There is a passage in the Gospels that breaks conventions and cuts to the core of what has come to be called the “Social Gospel.”  Before looking at the passage we need to define “Social Gospel.” The phrase “Social Gospel” emerged in the Protestant denominations but has also come to be used in Catholic circles as well. Basically defined the Social Gospel is an intellectual movement that was most prominent in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The movement applied Christian ethics to societal problems especially injustice, inequality, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, child labor, labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war.  Basically stated, if faith was to be real it must address these issues and be relevant to those who suffer these maladies.

So far all true. But then comes this very troubling Gospel. A Gospel that breaks the conventional wisdom that the service of the poor is the first priority of the Church. It obnoxiously states that there is something more important than serving the poor. To be sure, serving the poor is essential, but it is a gospel that said something was even more important. How could this be so! Who said such a thing?? And that brings us to the text:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”  (Matt 26:6-14)

The other Gospels contain this account as well. It is in Mark 14 and Also in John 12. John attributes the objection only to Judas and reckons it on account of his greed whereas Mark and Matthew attribute the objection to all the disciples present. Even more interesting all three Gospels link this to Judas’ decision to hand Jesus over. It obviously floor the disciples and especially Judas to hear Jesus speak this way.

There is simply no other way to assess this Gospel than “earth-shaking.” The reader surely expects Jesus to agree that extravagance toward him should be jettisoned in favor of serving the poor. Had he not said that judgment would be based on what we did for the “least of my brethren”  (cf Matt 25:41ff) ?? Why does Jesus not rebuke the extravagance and demand it be sold and given to the poor? It is a shocking Gospel, and earth-shaking declaration: “The poor you shall always have” ??!  But there it is, glaring at us like some sort of unexpected visitor.

What is the Lord saying? Many things to be sure, but let me suggest this essential teaching: “Nothing….absolutely nothing…..not even the service of the poor, takes precedence over the worship, honor and obedience due to God.” Nothing.  If even the service of the poor takes precedence over this, it becomes an idol. An idol in sheep’s clothing to be sure, but an idol nonetheless.

An old Seminary professor (deceased now) told me many years ago” “Beware the poverty of Judas.” What does this mean? Fundamentally it means that the care of the poor can sometimes be used (by some) in an attempt to water down Christian doctrine and the priority of worship. The social gospel, if we are not careful, can demand that we compromise Christian dogma and the priority of proclaiming the Gospel.

Let me be clear, the Social Gospel is not wrong per se. But, like anything, it can be used by the world and the evil one to draw us into compromise and to the suppression of the truth. The reasons for this suppression are always presented as having a good effect but in the end we are asked to suppress the truth in some way. Thus the social Gospel is hijacked, it is used to compel us to suppress the truth of the Gospel and to not mention Jesus.

Perhaps some examples will help. Let me state at the outset, I am adapting these examples as generic. They are based on real world examples but I am not mentioning names and places because it is not the purpose of this blog to engage in personal attacks of other people’s struggles to uphold the gospel. If you demand specifics I cannot and will not give them. This is about you and me, not merely other people. It is possible for us to condemn others for their faults but not look at ourselves. Hence. I offer these examples in humility realizing that I struggle too.

  1. A large diocese in the USA is offered the possibility to serve drug addicts. Price of admission is that they coordinate a “needle-exchange program” which helps addicts shoot up without contracting AIDS. The Government money is substantial and may permit them to serve the poor who are addicts with treatment programs that may lead to their sobriety. Only cost  is that some other addicts may be enabled in their self-destructive behavior and encouraged by the clean needles to shoot up.  Church teaching does not permit us to do wrong even if good may possibly come from it. Nevertheless the Diocese takes the money and hands out clean needles to addicts but gets the money to serve others. The poor are being served! Shouldn’t we look the other way? But is serving the poor an absolute good or do we owe God obedience first? ? What do you think? Is Jesus more important than even poor drug addicts?  Or is he less important? Remember, you have to choose! You can’t just say “I think both are important.” The Government is demanding you choose. Will it be Jesus and what he teaches or will it be the poor at the price of compromising the Gospel? What will it be?  
  2. A Bishop from a moderately large diocese is confronted with the fact that he has not rebuked the local senator for his votes to fund Abortion for the poor using Federal Money. The Bishop responds, “But he is with us on important social legislation and we cannot afford to alienate him.” The senator in  question does surely believe in a substantial funding of programs the Church supports. Programs such as: supportive housing for the poor, aid to families with dependent children, drug treatment programs, affordable housing initiatives, etc. The senator in question is a great advocate for these issues that the Church supports. Only Problem? He thinks it’s OK to fund the killing of babies in their mother’s womb. The Bishop reasons that it is not good to alienate this Senator who “is with us on so many issues.” He fails to rebuke the Catholic Senator and urge him to repent. The Church would lose too much you see. The price is too high. We could not serve the poor as well. This Senator might not vote to fund the Bills that fund programs that Catholic Charities depend on. We “need” to compromise here, the poor are depending on us. “Surely Jesus will understand.” And thus Church teaching yields to the need to serve the poor. Surely it is good to serve the poor. But at what price? What do you think? Is Jesus more important than even the poor?  Or is he less important? Remember, you have to choose! Yon can’t just say “I think both are important.” The Government is demanding you choose. Will it be Jesus and what he teaches or will it be the poor at the price of compromising the Gospel? What will it be?  
  3. In several large cities, Catholic Charities runs adoption programs. Lately, cities and state governments have begun to demand that Catholic Charities treat “Gay” couples on the same basis as heterosexual couples. In order to receive State funds that help Catholic Charities carry on its work of service to the poor who are needy children looking for a stable family Catholic Charities will have to agree to set aside Church and Scriptural doctrine that homosexual unions are not only less than ideal for children, such unions are sinful. If Catholic Charities wants to continue to serve these poor children at all, they must deny the teachings of Christ and His Church. Is this too high a price to pay in order to be able to serve the poor? What do you think? Remember, you have to choose! You can’t just say “I think both are important.” The Government is demanding you choose. Will it be Jesus and what he teaches or will it be the poor at the price of compromising the Gospel? What will it be?  
  4. Many Catholic hospitals receive government funds to treat the poor. But lately the government is demanding, in certain jurisdictions, that Catholic hospitals dispense contraceptives, provide abortion referrals, and cooperate in euthanasia. Remember now, the poor are served with these monies. Should the hospital compromise and take the money? Should it is say OK, thus enabling it to go on serving  the poor? What is more important, the poor or Jesus and what he teaches? ? What do you think? Is Jesus more important than even the poor who come to hospitals for service?  Or is he less important? Remember, you have to choose! You can’t just say “I think both are important.” The Government is demanding you choose. Will it be Jesus and what he teaches or will it be the poor at the price of compromising the Gospel? What will it be?  
  5. Catholic Charities is offered the possibility of getting a large amount of money to serve the homeless. But there is a requirement that Jesus never be mentioned. Catholic Charities must remove all crucifixes, Bibles, and any references to Catholic teaching. Now remember, the poor will be served with this money! It’s a lot of  money to walk away from! ? What do you think? Is  Jesus more important than even the homeless?  Or is he less important? Remember, you have to choose! You can’t just say “I think both are important.” The Government is demanding you choose. Will it be Jesus and what he teaches or will it be the poor at the price of compromising the Gospel? What will it be?   

