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Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - Printable Version

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Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - cgraye - 02-02-2012

(02-02-2012, 10:10 PM)rbjmartin Wrote: I appreciate your thoughts on this. I think these are good questions.

Being skeptical of the benevolence of government welfare, I don't think the poor would go uneducated or without healthcare in the absence of government safety nets. Because of the world most of us have grown up in, it's hard for us to imagine what it would be like without these government welfare programs. But from what I understand of the not-so-distant past, private organizations (particularly the Church) were able to meet the needs of the poor now provided by the government. I believe that with the rise of government welfare programs, the faithful have allowed the state to play the role that the Church once played. If there were no welfare system, would we perhaps be more generous ourselves, knowing that our poor neighbors had no one to rely upon for help? Would service-oriented religious orders rise again? Would REAL Catholic hospitals, staffed by religious, make a come-back? Would we volunteer to teach the children of the poor in our spare time? Would our Catholic doctors offer to give free service to the very poor? Ron Paul often talks about how this was standard practice for doctors like himself.

I was thinking about this too, and the fact is, I hear it both ways.  As you say it, and that it is literally impossible for charity to cover all of the needs of the people, and that it never has.  The fact is, I am not old enough to know what things were like without these government programs, and everyone who tells me about it tells it differently - everything was great, or people were dying the streets.  In fact, just recently I heard someone accuse Ron Paul of deliberately misrepresenting how bad it was for the poor when he was a practicing doctor.

And of course, I wonder - if things were fine before, why were these programs even started?  Possibly they weren't needed and someone just wanted to brings things under government control, but maybe there was a real need that was not being met.  I don't know, and people on opposite sides say different things.

Quote:In a way, I think government welfare programs have usurped many of the social roles of the Church. In combination with the liturgical and theological chaos of the last 50 years, I think the effect of government taking on the role of benevolent mother has only served to weaken the influence of the Church as a primary provider of the needs of the poor.

I agree with that, although again, I don't know how effective that actually was or would be today.


Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - cgraye - 02-02-2012

(02-02-2012, 10:14 PM)Micawber Wrote: The State should not enforce morality per se; the State should perform the functions for which it was duly empowered and no more; one of those is the protection of life from wrongful death.

And yet we have no problem with the state having laws against sodomy.  Or prohibiting the practice of false religions.

Quote:Charity cannot be peformed by proxy; Christ implored us to care for the poor, etc - not create massively powerful bureaucracies to feed off the taxpayer while they pretend to help the less fortunate, and in fact create more poverty, etc.  To paraphrase Rep Paul Ryan, nothing ever prescriptively devised by man for the purpose of reducing poverty/misery, etc., comes even remotely close to the success that the market economy and limited government has had in reducing poverty, increasing access to opportunitites, etc.

As I alluded to in my previous post, this point is obviously highly disputed.  Do you know where I could actually look at sources for this?

Quote:By definition they cannot be a right; Marxists/socialists/collectivists have tried to appropriate this sort of language to mean the exact opposite of what it is.  You cannot have a positive "right" to someone else's property.

That was my thought as well, but that's why I asked about whether the poor have a right to the food of a rich man man who hoards it, when they have no means of working for it themselves, though they are willing.

Quote:If we care about the rule of law, the government is only justified in assuming powers that it has actually been granted.  Collecting taxes towards those ends is part of those powers.  However, "redistributing wealth" has no constitutional basis.

True...for the American constitution.  But philosophically speaking in general?  After all, the American constitution prohibits the government from establishing a state religion, but we would argue that a government can do this (though perhaps is not required to).

I'm thinking less about our personal responsibilities than the government's role in this.


Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - Adam_Michael - 02-02-2012

Rbjmartin made a great point, about how many of the social safety nets currently being handled by the government were once upon a time handled by the Church.

Off topic a bit, but...  I firmly believe that the goal of the Obama administration is to completely push the Church out of this arena. That is the motive behind the HHS Mandate. They hope the Church will close their charities to avoid paying for birth control, effectively leaving all charities in the control of the government.


Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - mikemac - 02-03-2012

From Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis
http://www.ccspm.org/page.aspx?pid=436
Quote:Major themes from Catholic Social Teaching
The following ten principles highlight major themes from Catholic social teaching 
documents of the last century.

3. Option for the Poor
The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation. We are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor. The "option for the poor," is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community.

