defining charity…

… which ever source you use, charity is basically defined in the same manner; a generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering, aid given to the poor.

Nowhere did any of the sources define charity as the act of giving aid to the poor with conditional terms. Never would it have even occurred to me to offer charity and then apply conditional terms to what was being freely given. I am referring to Christian charity in this sense, not government subsidies. I liken government subsidies to some grotesque socialist perversion of the act of charity, in the sense that you are essentially forcing working individuals via salary taxation to fund welfare. Christian charity is completely different and based on selfless love.

Scanning through the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the topic of charity again I notice the absence of conditional terms tied to the virtue of giving. The same applies to mentions of charity within the Bible.

It’s so hard these days to not be cynical and look at scam artists as the rule and not the exception when it comes to charitable hand outs. At one point in my life I was very cynical about charitable giving but you’d be surprised how enough encounters with a few Missionaries of Charity will help you see the situation right.

I’ve discussed the topic of charity before on The Crescat [Version 1.0] but instead of speaking of charity in a generalized sense I want to examine it from the perspective of different Christian denominations.

Us Catholics, for the most part, will give without question because once you start questioning, your charitable act becomes the sin of pride and judgement. For myself, I would rather give what I can and not make demands or conditions because my only Christian responsibility is to give. I save the judging for Christ. So imagine my surprise to learn that some local religious organizations and protestant churches require that those seeking aid must attend a church service, watch a video sermon or agree to become a member of their parish! The Irish invented a word for such tactics, souperism.

Thankfully I have never had to suffer the humiliation of being forced to attend a protestant worship service in order to visit their food pantry. If the purpose is to evangelize, the practice would be counterproductive. I can imagine the indignity would only breed religious resentment.

However, when you give unconditionally the receiver is humbled with gratitude. Humility is a virtue that builds a soul up, resentment not so much. I can not even begin to fathom the logic that would apply to a church to require someone poor and suffering to endured that added injury.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • Mark Abeln

    “Love, for the Gospel, is a self-sacrificing, willed concern for and giving to another, even if attraction and feeling are absent, and even if little or nothing is received in return.”
    — Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.

  • Anne

    Nice post, Katrina. It reminded me of this one by Simcha Fisher:

    • The Crescat

      Anne, thanks for the link. I hadn’t read that and I adore Simcha’s writing,

  • Amichel

    The only thing that I think would be ok to request (not demand) of those receiving charity is their prayers.

    • Dan

      Prayers to who?

  • Gail Finke

    A Protestant church in my neighborhood operates a charity in which they send people to install something that is badly needed in South American villages. They send a mission team with the equipment and teach Bible study, etc., while they are there. I know people who have gone on these mission trips and who say their lives have been transformed, and I know that the equipment is vital and the people who receive it have very little and are grateful. But a Catholic friend of mine, who is a “socialy justicey” as they come, met with them about working together and told me he couldn’t do it — there was far too much emphasis on making these people Christians, both explicitly (Bible study for adults and kids) and implicitly (if you’re grateful you’ll become a Christian). All Protestant charities are not like that, of course, but I’ve run into many that are. It’s not charity if the real purpose is to convert people, at least not the way we look at it. But I suppose they could qualify for an exemption from the new HHS insurance regulation, because they are proseletizing (where is my spell check when I need it?).

  • Dan

    Part of the Catholic Churches definition of Charity:

    “As a virtue, charity is that habit or power which disposes us to love God above all creatures for Himself, and to love ourselves and our neighbours for the sake of God. When this power or habit is directly infused into the soul by God, the virtue is supernatural; when it is acquired through repeated personal acts, it is natural. If, in the last sentence but one, for the words, “power or habit which disposes us to” we substitute the words, “act by which we”, the definition will fit the act of charity. Such an act will be supernatural if it proceeds from the infused virtue of charity, and if its motive (God lovable because of His infinite perfections) is apprehended through revelation; if either of these conditions is wanting the act is only natural. Thus, when a person with the virtue of charity in his soul assists a needy neighbour on account of the words of Christ, “as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me”, or simply because his Christian training tells him that the one in need is a child of God, the act is one of supernatural charity. It is likewise meritorious of eternal life. The same act performed by one who had never heard of the Christian revelation, and from the same motive of love of God, would be one of natural charity. When charity towards the neighbour is based upon love of God, it belongs to the same virtue (natural or supernatural according to circumstances) as charity towards God. However, it is not necessary that acts of brotherly love should rest upon this high motive in order to deserve a place under the head of charity. It is enough that they be prompted by consideration of the individual’s dignity, qualities, or needs. Even when motivated by some purely extrinsic end, as popular approval or the ultimate injury of the recipient, they are in essence acts of charity. The definition given above is at present scarcely ever used outside of Catholic religious and ethical treatises. In current speech and literature the term is restricted to love of neighbour. Accordingly, charity may be popularly defined as the habit, desire, or act of relieving the physical, mental, moral, or spiritual needs of one’s fellows”

  • Dan