In the end, I leave you and me with these questions:

  1. How far do we go in serving the poor?
  2. The service of the poor, and the issues that the poor face are an essential work of the Church, but does it trump worship and doctrine?
  3. Should Church teaching bend to the demands of the Government in order to serve the poor?
  4. What does Jesus mean in the Gospel above when he teaches that anointing him is more important than serving the poor?
  5. What is the Church’s truest priority? Is the truth of the Gospel or is it serving the poor?
  6. What if these two things are in conflict? Which is chosen over the other?
  7. Given the Gospel above, what would Jesus have us choose as first priority?
  8. When large amounts of money are made available for the Church to serve the poor but at the price of us compromising or hiding the truth of Gospel, what do you think the Church should do?
  9. Why?

The Social Gospel is essential. It cannot be merely set aside. But the Social Gospel cannot eclipse the Full Gospel. A part, even if essential, cannot demand full resources and full obedience, not at the expense of the whole or the more important!

Money and resources to serve the poor  are essential, but they are still money and it remains stunningly true that we cannot serve both God and money.  In the end, even serving the poor can become a kind of idol to which God has to yield. It is the strangest idol of all for it comes in very soft sheep’s clothing, the finest wool!  But if God and his reveled truth have to yield to it, it is an idol, the strangest idol of all.

 I do not agree with everything in this video, but it well presents the temptations that Catholic Charities faces:  

65 Responses

  1. Bender says:

    Well said, but . . . I would suggest that, in honoring and serving the Lord, we are serving the poor. To love God is to love one’s neighbor, and to love one’s neighbor (a child of God) is to love God.

    In anointing Jesus, thereby signifying that He is king, the poor were served in a much greater way than if they had taken what belongs to God (the anointing oil), sold it, and given the proceeds to the poor. Man does not live by bread alone. The poor themselves often know this, such as the widow in the Gospels who gave a pittance, which was everything that she had. Look also at many of the great churches and cathedrals that have been built, often with the funds of people who “could not afford to give,” but who wanted a place where they could worship God more than material things for themselves.

    Besides, simply throwing money at the poor is often a short-sighted way of helping them.

    As an aside — there are those (often opponents of the Church) who will say that the Church is so rich and that it should sell all its “treasures” and give the money to the poor and, if they did that, it would virtually eliminate poverty. But the fact is that “the Church” is rather cash poor and its “treasures” are often negative assets, that is, they actually end up costing the Church money.

    Take for instance, the Vatican. The annual budget of the Vatican is, I believe, smaller than the budget of Arlington County. It does have the Vatican museums, where various treasures from antiquity are held in trust for all of humanity. But there is no real market for those treasures; it is not like they could put those items up for sale on e-bay and get any real money for them. As such, those “priceless” items have no value; rather, they cost money to maintain. There is also real estate, but that property is in use for church buildings, schools, hospitals, etc. Those properties are already being placed at the service of the poor and others.

    • Any one want to buy some 6 foot high Baroque Candlesticks?? Not likely and the moeny we got would never match their true worth. What ever we got would be gone forever and be spent in six months I am sure. I remember we raised 30 million for inner city schools and it was gone in 7 years. As you well point out serving the poor is about a lot more than money.

      Once Mother Theresa was asked to comment on the fact that the Episcopal Church had stopped the building of John the Divine in NYC because such spending was obnoxious to the poor. She smiled and said something like, “The poor like beautiful churches too”

  2. Bender says:

    Besides, it was necessary to anoint Jesus at some point — you can’t be the Anointed One (the Christ) without an anointing, and you can’t have an anointing without the proper oil.

  3. Mario de Guzman says:

    Good day Monsignor. I was reminded by your article on what happened to our some priests during the 70′s. They are at the forefront in helping the poor and persecuted people (some of whom are communists). The zeal are blazing in their hearts in protecting the poor against the excesses of our government. I cannot judged them but they ended up leaving the catholic church. Our Lord said the greatest and the first commandment is to love God and loving you neighbor takes only the second precedence. Best wishes.

    • Yes, indeed. Thanks for the reminder of what is the first and greatest commandment and what is second.

      There has been a certain tendency for those engaged in social works and social just to leave. Thankfully it is not always so. But I am mindul of something Dorothy Day said this effect. The quote is not exact but it went something like this: “In serving the poor you have to pray otherwise this work will destroy you.”

  4. JCD says:

    The poor are better served by a church that keeps the Word, which is the bread of life. Thank you, Monsignor, for standing up for the Lord.

  5. namatsi says:

    There are certain tasks for the Government. They cannot run away from them. An example is providing a legal framework where persons can help themselves. Why do some persons become poor? In some places there are so many legal obstacles that making ends meet within the bounds of the Gospel is very difficult. Who makes these laws? Politicians.
    Once upon a time Catholic men and women used to seek public office. When in office they had chance to influence public opinion and laws. What has caused the dearth of Catholic politicians who continue to uphold their faith when in office? Please look at Muslim politicians. They promote the Muslim agenda in all areas without excuse nor apology.
    Jesus was offered bread when hungry. What did he do? In one of the Star Wars movies a character says ‘the fear of loss is a pathway to the dark side’ The examples you give above show a fear of loss of public esteem especially in the face recent accusations against priests and bishops.
    Once a time the Church had income from her property. This could have been used to help the poor help themselves. Yes show them how to fish not just how to eat a fried fish. Since we invited the Government into our schools and hospitals we need a long spoon to sup with devil.

    • Great quote, and from Star Wars no less! Yes, I think accepting large doeses of Government money, even if for a good reason, has caused us to be a position where we stand to lose too much. Hence the temptation to compromise and go to the dark side is even greater.

      You are also right, serving the poor also needs to address the causes of poverty in a person’s life. It is possible to merely maintain the poor, to house them, but not to advance them. It is complicated and difficult work to be sure

  6. gb says:

    “A Gospel that breaks the conventional wisdom that the service of the poor is the first priority of the Church. It obnoxiously states that there is something more important than serving the poor. ”

    This article is very poorly written. You have set up a very false & misleading dichotomy between worship of God & service to the poor. The real need of your readers to learn Church teaching in its fullness would’ve been better served by reading & quoting the Pope’s last encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” in relation to the Gospel passage cited.

    In that encyclical, B16 does not set up a false dichotomy between Worship of God & Service of Neighbor. He reiterates the Church’s ancient teaching that these are two wings, both of which are needed for flight, and situates this teaching within the context Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio. The Holy Father states that “Charity has its locus in Truth.” In other words, we cannot have one without the other.

    The examples you cite in the article of service without truth are real & I understand very well that the Church USA has driven off the road on the left for the last 40 years but, if we neglect to follow the teaching of “Caritas in Veritate”, we will only end of driving off the road on the right eventually.

    • The dichotomy is unfortunately very real. I think the intensity of the dichotomy comes not from serving the poor in essence but from the decades long growing dependence by the Church, esp Catholic Charities, on government money. This is now coming to a head as an increasingly secular Government is attaching unacceptable conditions to receiving and using this money. We have some decisons to make.