The option for the poor is an essential part of society's effort to achieve the common good. A healthy community can be achieved only if its members give special attention to those with special needs, to those who are poor and on the margins of society.


Catholics call out Boehner on budget cuts to poor
http://blog.chron.com/believeitornot/2011/05/catholics-call-out-boehner-on-budget-cuts-to-poor/  (from May 2011 but ...)
Quote:As the Speaker of the House, John Boehner is one of the most powerful Catholic officials in today’s government, but the prominent official—scheduled to give the commencement address at Catholic University of America in just a few days—has disappointed some church academics by making budget cuts that affect the poor.

Dozens of Catholic academics have signed a letter calling him out on his voting record and urging him to return to the Catholic Church’s social doctrine to care for vulnerable populations:

    Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings. From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress.

Full text of the letter and a list of its signatories can be found on the National Catholic Reporter.

“They see him as a fellow Catholic, and they see him in a highly prominent position, and they want to remind him of the full range of the church’s traditions and teachings,” said Dominic Aquila, the vice president for academic affairs at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

While the university has not taken a stance on Boehner’s policies, Aquila believes academics should take part in the conversation over how Catholics—regardless of their politics—apply church teachings to their lives.

“The bishops are saying that these are the principles that ought to guide your decisions, and how you get there is a matter of prudence in your own decisions,” he said.

The letter to Boehner lists his position of specific programs, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare, WIC and tax rates for the wealthy, leading some to ask if their criticism is too narrow. GetReligion brought up the question: “To be a Catholic in good standing… do you have to have a particular stance on the size and scope of the federal budget?”

While abortion, euthanasia and life issues may be higher concerns, Aquila said that the government treatment of the poor is not unrelated since it upholds the dignity of needy populations.

“You must be concerned with providing the economic and social conditions,” he said. “You can’t ignore the primacy of life issues, but no responsible Catholic ought to disconnect life issues… and the preferential option for the poor.”

CNN Belief points out:

    Boehner is not the first Catholic politician to face criticism over how his politics and prayers mesh. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, was denied communion over his support for abortion rights, which some bishops said was in direct violation of the church’s teachings.  Then-Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, found himself in a similar row with his bishop in 2009 over abortion and was barred from receiving communion.

But it’s not a Democrat-Republican thing or a liberal-conservative thing, Aquila said, it’s a matter of how the teachings are applied on either side of the aisle.

“The Catholic Church cannot be divided into those categories.”



Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - Parmandur - 02-03-2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Wrote:Article 5. Whether almsgiving is a matter of precept?

Objection 1. It would seem that almsgiving is not a matter of precept. For the counsels are distinct from the precepts. Now almsgiving is a matter of counsel, according to Daniel 4:24: "Let my counsel be acceptable to the King; [Vulgate: 'to thee, and'] redeem thou thy sins with alms." Therefore almsgiving is not a matter of precept.

Objection 2. Further, it is lawful for everyone to use and to keep what is his own. Yet by keeping it he will not give alms. Therefore it is lawful not to give alms: and consequently almsgiving is not a matter of precept.

Objection 3. Further, whatever is a matter of precept binds the transgressor at some time or other under pain of mortal sin, because positive precepts are binding for some fixed time. Therefore, if almsgiving were a matter of precept, it would be possible to point to some fixed time when a man would commit a mortal sin unless he gave an alms. But it does not appear how this can be so, because it can always be deemed probable that the person in need can be relieved in some other way, and that what we would spend in almsgiving might be needful to ourselves either now or in some future time. Therefore it seems that almsgiving is not a matter of precept.

Objection 4. Further, every commandment is reducible to the precepts of the Decalogue. But these precepts contain no reference to almsgiving. Therefore almsgiving is not a matter of precept.

On the contrary, No man is punished eternally for omitting to do what is not a matter of precept. But some are punished eternally for omitting to give alms, as is clear from Matthew 25:41-43. Therefore almsgiving is a matter of precept.

I answer that, As love of our neighbor is a matter of precept, whatever is a necessary condition to the love of our neighbor is a matter of precept also. Now the love of our neighbor requires that not only should we be our neighbor's well-wishers, but also his well-doers, according to 1 John 3:18: "Let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth." And in order to be a person's well-wisher and well-doer, we ought to succor his needs: this is done by almsgiving. Therefore almsgiving is a matter of precept.

