The obligation of almsgiving is complementary to the right of property "which is not only lawful, but absolutely necessary " (Encycl., Rerum Novarum, tr. Ownership admitted, rich and poor must be found in society. Theologians are divided into two schools regarding the character of this obligation. At the same time it is not always practical to reduce problems depending so largely on moral appreciation to a mathematical basis (Lehmkuhl, Theologia Moralis (Specialis), II, ii, no. Furthermore, all either contributing spontaneously to public and private charities, or paying such taxes as are levied by civil legislation to support the indigent satisfy this obligation to some extent (Lehmkuhl, loc. The extent of services to be rendered and the character of the obligation binding thereunto depend on the kind of indigence and the inconvenience which such ministrations impose on physicians, attorneys, or artisans (Lehmkuhl, loc. Moreover, experience proves that the conduct and conversation of private benefactors frequently dispose their beneficiaries to reform their ways and lives and become useful members of the Church and State.
Property enables its possessors to meet their needs. In the ordinary troubles confronting the poor alms must be given from such temporalities only as are superfluous to social requirements. Those holding that the obligation is serious seem to espouse a cause in harmony with the teaching of Scripture and the authority of the Fathers (St. For this reason there will always be a wide field for individual almsgiving.
Though labour enables the poor to win their dally bread, accidents, illness, old age, labour difficulties, plagues, war, etc. This does not imply an obligation of answering every call, but rather a readiness, to give alms according to the dictates of well-regulated charity (Suarez, loc. Organized almsgiving At the same time, many worthy poor people are too sensitive to appeal to private persons, while many undeserving persons assume the role of professional mendicants to extort aid from those whose sympathy is easily moved, and whose purse strings are loosened to answer every call.
frequently interrupt their labours and impoverish them. 5, ad 2am), For "it is one thing to have a right to possess money, and another to have a right to use money as one pleases." How must one's possessions be used? Moreover, how much better to forestall than to relieve indigence.
After the Patristic epoch the teaching of the Church regarding almsgiving did not vary throughout the ages. Thomas Aquinas has admirably summarized this teaching during the medieval period (St. xxx-xxxiii, De Misericordiâ; De Beneficentiâ; De Eleemosynâ). Where the absence of aid leads to serious reverses, in goods or fortune, indigence is serious or pressing. Nay, more likely in the more acute forms of such indigence those commodities which may in some measure tend to future social advantages must be taxed to succour this indigence (Suarez, loc. Organized charity is furthered by the concerted action of persons in their private capacity or by the official proceeding of those whose position binds them to seek the temporal well-being of all classes in society.
No writer of modern times has so admirably epitomized the position of the Church as Leo XIII (Encyclicals, Rerum Novarum , 15 May, 1891; Graves de Communi, 18 Jan, 1901). The conjunction of genuine indigence in the poor and ability to minister relief in the rich, is necessary to concrete the obligation of almsgiving (St. Where the quest for the necessaries of life involves considerable trouble, indigence is common or ordinary. For charity does not bind anyone to employ extraordinary means in order to safeguard his own life (St. The various corners of the globe are studded with institutions of divers kinds, reared and maintained by the generosity of private parties.
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This is a duty not of justice (except in extreme cases), but of Christian charity -- a duty not enforced by human law. The history of the Church in Apostolic times shows that the early Christians fully realized the importance of this obligation. This is why various organizations have been established to alleviate the different forms of corporal misery.
But the laws and judgments of men must yield to the laws and judgments of Christ the true God, who in many ways urges on His followers the practice of almsgiving (Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, 14, 15; cf. Community of goods ( Acts ), collections in church ( Acts sqq. To the Church belongs the credit of taking the initiative in promoting systematized effort for the welfare of the needy.
; 1 Corinthians 16:1 ; Galatians ), the ministry of deacons and deaconesses were simply the inauguration of that world-wide system of Christian charity which has circumscribed the globe and added another testimony to the Divinity of that Church which directs her ministrations towards the alleviation of human misery in every shape and form (Lecky, History of European Morals, II, 100, 3d ea., New York, 1891). Diversity of actual conditions circumscribing the needy, specify the character of indigence. So abundantly have her labours been blessed that her success has evoked the admiration of her sworn enemies (Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, tr., 18).