      As to the dichotomy (a word I did not use however) in itself there is ultimately a very real and necessary decision to make and the gospel I cite is one that has to be wrestled with. I think the meaning of that Gospel is plain enough (absoutely nothing and no one is more important that our obedience to Jesus Christ) and I think you have failed to experience its impact. While it is true that generally speaking thre is no dichotomy between serving the poor and obeying the teachings of Jesus Christ, there ARE times when these two matters come into conflict (viz the examples I gave and others besides). I think I made this point cearly in what you consider an article very poorly written. It may in fact be but I did not fail mention that serving the poor is essential (i.e. of the essence) to Christianity. But sometimes a decision has to be made. I am not sure you are willing to face that fact which the gospel I quoted demands that you do.

      Two wings may be necessary to fly properly. But every now and then the bird has to land and heal the wounded wing. The temptation to compromise our doctrine in order to serve the poor is often before us today. Giving way to that temptation it to seriously wound one of our wings (obedience to Jesus and his teachings). Flight soons becomes impossible if we keep injuring one wing to save the other.

      • gb says:

        “(absoutely nothing and no one is more important that our obedience to Jesus Christ) and I think you have failed to experience its impact.”

        Msgr,
        You are completely correct in your assessment of my spiritual life…I HAVE failed & failed daily to completely experience the impact of Jesus Christ in my life. For this, I am sorry daily. Thank you for pointing that out.

        In my admittedly shallow experience of all He has to offer me everyday, I must say that I am pretty sure that He urges me (through HIs Church) to take what He has taught in its entirety. That would mean Loving Him with all my heart, mind, soul & strength AND my neighbor as He loves me. Or, in the context of this post, obeying the text you cited from Matthew 26 as well as the text from the previous chapter (Mt 25) re: the last judgement (the separation of the sheep and the goats).

        The last sentence of your reply to me, “Flight soon becomes impossible if we keep injuring one wing to save the other”, very succintly reiterates the Holy Father’s point in writing “Caritas in Veritate” so thank you again for doing that!

        • Yes you presented an interesting image in the concept of the two wings. Thankfully the dichotomy is not usually present and serving the poor and obeying Chirst are one in the same. But the Government involvement in this has brought us to moment of decision. And what a painful moment it is!

      • ….Yes you presented an interesting image in the concept of the two wings. Thankfully the dichotomy is not usually present and serving the poor and obeying Chirst are one in the same. But the Government involvement in this has brought us to moment of decision. And what a painful moment it is!

  7. Nick says:

    1. How far do we go in serving the poor?

    As far as the works of mercy are concerned. They are Jesus in disguise but we do not adore them.

    2. The service of the poor, and the issues that the poor face are an essential work of the Church, but does it trump worship and doctrine?

    Nope. Adoration is man’s first priority and doctrine is God’s gift of truth, which man cannot change.

    3. Should Church teaching bend to the demands of the Government in order to serve the poor?

    Nope. The Church is the bulwark of the truth.

    4. What does Jesus mean in the Gospel above when he teaches that anointing him is more important than serving the poor?

    He means that serving God is above serving man, and that by serving God we serve man.

    5. What is the Church’s truest priority? Is the truth of the Gospel or is it serving the poor?

    I believe it is adoration of God.

    6. What if these two things are in conflict? Which is chosen over the other?

    God is chosen; without Him who is Love and Truth, we can do nothing and nothing is of value.

    7. Given the Gospel above, what would Jesus have us choose as first priority?

    What He did. He is our model of holiness, being Holiness Incarnate.

    8. When large amounts of money are made available for the Church to serve the poor but at the price of us compromising or hiding the truth of Gospel, what do you think the Church should do?

    Trust in God, not in man. He will give us the means necessary to serve His own.

    9. Why?

    Because evil cannot be committed for a greater good and because God is not faithless but Truth.

  8. Libertas (Joseph Zemens) says:

    This gospel really touches on a premise that seems either largely unknown or willfully misrepresented. Our job is to love our neighbor both individually and collectively, but not, as pointed out, secondary to the worship of God, or to salvation. The modern social justice movement has hijacked, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”, and made it a collective “you” rather than meaning each of us individually, or through us acting collectively in a voluntary manner. Hence, via charity at the point of a government gun, “thou shalt not steal”, has been also cast aside, but of course “likewise for the (claimed) common good”. The virtue of prudence dictates such ends can be accomplished only thru proper means, and there ARE other means, but prudence, like many other virtues and principles, has been cast aside also because of expediency. It is important that such errors be revealed, despite the wailing and grinding of teeth. Great article!

    • I suppose that we have often, in recent decades gone for the biggie wow programs that serve large numbers of the poor but sometimes impersonally. For example we can run a large soup kitchen and feed large numbers but we fail to preach the gospel to them. Hence the body is nourished but not the soul and this seems to manifest an impersonal dimension. I remember the older model, wherein those who came to get a meal were also expected to listen to a sermon and expected to participate in work of some sort even if it were just sweeping the floor and stacking the chairs. But large collective approaches have made the impersonal more common. Here too the role of Government money has already had effects requiring “non-sectarian) settings in which the poor are served. To some degree I think the Gov’t has every right to determine how and under what circumstances the people’s money is used. It is WE who have a decsion to make. Will we compromise and take the money or will we be willing to walk away. When the amount of money is large the temptation is great to compromise. THis is where we have come, to a crossroads.

      • Henry Vanden Brook says:

        How about, the church just does what it is supposed to do and the government can use our tax money to do what it wants to do. Hopefully, there is a God and he will provide comparative results of the two programs. I think He promised something to the effect that “the truth shall be revealed”.

      • Bender says:

        How about, the church just does what it is supposed to do and the government can use our tax money to do what it wants to do.

        How about the church just does what it is supposed to do, we keep our own money and use our own money to do ourselves what we are called to do, and Caesar keep his grubby hands out of our pockets and his grubby nose out of the Church’s business?

  9. Janek Ignace says:

    We must be very careful as to whom we designate as “poor” and why. For one thing, the “poor” of Our Lord’s time are those who are truly destitute. We simply do not have anything amounting to the horrendous conditions of the 1st century in the US where our poor often own decent cars, homes, plasma tvs, Ipods, etc; and have Michelle Obama worrying about their excess weight. They are poor relative only to what we define as moderate and affluent. Any of our poor would be among the middle class of so-called third world countries. And we have nonprofit programs literally sprouting like mushrooms to allegedly help the poor…most of these programs are subsidized by the taxpayers, meaning that Catholics already give.
    Our Lord’s answer is even more radical than your outline as He was talking about people literally around Him and his disciples who were comparable to the destitute of Calcutta rather than many of our folks who have access to relief in many forms. Perhaps that is why Mother Teresa spent so much time in front of the Blessed Sacrament before going out into the stench and filth of those hot Indian streets and ministering to the maggot-covered and dying.

    • I thin you are right that poverty is relative across cultures. I’d prefer to debate that another day. It is clear that we ought to serve the poor (however that is defined). But in the end, the goods of this world are good but God alone is absolutely good. The gospel seems clear, Lord prefers obedience to sacrifice, even the beautiful Sacrifice of serving the poor.

