Bp. McElroy speaks with perfect orthodoxy

Bp. McElroy speaks with perfect orthodoxy January 2, 2018


“President Trump was the candidate of disruption. He was the disrupter, he said. Well now, we must all become disrupters. We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men and women and children as sources of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.”

…and because he does, he is intensely hated, like the Holy Father–and like Christ who said “Blessed are the poor” and “Woe to you who are rich.”

The Church’s basic approach to the goods of this world is exactly the same as its approach to spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.  The gifts you are given are not for you.  You have been chosen for the sake of the unchosen.  What you have has been give you so that you can give it to those who have not received what you have.  In this way, you are given the chance to be a participant in and cooperator with God in the redemption of the world.  If you say of your material or spiritual goods, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry” God will say to you, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” And so Jesus says, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Lk 12:18–21).

The Church has always taught this:

St. Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to poor persons. You are handing over to them what is theirs. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all and not only to the rich.”

St. John Chrysostom: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”

St. Gregory the Great: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

St. Basil: “Are not thou then a robber, for counting as thine own what thou hast receivest to distribute? It is the bread of the famished which thou receivest, the garment of the naked which thou hoardest in thy chest, the shoe of the barefooted which rots in thy possessions, the money of the pennyless which thou hast buried in the earth. Wherefore then dost thou injure so many to whom thou mightest be a benefactor.”

St. Bede: “He then who wishes to be rich toward God will not lay up treasures for himself, but distribute his possessions to the poor.”

Leo XII: “Every person has by nature the right to possess property as his or her own. … But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? the Church replies without hesitation in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: ‘One should not consider one’s material possessions as one’s own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when other are in need. … .’ True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for one’s own needs and those of one’s household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly one’s condition in life. … But when what necessity demands has been supplied and one’s standing fairly provided for, it becomes a duty to give to the needy out of what remains over.”

Pius XI: “The right to own private property has been given to the human by nature, or rather by the Creator himself. … At the same time a person’s superfluous income is not left entirely to one’s own discretion. … On the contrary, the grave obligations of charity, beneficence and liberality, which rest upon the wealthy, are constantly insisted upon in telling words by holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. However, the investment of superfluous income in securing favorable opportunities for employment … is to be considered … an act of real liberality, particularly appropriate to the needs of our time.”

Gaudium et Spes: “God has intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of all people and all peoples. Hence justice, accompanied by charity, must so regulate the distribution of created goods that they are actually available to all in an equitable measure. . . . Therefore, in using them, everyone should consider legitimate possessions not only as their own, but also as common property, in the sense that they should be able to profit not only themselves but other people as well. Moreover, all have the right to possess a share of earthly goods sufficient for themselves and their families. This is what the Fathers and Doctors of the Church had in mind when teaching that people are obliged to come to the aid of the poor, and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods.”

Paul VI: “Private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditional right. No one is justified in keeping for one’s exclusive use what one does not need, when others lack necessities.

St. John Paul II: “It will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor — as individuals and as people — are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced.”

But the Christianist Libertarian freak show–a diabolical parody of the gospel–makes open war on all this and attack shepherds like Francis and McElroy for reiterating what the Church teaches.  Its standard lie is to call this “Marxist” until being overwhelmed by quote like the ones above.  Then the tactic moves to talking about what is owed to the poor as “charity”, because the libertarian lie is to absolutize our material goods while relativizing the good of human life.

But the truth is that what is owed to the poor is owed, not charity.  The Good Samaritan did not do “charity”.  He did what was just because he did what was owed by him to the wounded man.  The priest and the Levite did what was unjust.  They denied the wounded man the care they owed him, just as Dives denied Lazarus the care he owed him.  That’s why Dives went to hell, because he *refused* to give Lazarus what he was owed in justice.

The libertarian lie is that we owe nothing to the common good.  In its most extreme forms, even children are owed nothing by their parents, according to Murray Rothbard.  But in the Scripture the poor are owed the basic necessities of life by us if they cannot supply them.  And the question the Christian asks is “How can I help to the best of my ability?” not “How little can I get away with and still make the grade for salvation?”  The focus of the Christian is on the needs of the other.  The focus of the Christianist is on hoarding his stuff.

This is why it is a total lie to say that a state social safety net that cares for the poor is “robbing us of the chance to be charitable”.  A poor family whose little girl needs leukemia treatments is the focus of the Christian, who doesn’t care about getting the credit for helping the family because he is focused on the family getting what it needs and not being forced to busk on the internet and watch their child die if not enough people can be bothered to help.

The Christianist, in contrast, is only interested in the sick child and the poor family because he cares passionately about getting credit for the five bucks he kicked into their GoFundMe (unless he decided they were lazy and unworthy of his “charity”).  What matters not at all to him is that the family’s needs are met (that’s why he loves forcing them to busk on the internet and live in constant anxiety and terror).  All that matters is that he have the feeling of being charitable and, above all, that nobody make him meet the debt we owe them in justice.  Because it’s all about him, all the time.

Browse Our Archives