Since, however, precepts are about acts of virtue, it follows that all almsgiving must be a matter of precept, in so far as it is necessary to virtue, namely, in so far as it is demanded by right reason. Now right reason demands that we should take into consideration something on the part of the giver, and something on the part of the recipient. On the part of the giver, it must be noted that he should give of his surplus, according to Luke 11:41: "That which remaineth, give alms." This surplus is to be taken in reference not only to himself, so as to denote what is unnecessary to the individual, but also in reference to those of whom he has charge (in which case we have the expression "necessary to the person" [The official necessities of a person in position] taking the word "person" as expressive of dignity). Because each one must first of all look after himself and then after those over whom he has charge, and afterwards with what remains relieve the needs of others. Thus nature first, by its nutritive power, takes what it requires for the upkeep of one's own body, and afterwards yields the residue for the formation of another by the power of generation.

On the part of the recipient it is requisite that he should be in need, else there would be no reason for giving him alms: yet since it is not possible for one individual to relieve the needs of all, we are not bound to relieve all who are in need, but only those who could not be succored if we not did succor them. For in such cases the words of Ambrose apply, "Feed him that dies of hunger: if thou hast not fed him, thou hast slain him" [Cf. Canon Pasce, dist. lxxxvi, whence the words, as quoted, are taken]. Accordingly we are bound to give alms of our surplus, as also to give alms to one whose need is extreme: otherwise almsgiving, like any other greater good, is a matter of counsel.

Reply to Objection 1. Daniel spoke to a king who was not subject to God's Law, wherefore such things as were prescribed by the Law which he did not profess, had to be counselled to him. Or he may have been speaking in reference to a case in which almsgiving was not a matter of precept.

Reply to Objection 2. The temporal goods which God grants us, are ours as to the ownership, but as to the use of them, they belong not to us alone but also to such others as we are able to succor out of what we have over and above our needs. Hence Basil says [Hom. super Luc. xii, 18: "If you acknowledge them," viz. your temporal goods, "as coming from God, is He unjust because He apportions them unequally? Why are you rich while another is poor, unless it be that you may have the merit of a good stewardship, and he the reward of patience? It is the hungry man's bread that you withhold, the naked man's cloak that you have stored away, the shoe of the barefoot that you have left to rot, the money of the needy that you have buried underground: and so you injure as many as you might help." Ambrose expresses himself in the same way.

Reply to Objection 3. There is a time when we sin mortally if we omit to give alms; on the part of the recipient when we see that his need is evident and urgent, and that he is not likely to be succored otherwise--on the part of the giver, when he has superfluous goods, which he does not need for the time being, as far as he can judge with probability. Nor need he consider every case that may possibly occur in the future, for this would be to think about the morrow, which Our Lord forbade us to do (Matthew 6:34), but he should judge what is superfluous and what necessary, according as things probably and generally occur.

Reply to Objection 4. All succor given to our neighbor is reduced to the precept about honoring our parents. For thus does the Apostle interpret it (1 Timothy 4:8) where he says: "Dutifulness* [Douay: 'Godliness'] is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come," and he says this because the precept about honoring our parents contains the promise, "that thou mayest be longlived upon the land" (Exodus 20:12): and dutifulness comprises all kinds of almsgiving. ["Pietas," whence our English word "Piety." Cf. also inf, 101, 2.]

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3032.htm


Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - Donna - 02-03-2012

Off topic thoughts...

Thanks for the Aquinas! The part I love best is that no one is too poor to give alms, because everyone can pray. God's use of economy is totally admirable. Every little thing can be a good. Our lives can really mean something.

I  know a recent double amputee in hospital well over 100 days (think of the bills)...and of 2 children left by a father killed in December via car accident.

They need alms!

People busting ass a long time, to work, and forced to abandon sources of employment cause the economy tanked. As parents, we work all the time & make barely a dime. It's the way it is. Have quoted St. Paul to children (rarely) unwilling to do chores: to him who will not work, let him not eat. So many people have supported others during these weird years, on every level, Deo Gratias. I reckon a few accept help as a love letter from God, much of the while working, networking, planning, managing, working...to try to work. And won't stop trying unless God stops them. 


Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - SCG - 02-03-2012

The church and charity groups do not have the means to help all the poor of the world.


Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - SCG - 02-03-2012

Quote: The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.

this.


Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - cgraye - 02-03-2012

Parmandur,

Yes, I don't think anyone disputes that.  The question is really whether this translates into a right for the poor to have their needs met, and, in either case, whether it is the government's place to enforce it (redistribution of wealth).  Aquinas seems to say it is not a government's place to do that.  I am particularly thinking about this in terms of health care.  Can we say that health care is a right?  Can we say that a government is right in providing it to all the citizens (setting aside practical considerations of whether this is a good idea)?


Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - Micawber - 02-03-2012

(02-02-2012, 10:36 PM)cgraye Wrote:
(02-02-2012, 10:14 PM)Micawber Wrote: The State should not enforce morality per se; the State should perform the functions for which it was duly empowered and no more; one of those is the protection of life from wrongful death.

And yet we have no problem with the state having laws against sodomy.  Or prohibiting the practice of false religions.

I don't see this as a legitimate use of State power; moreover, for example, sodomy laws do nothing to stop sodomy; among other things, prayer, the Holy Spirit, and evangelism will do so. 

Quote:Charity cannot be peformed by proxy; Christ implored us to care for the poor, etc - not create massively powerful bureaucracies to feed off the taxpayer while they pretend to help the less fortunate, and in fact create more poverty, etc.  To paraphrase Rep Paul Ryan, nothing ever prescriptively devised by man for the purpose of reducing poverty/misery, etc., comes even remotely close to the success that the market economy and limited government has had in reducing poverty, increasing access to opportunitites, etc.

Quote:  As I alluded to in my previous post, this point is obviously highly disputed.  Do you know where I could actually look at sources for this? 

There are many points there - which one do you want me to expand upon and/or point to sources?

Quote:By definition they cannot be a right; Marxists/socialists/collectivists have tried to appropriate this sort of language to mean the exact opposite of what it is.  You cannot have a positive "right" to someone else's property.

Quote:  That was my thought as well, but that's why I asked about whether the poor have a right to the food of a rich man man who hoards it, when they have no means of working for it themselves, though they are willing.

Again, you simply don't understand what a right is - we have a duty to help all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons, and to the extent that we are able. 

Quote:If we care about the rule of law, the government is only justified in assuming powers that it has actually been granted.  Collecting taxes towards those ends is part of those powers.  However, "redistributing wealth" has no constitutional basis.

Quote:  True...for the American constitution.  But philosophically speaking in general? 

It's not useful to talk in the complete abstract like this; the American Constitution, the Federalist papers, the Declaration of 1776, etc. and whatnot are profoundly wise because they take into account the sinful nature of man, and given the fallen nature of man at present, I can't imagine how they be improved upon.   


Quote:  After all, the American constitution prohibits the government from establishing a state religion, but we would argue that a government can do this (though perhaps is not required to).

I DO NOT believe that we should establish a State religion. 

As soon as we have Traditional Catholics in power (the entire bicameral legislature, the Supreme Court, and the Presidency); and as soon as we know they'll be in power for all the time to come; and if and only if these "Traditional Catholics" are also perfect "Philosopher Kings" with no sinful proclivities at all, including towards aggregating power to themselves; then, once we're given all this, then sure, let's have a new Constitutional convention. 
 
Until we have these things you are merely pursuing a mirage; and it will end badly.  To try to institute paradise on earth has always ended badly.  If you trust sinful man with too much power, you will get what you deserve: tyranny rammed down your throat.  And trust me, it's not likely to be respectful of traditional catholic teaching.  Don't be a fool.  We are to be as innocent as doves - but wise as serpents; and what belongs to Caesar, etc. 


Quote:I'm thinking less about our personal responsibilities than the government's role in this.

Yes, that is why I included this in my post - which for some odd reason you've left out:


(02-02-2012, 10:14 PM)Micawber Wrote: As a matter of charity, we all have to wrestle with ourselves on how far one goes in all this.  Whatever we do we shall be held accountable - but that accountability will include ALL relevant factors, including your own limitations in terms of time, money, etc.  

Much of this doesn't fit together; we have no alternative but to do the best for those around us.  

We should not become like Mrs. Jellyby and worry ourselves to death about some far away tribe while neglecting those right in front of our faces (in her case, her children.)

And we would do well to always keep in mind with O'Connor, that evil (suffering, poverty, etc.) is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.