      • Henry Vanden Brook says:

        I think his reference to sacrice was the killing of an animal. His point was that he wants us to quit sinning, not provide him a supply of animals. Jesus said his true worshipers are those who are doing the will of the Father. That would definitely include and prioritize serving the poor over singing a nice song, or reciting the words of a prayer.

  10. Bender says:

    gb –

    That “false dichotomy” is caused by government and worldly ideology and, dare I say it, Satan and his minions, and their false and counterfeit conception of “charity.”

    As the Monsignor says, “it is true that generally speaking there is no dichotomy between serving the poor and obeying the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Jesus knows well how to reconcile the two. Rather, it is worldly powers, with their materialism, who seek to divide God and the poor and force one to choose between one or the other.

  11. lomi says:

    Monsignor, The statement made by your Professor “Beware the poverty of Judas.” Fundamentally it means that the care of the poor can sometimes be used (by some) in an attempt to water down Christian doctrine and the priority of worship. The social gospel can demand that we compromise Christian dogma and the priority of proclaiming the Gospel. That a powerful line, it can cause one’s faith to battle between moral life which is the source in faith in GOD who reveals his love to us and the pride and or greed of the Secular world. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith (Rom 1:5). Under no circumstances can we as Catholics or Protestant alike have the authority to accept monetary funding WITH STIPULATION for the good of serving the poor, or immoral relationship or contraception, abortion and the list goes on that will PROHIBIT us to “nourish and Protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, We are to reject EVERYTHING that opposed to it”.

    So, keep your funding, “Catholics Charity” will be fine, we will continue our work our 240 years of compassionate work and serviced for the poor, and continue serving as faith custodian of interpreting of the bible for 20 centuries, support our monasteries religious institution, Universities, hospitals, stand and uphold the teaching of Our Papal, Bishops, and Priest and continue to prove ourselves to stay Perfectly intact 2000 with the same CEO Despite those set backs from the Secular, Catholics and others who disregard or refuse to hold as true what God has revealed to His Church.

    Bishop Fulton Scheen stated in one of his knowledgeable talks on EWTN, “Want to know what is most Holy in the World? Just take an honest look at the world and see what is most ATTACKED in the world. He stated Human Life and the Catholic Church hummmm.

  12. Lucy Langdon says:

    I seem to recall Mother Theresa saying something pertinent to your point in a Malcolm Muggeridge documentary. She was known to spend a lot of time in front of the Blessed Sacrament before going out to serve the poor. Her actions speak volumes, but also, she added a clarifying thought.
    Forgive the paraphrase, but as I recall she said that the only reason she and the sisters of her order could do their work was because they first worshiped our Lord! She added, without this dimension they would quickly become nothing more than social workers. Nothing against social workers, I have several in my family, but it took something more to succeed in Mother Theresa’s work than mere rules, no matter how noble, being followed. It took the strength that only God can provide. She herself constantly insisted she was ‘only a pencil’.
    Is there a better real-world example of what Jesus was saying in Mathew 26?

  13. Lucy Langdon says:

    By the way, I had read most of the replies but not the other Mother Theresa one, so I apologize for being redundant on the Mother Theresa example. I have also since noticed that you seemed to take some heat for your so-called false dichotomy between our Church Dogma and serving the poor.
    Blessed Mother Theresa set that dichotomy up as well, with her comment about the difference between the Missionaries of Charity and mere social workers.
    I think your point is so very important! The Enemy of us all gains so much ground by copying God, don’t you think? On the outside the difference between accommodating – aggiornamento from the days of V II – to our larger culture and not is essentially the difference that makes the Catholic Church the only body politic that can actually mount a defense of life , for example. But there are so many others…

  14. Loreen Lee says:

    Would the poor in your district be as well off if the Catholic Charities withdrew from their services supported by government funding and let the government apply its program to all of their intended recipients? I think possibly they would. Can the Catholic Charities secure its own funding for perhaps a more limited outreach to the poor according to and retaining the dogma emphasized. I think it could. Then the church could also reinstate some forms of worship with respect to those receiving aid from Catholic Charities. The outreach would be less; but the integrity of the belief would be maintained. If this is the only choice, then my vote would be for the above.
    I have attended Protestant churches where the emphasis is on feeding the poor; and like these government sponsored outreaches, no one attends the service, even, before the meal is served. The priority for Protestant denominations I have visited is outreach. The priority for Catholics is worship. If that’s the division, and the choice, I am happy with it. The integrity within Catholicism keeps the mass in perpetuity. That has been lost in Protestantism. And with that loss,(my belief), a dissipation in the worship of the Lord, and even in the organization of their churches. Not to worry, the government will call us back when they realize they need us. Thank you.

  15. J. Cole says:

    I thnk JPII said something like, “those with the power to create opinion”. A compramise leads to a totalitarianism. Maybe there is another point. In one city, there was built a grand church to honor God. Certainly the world is saying that the money should have been given to the poor?

  16. Ann says:

    Jesus also said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours” in Luke. We usually focus on the other version of the Beatitudes (“blessed are the poor in spirit”), but obviously Jesus never thought being literally poor (hungry, weak, without wealth) the worst thing for us. Of course, we should serve the poor, but we need also to remember the inherent “blessed”ness of the condition of poverty. The best way I can figure it is somehow, by God’s grace, serving the poor is good for OUR souls, but BEING poor is good for THEIR souls.

  17. Rich says:

    By the Divine authority given to Her to teach, govern and sanctify, the purpose of the Church is first and foremost to bring about the salvation of souls, and not care for the poor. That the Church *does* care for the poor as much as She does, while encouraging all to do so, is one example of Her loving pastoral concern for God’s people in living out the Gospel.

    This article brings to mind for me the incessant pleas for “social justice”, to the exclusion of most else, from the pulpit of my parish. God forbid we should ever hear about something like The Four Last Things.

  18. Father John Canu says:

    The first two cases are presented as already decided under the authority of a bishop. (-: Is THE Pope more important than even Msgr. Charles Pope? Or is he less important? Remember, you have to choose! You can’t just say “I think both are important.” Your conscience is demanding you choose. Will it be the Pope and the way he supervises bishops or will it be Msgr. Pope at the price of compromising the authority Christ has established in His Church? What will it be? :-)

    The other three cases are presented as dilemnas facing Catholic charitable entities because of government demands. I am not the pope, not even a monsignor, so this is only a guess: the charities should consult, depending on how large is the region in which they operate, the bishop, the national conference of bishops, or the Holy See. Their advice might be, if the charities already have the goverment funds, to ignore the demands of the government’s executive branch (even if based on unjust laws made by the legislative branch). If they don’t yet have the funds, and if the Church authorities determine that the precise demands are immoral, the charities would obviously be told to refuse them and might be advised to take the matter to the judicial branch of government.

