A reader writes about Catholic Social Teaching

Sez she:

Hi Mark, I recently purchased your book via Amazon Kindle, The Church’s Best Kept Secret: A Primer on Catholic Social Teaching.

Thank you!

I have been an eager student of Catholic Social Teaching since my conversion in 2017,

That is music to my ears.  It is crucial that Catholics learn to integrate the Church’s social teaching into our practice of the Faith.  Far too many pit their piety against the Church’s social doctrine.

and I have to say I have found your book to be an example of brevity combined with great clarity.

Thank you!  That was exactly what I was shooting for.

I am thoroughly enjoying it so far (3/4 finished) and it is challenging me.

Good!

I can honestly say that it is one which I will definitely read again.

Something authors love to hear! 😊

My worst fault is some of my previously Protestant thinking which goes like this: the deserving poor versus the undeserving poor.

That is not, alas, thinking confined to Protestants.  It is a temptation to which all Christians are prone. So you are not alone. I’m right there with you. There is a reason James had to write this 2000 years ago:

My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)

That is one of the reasons I took pains to note that Jesus’ one and only qualification for giving to the poor is to make absolutely certain that we never get a return on our investment. 😊

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

I myself am low-income and live in a very low-income and indeed sketchy downtown neighbourhood. There are hard-working, sometimes unfortunate, but basically good people and then there are those other ones….malicious, dishonest, pathologically lying, self-serving, free-loading, seemingly conscience-free types. Mark, I have to tell you, I have a LOT of trouble with those people especially when they live in the apartment next door and their behaviour has adversely and rather unjustly affected the rest of us fairly often. But your book is challenging me to see them differently (though I won’t be inviting them over for dinner any time soon, believe me. It’s enough to just be at peace with them in the same building). So thank you for writing it and for helping to keep me honest, lol. Cheers and all the best God has to offer you in 2022!

It is perfectly legitimate to be prudent with your giving so as not to fund evil.  Just as you would not put a gun into the hands of a criminal out of charity, so you should not give money you think likely to be used for evil.  At the same time, things like food are not evil and the urge many Christians have to deny food and similar necessities to people we deem “lazy” in order to “teach them a lesson” is often just an excuse for playing God.  Then again, we do not have infinite amounts of money and have to budget, which is legitimate too.  So it’s a juggling act.  The big thing is to do what you are already clearly trying to do: put others before ourselves.  Once that fundamental shift toward being other-centered and not selfish happens, God can direct the flow of your charity where he wills.  So you are already on the right track and have already made a basic choice for generosity that many never attempt.  Brava!

God bless your beautiful and encouraging desire to serve our Lord! It is a beautiful and precious thing to see!  Please say a prayer for me to try to do better in the New Year.  We are always growing in Christ and there is always room for improvement!

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7 Responses

  1. There’s a difference between:

    1) I know (or have strong evidence) that I am being taken advantage of, so I will direct my charitable giving elsewhere
    2) Everyone needs to prove to me that they REALLY deserve my charitable giving before I consider helping them

    Basically, don’t be #2.

  2. It is perfectly legitimate to be prudent with your giving so as not to fund evil. Just as you would not put a gun into the hands of a criminal out of charity, so you should not give money you think likely to be used for evil. At the same time, things like food are not evil and the urge many Christians have to deny food and similar necessities to people we deem “lazy” in order to “teach them a lesson” is often just an excuse for playing God.

    Of the most agonising is the current placing of economic sanctions on Afghanistan. By all means, don’t sell them more guns or whatever; but for God’s sake, a million children there are in danger of starvation.

  3. I care about the well being of homeless people –but am pretty sure that the money they beg for is going toward substances that aren’t good for them. I give them the money because I want them to feel seen and cared about, even if it’s a tiny drop in the bucket. But I give more to service people who are working hard, trying to make ends meet.

    The problem of homelessness is so much bigger than handing someone five bucks.

    We are failing the homeless because most of them are mentally ill. Some of them didn’t start out that way, but it’s a brutal way to get by. To be honest, I don’t think they should have the right to sleep in the streets. If a single tent dweller is costing the city of San Francisco $60k a year in services, couldn’t the money be better spent on shipping container/tiny house villages in the suburbs/countryside?–Places where they can get medical help including getting off of drugs, job skills, and deposits for rent? At the beginning of the pandemic, SF was housing homeless people in empty hotels, which included food and laundry services. Something like 1 in 3 didn’t *want* to be housed. They weren’t even forbidden to do drugs there, so that wasn’t the problem.

    A different problem is the professional cons who don’t want to perform honest work. They are a whole different ball of wax. It’s never the immigrants. From what I’ve seen, that lifestyle ends up in a morass of mental illness also. It is a group that is made up of all kinds–from my almost 30, unemployed nephew who plays video games around the clock– to our last president. They are entitled and surly. It takes some real effort to love them.

      1. Is it safe to say that UBI is a promising idea for those that are mentally fit? I’m afraid that too many on the streets have wet brain, and are never coming back to the land of the living. One in three wouldn’t even go stay in a hotel for free.

      2. I should have been more clear: UBI will help *most* of the homeless, but you are correct in pointing out that a significant percentage of the homeless are mentally ill. Better mental health care would help those.
        It is worth noting that countries with fully socialized medicine tend to have fewer homeless.

        – joel

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