. There is no addendum “… as long as you deem them deserving.” Deserving has nothing to do with it. None of us deserve the grace and mercy of God. Freely it has been given to us. Freely we must give.