    • Father, I am not sure I understand your first point. How do these examples relate to the Pope? I am not sure what reaction the Pope had to the first case. As to the second, at least in his written response he seems to differ with the approach described and thus would not agree with the bishop described. Perhaps you mean to imply that because the Pope has not “disciplined” the bishops in question that he approves of their actions. I am not sure I would agree necessarily. What do you think Father? Did the Bishops in question do what you would have done? If you recall, I specifically prescinded from making a judgement in these cases: Here is what I stated:

      Let me state at the outset, I am adapting these examples as generic. They are based on real world examples but I am not mentioning names and places because it is not the purpose of this blog to engage in personal attacks of other people’s struggles to uphold the gospel. If you demand specifics I cannot and will not give them. This is about you and me, not merely other people. It is possible for us to condemn others for their faults but not look at ourselves. Hence. I offer these examples in humility realizing that I struggle too.

      So, in the end Father, I am asking YOU to wrestle with these topics. It is YOU who are one the hook.

      Do you mean to say that it is wrong for anyone of us to wrestle with the dynamics of such decisions? Are you saying it is wrong for this blog to broach the topic at all? Is soul searching excluded because there are popes and bishops handlign these matters. Etc.

      I guess I am just not sure where you are coming from here.

      • Father John Canu says:

        Msgr. Pope wrote
        “This is about you and me, not merely other people. It is possible for us to condemn others for their faults but not look at ourselves. Hence. I offer these examples in humility realizing that I struggle too.
        So, in the end Father, I am asking YOU to wrestle with these topics. It is YOU who are one the hook.“
        I, Father Canu, reply:
        No, I am not swallowing the bait which hides the hook. It is not possible for me to condemn others (including Msgr. Pope) for their faults, or even to determine whether they are at fault, when in humility (my greatest virtue :) ) I look at myself and struggle to open myself to the way God acts through the Church. I trust that approves of this blog, but neither he nor my own bishop demand that I “wrestle with these topics” or any others that the Church has not entrusted to me.

        • Well OK father, I guess you’re advancing a kind of “Roma Locuta” argument (which I’m actually a big fan of). Only problem I am not aware that Rome has spoken. Further, I am not sure that the Bishops have spoken. Different Bishops have acted differently in the kinds of cases I have mentioned (esp. adoption, and also Politicians and how to hadle them). It seems to me that discussion is permitted as the Church wrestles with these issues and that all of us ought to know some of the issues that are being faced and ponder over what ought to be done. If you don’t want to wrestle, then don’t. But as for me I’d like to think some of the rest of us are allowed to discuss such matters respectfully.

      • Father John Canu says:

        Father John Canu says:
        February 14, 2010 at 3:45 pm
        Msgr. Pope wrote
        “This is about you and me, not merely other people. It is possible for us to condemn others for their faults but not look at ourselves. Hence. I offer these examples in humility realizing that I struggle too.
        So, in the end Father, I am asking YOU to wrestle with these topics. It is YOU who are one the hook.“
        I, Father Canu, reply:
        No, I am not swallowing the bait which hides the hook. It is not possible for me to condemn others (including Msgr. Pope) for their faults, or even to determine whether they are at fault, when in humility (my greatest virtue :-) ) I look at myself and struggle to open myself to the way God acts through the Church. I trust that the archbishop of Washington [4 words unaccountably omitted from the first posting of this] approves of this blog, but neither he nor my own bishop demand that I “wrestle with these topics” or any others that the Church has not entrusted to me.

      • Well OK father, I guess you’re advancing a kind of “Roma Locuta” argument (which I’m actually a big fan of). Only problem I am not aware that Rome has spoken. Further, I am not sure that the Bishops have spoken. Different Bishops have acted differently in the kinds of cases I have mentioned (esp. adoption, and also Politicians and how to hadle them). It seems to me that discussion is permitted as the Church wrestles with these issues and that all of us ought to know some of the issues that are being faced and ponder over what ought to be done. If you don’t want to wrestle, then don’t. But as for me I’d like to think some of the rest of us are allowed to discuss such matters respectfully.

      • ….Sorry for the garbled comment editor software. Hope this will display right. In the end of course I can only say what I said before. sicut supra dictum est

  19. Henry Vanden Brook says:

    Response to examples:
    1) Obviously if God specified a solution or method to handling the problem, I would, hopefully, acknowledge and perform it his way. But I don’t know where the Bible says they can’t “shoot up” in the first place. The way I read it, it’s not saying you can’t drink (and my assumption is you shouldn’t shoot up), but you’re stupid if you do. So if the church is being serious and trying different programs to determine which is most effective, emphasis on serious, then why not setup a variety of programs to see what works and consider including the results of the government’s technique?
    2) Simple, stand for what God said is right. I think the problem in this example shouldn’t be with the Senator and attempting to get his vote, the problem is that the church should already be preaching against it using scripture. Most of the Catholics I grew up with don’t know the scriptural basis against abortion. They think the priests and bishops are just giving their personal opinions. I was “pro-choice” until a protestant friend of mine showed me the scripture that God knew me before I was born (knitted in the womb I think it says), and how ‘Pharaoh was chosen for this very purpose’, etc. I don’t assume that because someone joined the Priesthood he knows all of God’s positions. But when he uses scripture, I give It instant credibility. The primary job Jesus assigned to Peter, if he loved Him, was to feed the sheep. They let (St.) Stephen set the tables. But if the Priests aren’t going to feed the sheep, they might as well wait on tables.
    3) No to homosexual parenting. How is it a hard decision to make when it involves going from bad to worse. The church program should already be a “church” program. We should pay for it. If the government wants to donate – that’s nice, but we should not depend on their donations.
    4) Again, what is right is right. No compromise. Jesus never compromised. He had to be perfect for his sacrifice to atone for our sins. And Jesus commanded us saying ‘therefore, be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect’. The only thing that costs money is people. The church hospitals should staff themselves with church members first. If they are true church members, they will stay and help the poor for free or have a sliding curve to help out. The wealthier church members should use the church hospital for services because they know the extra money will go to helping pay for non-church services, supplies, and employee salaries. So again, there is a solution. We need to make a sacrifice. We need to ‘take up our crosses and follow Him’ and just do it the best we can.
    5) I am the homeless. I say put God first. Contrary to what people may believe, I get $200 a month for food stamps. Zip for all other expenses from the government. Zip from the church. I have survived by miracles (like the blessings from God through my “ex” wife) for years. What I don’t get is how come the church has been around for 2,000 years and doesn’t have more shelters. How do we get this started? With regard to the question, since I don’t get the money either way, why sacrifice our only source of hope, God (through the Bible) and representative symbols (crucifixes, etc.). If you think you might miss some opportunity to help the homeless, you don’t realize how ineffective the program already is.

    The questions:
    1) How far do we go in serving the poor?
    As far as our heart inclines us. The inclination, conscience, is God talking, isn’t it?
    2) The service of the poor, and the issues that the poor face are an essential work of the Church, but does it trump worship and doctrine?
    Serving the poor is worship and doctrine. “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” ‘True worshipers do the will of the Father.’ Who can argue with that?
    3) Should Church teaching bend to the demands of the Government in order to serve the poor?
    In serving someone, I assume the server is providing something beneficial to the served. Bending to demands that conflict with God isn’t serving the poor with something that is good for them. “When your child asks you for something to eat do you give them a snake?” Compromising, by serving them food, clothes, or a home with a snake really isn’t any better. The snake (compromise) has to be removed. The point, if it isn’t completely good, I don’t think it’s good.
    4) What does Jesus mean in the Gospel above when he teaches that anointing him is more important than serving the poor?
    I don’t think that was the point. They are not mutually exclusive. They are perceived as mutually exclusive because of the worldly assumption that you are dependent on the money, from selling the anointing oil, to help the poor. We have many opportunities to make decisions to do things in line with God. One was to fulfill scripture by anointing Jesus, and it needed to be done before he died. The other can be done at any time, helping the poor. In fact, at that time, the disciples themselves obviously were fed (they didn’t die and some became apostles), so all they had to do was give Jesus a loaf of bread or a fish (though I don’t actually think that was necessary) and everyone who would have benefited from the food bought with the money from the oil would have been well fed.
    5) What is the Church’s truest priority? Is the truth of the Gospel or is it serving the poor?
    Funny question. Peter’s priority, if he loved Jesus, was to feed the sheep the scripture. The church laity’s job was to serve each other and others (as did St. Stephen).
    6) What if these two things are in conflict? Which is chosen over the other?
    And the choir responded: “First love God with ALL your heart, mind, soul, and spirit.”
    7) Given the Gospel above, what would Jesus have us choose as first priority?
    Ditto the refrain to #6.
    8) When large amounts of money are made available for the Church to serve the poor but at the price of us compromising or hiding the truth of Gospel, what do you think the Church should do?
    Take this opportunity to gather together the church leaders, hand out concordances and Bibles, find all the scripture on the subject, present it in church to the laity, publish, broadcast, and do whatever else we can think of to help everyone to know what God’s position is on the subject, contact the individual decision maker via the church leaders, send the decision maker letters and emails, make as big a deal as possible so it is memorable, and of course, pray.
    9) Why?
    1) To make sure people know God’s stance on the subject. 2) So the people are more likely to make the right decision, knowing God is NO respecter of persons, and 3) because then we improve our chances of hearing God say to us “Well done thy good and faithful servant”. I’m hoping to also sit with Him and have a chocolate malt as part of my reward, but I don’t remember Him specifically promising that; just kidding for the overly serious; note: God already knows I’m kidding.

    General Opinion: Nice discussion. When do we start?

  20. Cynthia BC says:

    Given the choice between getting slammed for sticking to one’s principles and getting slammed for selling out, I’ll pick getting slammed for sticking to one’s principles.

  21. Nathaniel says:

    A very good post. I have to admit you are far more charitable and judicious addressing the Social Gospel than I would be. I believe the Social Gospel is quite dangerous. I believe that it is in fact responsible for much of the decline in Christian Faith and living as many churches, at least Protestant Churches from observation in America, have become nothing more than second rate social clubs for do gooders.

    I believe one negative consequence of the Social Gospel is that it leads to programs with the purpose to ‘eliminate poverty’. Such a goal would prove the words of Jesus you quote false. And such a goal reveals a deep misunderstanding of the nature of man and Original Sin. We can not eliminate poverty because man is sinful. So for the Church to labor exclusively on a problem that can not be solved is rather insane. That is not to say that we should not help the poor. But we must always be aware that poverty can not be solved in this world.

    I believe the best solution to poverty is not addressing the symptoms but Christian Faith. Many people are poor due to their own sin including unproductiveness, waste, and sinful activities that compel them. I’m not saying that poverty is always a result of this, only that this is a component in many cases. This is a message the world does not want to hear. But we must not be conformed to the world.

    One final point. This passage is one of the many amazing passages in the Gospel. Many people try to narrow Christian Faith. They try to limit it. But what is recorded in the Gospels and traditionally taught is a very wide, rich Faith. The Faith is both simple and defiant of simplicity.

  22. Richard says:

    All I can say is AMEN! I have been fighting that thinking since retiring from the Military.
    I am going to pass this article to my friends. It should lead to a great discussion.
    Catholic Charities bite line and hook, they are caught and the government will
    use it to mock and attack the Church.

  23. Vince says:

    Thinking about Luke 7:22, I often wondered if the evil one himself would really have a problem with ‘the blind seeing, the lame walking, the sick cured, the deaf hear and the dead raised’. Something tells me that he’d be OK with all that. Just as long as the last thing was omitted: ‘…and the good news is preached to the poor’. I suspect he wouldn’t object to an end to abortion, or hunger or wars or disease – just as long as we also denied the rights and sovereignty of God.

    It’s the thought that counts, you know.

    Recorded history of both the ancient Israelite and the early Christian communities are rife with examples of peace and prosperity being promised to those who abandon the Lord. Or, as Chesterton noted, in some cases they didn’t necessarily have to abandon Him entirely – but just admit other gods as well. Would the early Christians have been persecuted if they worshiped Christ – but also Apollo and Artemis and offered incense to Caesar? Quite possibly not. But the early Christians KNEW that this was not possible – and even the apostates rejected Christ completely rather than try to dilute the Faith and mingle Christ with pagan gods.

    I would suggest that those proponents of the ‘social gospel’ who seek to intermix the wisdom of the world with Christ (and always, it seems, overruling Christ whenever there’s a conflict) are less honest than those apostates who knew that with true Christianity, it’s “all or nothing”.

    I always thought that one of the more interesting things to discuss in morality is whether ‘the ends justifies the means’. Most people, I suspect, would tacitly agree… without really carrying the concept out to its logical conclusion. Apparently there are bishops who see things that way. Standing firm against this idea might be seen as “idealistic” and “unrealistic”… after all, it’s the results that count, right? But (again, as Chesterton notes) in the final analysis standing firmly by Faith and abstract principles in moral theology is the only practical thing in the world – the only way to avoid hell on earth. If the ends do indeed justify the means we find that not only can we give needles to addicts if it achieves something good, but we can sterilize “inferior races” or exterminate entire populations as long as we have good enough reasons for doing so. Toss in a bit of moral relativism (claiming the authority to define for ourselves what is good) and – voila! – you can justify anything.

    So no, under no circumstances must we compromise on the Faith. The results of doing so are, well, everything evil. It might be said that Adam was the very first ‘compromiser’, and look where it got us. Chesterton also noted that “Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult and left untried”. Let’s give it a try, and let it be the measure of every single action we take. Do we believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit knows better than we do? Then let’s act like it.

  24. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    I must agree with your point about taking the gospel and teachings of Christianity out of context but it would be on your part not The Catholic Church’s. I have several issues with the Church concerning changes since Vatican II and the watered down approach to the way the mass is liberally performed. I can freely express those issues eventhough I am sure no one will change things to my point of view. The Catholic Church can choose to follow it’s beliefs and stance toward the issue of same sex marriage and adoption, if it goes against the teachings of the Church, as well it should, in light of the teachings held since the time of Christ’s passing his instructions to Peter. The Catholic Church does feed, clothe, give water and care for the homosexual community as well as the heterosexual community no matter what race, creed or color. It is well proven. Your video and biblical quotes are used in false and misleading context. The Catholic Church is not threatening to stop providing services to the poor. The federal government is threatening to stop funding the Church’s charities and the Church said okay but if you do we will be out of the (public) charity business by the feds own decision. It’s economics, due to withdrawl of fed funds that will put the Church out of the (public) charity business.Christ’s mission to the apostles was not to provide charity organizations to the masses but to teach the gospel, administer the sacraments,and preserve the teachings of Christ. There is no teaching by Christ or the Jewish faith that said marriage privileges be given to same sex couples and the Church should support homosexual couples’ desire to adopt children. You are a revisionist (Christian?) bitter because you want the Church to conform to your beliefs and desires. I’m sorry but four thousand years of civilization doesn’t work that way. I have relatives and friends who are gay and their sexual orientation is not a issue to me, but when you try to redefine marriage and family against historical concepts and the teachings of the gospel according to Christ, you just went out in left field and became an anarchist. I’m sorry you are ashamed of your Catholic upbringing but you abandoned it, it didn’t abandon you. Christ’s mission to the Church is about salvation and that is a spiritual metaphysics that transcends one’s worldly desires and ambitions. Even Jesus couldn’t trump the ace of spades. It’s against the Will of the Father’s laws. Tough Love.
    Say three Hail Mary’s and two Our Fathers,
    Your sins are forgiven.
    I am not a priest, but hey, it’s in the Bible.

    • I’m having trouble following your comment a bit. I think as the the fundamentals we agree so I am suprised you call my blog false and misleading. I agree with you it is the governement that may be forcing out of the current picture, it is not the Church that is turning away from the poor, we are being forced out by the sudden decision of the majority of the City Council. However, it reamins true that the ball now seems to be in our court and we have a decision to make: doctrine or money? Anyway RObert to the degree that I follwo what you are saying I think you and I fundamentally agree.

  25. Bender says:

    Some of the poorest people around are the rich.

  26. Loreen Lee says:

    On the choice: Just reading here from ‘Poetic Interaction’ Language, Freedom, Reason, by John McCumber, University of Chicago: He’s discussing Hegel’s philosophy.
    “Any intrusion of religion into political life takes the form of sectarianism, when religion gains control, or of rigid opposition when it does not”.
    Just to hopefully get to the ‘essence’ of the conflict, which according to social theory/aesthetics, is unavoidable. The choice then for me is/was square with this, in the hope to be able to leave politics alone, as much as possible, and concentrate on the quest for the Personal God. I do feel that the state will come around, with other resources, and fulfill the task, when necessary, of feeding the poor. There are after all, Protestant food banks, etc. But then I’m from ‘socialist’ Canada. grin grin. where there are a lot of political loaves and fishes!!!

    • Yes you may be right that others will fill the gap. What is sad about this however is that it unravels a partnership of many decades between Church and state and the one that changed was the State. I think the poor will suffer in the short run at least. But there is clearly a rising conflict between an incraesingly secular state and the Church’s teaching. David Catania seems clear: the govt has moved and if the Catholic Church can’t moved too, sorry but we’re still moving. I can’t fully agree that the Church “intrudes” into political life since all of us, Clergy and people are citizens and we have a right to involve ourselves in the political process and bring our values there. I DO think the Church needs to protect herself from becoming too involved with one side or another since political allainces harm the Church for when the political tides turn the Church can rise or fall with them. But in terms of issues and principles the Church ought to be in the mix – non partisan, issues oriented influence to be sure.

      • Loreen Lee says:

        Thanks for responding, Msgr. Pope. I am making into a ‘nothing’ the onus on the church to aid the poor. I apologize for that. I am just being a bit of a pragmatist, and have read the video as preparation on the part of the secular state to make the church conform, or else they will force the church out, with possibly some underhanded tactics, or at least embarrassment. My reading. Of course, it’s not wise to just give up a battle. But is there the possibility that this could become/is bringing up some pretty ‘bitter if not nasty’ means. I’ve fought a few ‘battles’ in my life, and at my age, I feel I am glad to be ‘retired’. Maybe God is doing it for the best in the long run; to have the Church withdraw into its own ‘internal’ spiritual development not only of liturgy, but of all of its own individual members in the personal areas of their life. I just feel, that more and more the state will expand it’s secular role, based on an abstract delegation of equity among all contributing members. The state, as my reading, outlines, does not deal with the personal, which it showed was the basis for the conflict between state and church. The difficulty is that many different things can be stressed in regard to defining the ‘personal’ too, and thus different churches will have different conflicts with sectarian government. The abortion issue, for instance is both a personal and political issue, and so getting involved with politics, (although you saw that even here I wished to withdraw) has it’s place. After all, in Canada here, there is just ‘no regulation at all!!!’ when it comes to abortion. No laws, regulations or anything.
        And one of the first abortionists,and an activist went through a jail period at one point, to being actually admitted into the Order of Canada last year. There can be incredible ‘reversals’ in life. That’s why I don’t think that if the Church is even ‘forced out’, rather than make unacceptable compromises, that in the long run, that will be the end of the story. Indeed withdrawing into the personal, by getting to know ourselves as God knows us, may in the long run be the best way to overcome not only poverty, but the abortion issue. Didn’t Jesus tell Peter in the boat not to worry about having only a loaf, and he asked them how much was left over after the loaves and fishes, on two occasions were distributed? I just think that internal development is a very ignored; if not in the examination of scripture, (as the Protestants) but in a self- (not communal maybe) examination of ourselves. After all, people don’t even go to confession like they used to. Work is needed here too, if we are going to become the ‘poor of spirit’. Thanks Msgr.

        • I think I generally agree with you. The fact is that the Church has to find the right balance between being a “player” in the big political mix that is the USA and not being compromised by our involvement in the scio-economic and political order. TO me the key point is dependancy on govt money. If we become too dependent on Govt money it becomes too tempting for us to compromise. Another key point is political power. If we become too dependant on certain senators or congressmen we can risk falling into the political process which, of it’s nature involves compromise and “trading” of influence. Right now I’m not sure we have the balance right in many areas and, as the bishop I paraphrased states, we stand to loose too much. So there are great dangers in being out there in the mix. I think we need to be but not in a way that tempts us to compromise or to depend too much on politicians.

      • Loreen Lee says:

        This is a later submitted remark, than the one below which hopefully will be read first. I went down stairs, poured myself a cup of coffee, and found that I had to face myself, that I was just not being courageous and was afraid to speak up on what I believe would be a major issue that is being ignored: that of homosexuality. But actually homosexuality is, I believe, not the issue. The issue is one concerning again, the personal; that is a deterioration of the status of the family; homosexuality being recognized as contributing to that deterioration as specifically in the cases of adoption. Homosexuality, I understand, is allowed in cases by the Church when it comes to the ordination of priests, I understand: (PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong here). But I do think it is time to look at issues squarely, especially when there might be power issues involved, even within the PRACTICAL organization of the such, as in homosexuality, if I am indeed CORRECT about this!!!
        So there are three elements of the social order, the state, civil society and the family. (There are three positions of Christ too, which we should note, Christ, as King, as Prophet and as Priest – and I don’t think the correlation is just coincidental. I am finding just too much ‘wisdom’ in scripture to take this lightly). But it is the family, which is synonymous with the Personal, if there is a fine line drawn between the three. This would be the realm of the Priest: the internal, conscience, and need I go on. The power is at present in the civil realm, both within society, and possibly within the Church. There needs I believe, from my own experience, in the confessional, a more open communication between the priest and the individual on the personal level, to begin things. My experience at confession, was that I had to adjust my confession to the dictates, and the conflict again in my experiences, limited my self examination of conscience. And my long confession, held up the priest from his task to go and say Mass etc. I was taking too much of his time. So the error on my part was that I ‘tried his patience’ Enough about me. This is why I like your blog so much though. It covers over what I perceive to be the ‘gap’. On the family, more and more of the young, are seeking success in careers, and even presupposing that since they will be taking care of their own funeral arrangements, etc. etc. as an example, that the parent too ought to provide for his/her own self in ‘old age’. Success and arrangements in the civil sphere again takes precedence. No forgiveness. No authority with age. (which is OK with me) etc. This is just another example of the breakdown/up!. Why I say this, is that the breakdown/up of the family, is the serious question/issue that the church needs be concerned about. Homosexuals in my experience have long been employed as junior public school teachers, and they are excellent. So that ‘can’t’ be the real issue. What are we hiding. It definitely has something to do with family, and personal organization, and the secularization of society generally. What I’m saying here, is let’s all be brave, and get to the central issues.

  27. Jim O'H says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    A very thought provoking and (I think) very well written article!

    We are both called to help the poor and to worship God with all our hearts, minds, and strength. You touched on what I see as the key to this issue in one of your responses. In Ecclesiates we read that “vanity of vanity all is vanity”. King Solomon is exploring the big question, what is the meaning of life. There he realizes that wealth, power, fame, pleasure is all passing and therefore vanity. He even realizes that if we try to make service to our neighbor (or the poor) the purpose of our lives it is still vanity. Because if all we are doing is meeting our neighbors material needs and all material things are passing, are vanity, then what good are we really doing them?

    Of course we are called to help the poor and this is important and meaningful work, but if we are not bringing them the Gospel message, if we are not bringing them Christ, then all is vanity.

    • Yes, there is great truth in what you are saying. Bread given without love is poison and thr truest love that the Church offers is to preach Jesus Christ and the whole counsel of God. There is a danger that our care for the poor becomes mere social service, little different that what a govt agency would provide. Our greatest love for others is to draw them to Jesus.

  28. Patrick says:

    I was in complete agreement with the comment that gb wrote… the words “false dichotomy were running through my mind constantly while reading this article… Also there there is much confusion concerning what is meant by “social gospel” or even charitable works. Tere are two strands presented here. Those compatible with our beliefs as Catholics, and those incompatible. The 5 examples given and the discussion of how dependent Catholic charitable organizations should be on public funds is incredible, but lets separate it from the first discussion on acts of charity towards the needy vs. worship… THAT is the false dichotomy. There are two separate issues at work here and lets not confuse the two. Im not sure if Christ is condemning Judas’ compassion towards the poor in the story of the repentant woman who annoints him. Lets go just a tad deeper in our interpretation of this beautiful passage. I compare this two the comparison of the pharisee and the sinner in the temple, one is full of self righteousness and the other is nothing but repentance and humility. Christ looks into the heart and seeks LOVE. Our LOVE for God is expressed necessarily in worship, an intimate form of contact with our Maker. It is also necessarily expressed in LOVE of our neighbour, lest we be liars (According to St. John not me). Charity has NO LIMITS!!! Christ is not telling Judas to tone down his charitable works towards the poor. He is praising the outpouring of humility, love and repentance of the moment which touches His heart profoundly. I always see Judas as “ruining the moment” of intimacy between Christ and the repentant woman. He sees the love in her heart. It is like when people raise their hands in praise and cry out to the Lord and others look at them disdainfully and scornfully and ask them to tone it down. THere should be no wedge placed between extravagance towards God and extravagance towards the poor. Could it be possibly that in fact Christ is condemning Judas for creating a dichotomy where one should not exist? Have you in fact commited the same error? Things to think about. Mother Teresa was mentioned. She is a great example of this extravagance towards CHRIST in the poor and CHRIST in explicit religious worship.

    As far as the Catholic Charities nonsense goes, that video paints a pretty clear picture. There are major problems here. The city rep was right. If you take the money you have to play the game by their rules. If I were running the show in DC I wouldve said, “keep the cash, we dont need it to preach the gospel thanks,”

    • You can use the phrase “false dichotomy” all you want. But in the end you have to choose sometimes.
      I agree with you that David Catania is making it crystal clear to the director of Catholic Charities: “If you want the money here are the terms.” Now a choice has to be made. Sounds like a dichotomy to me. You can call the dichotomy false or you can call it honey mustard but there it is. In the end there are two paths et tertium non datur (no third way is given) In the end I agree with you, the answer has to be, “keep the cash” we’ll find some other way to serve the poor. But of course Mr Orzekowski has in mind 800 employees and 120,000 poor people in mind too so he is asking the City to reconsider a religious exemption. In the end, I don’t think we’ll get it and we’ll have to say “keep the cash”

  29. Linus says:

    Wow, that pressed some buttons. One of the other problems with the social gospel and the Catholic Church falls prey to this big time is that the Church and its affliated organizations should be marshaled to influence politicians to adopt legislation the Church and its affiliates deem to be fulfilling the demands of the social gospel ( i.e. national health care or climate change legislation). There are all sorts of problems related to political advocacy, not the least of which is that the Church is usurping the rights of the laity and putting the Church’s stamp of approval on programs which involve practical judgements and are not demanded by moral justice and may even be grossly harmful once all things are considered. It assumes that the practical judgements of the USSCB, for example, is superior to the collected judgement of the laity. This kind of assumption makes me hopping mad. And I have stopped giving to any organization, Catholic or otherwise, that promotes political advocacy for or against things not directly related to defending or promoting the Faith. things like health care and climate change legislation.

  30. Leo Holahan says:

    Catholic Charities really has no business trying to serve predominantly anti-Catholic communities. Why doesn’t Catholic Charities shake the dust from it’s feet and go work somewhere else. Let the anti-Catholic communities become the cesspools of ignorance and corruption that they obviously want to become. Sometimes even whole communities have to hit rock bottom before they will want to try to see the light. Maybe Catholic Charities should change or add to it’s mission the relocating of needy Catholics and the poorest of the poor who “just want a chance” to communities where Catholic Truths have more respect in the public sphere. If there are aren’t enough just voters in DC to oust the bigots and anti-God progressives then let God rain down fire and brimstone of social evils just like at Sodom and Gammorah. Don’t even look back! It isn’t worth it. I think someone should point out to Mr. Catania “a false friend indeed” just how much of his substantial salary is paid for by Catholic taxpayers. When will American Catholics wake up!

    • Wow Leo, pretty sweeping! Though I cannot say I agree that Catholic Charities should serve only Catholics. Cardinal Hickey famously stated that we do not serve people becuase they are Catholic. We serve them because we are Catholic. It is a true fact that without Catholic Charities the social service network of DC will take a real hit, at least temporarily. One of the reasons that Catholic Charities has received a lot of Govt money over the years is that it is well known that we do the work well and at a reasonably low cost. It may be true that there are other agencies out there that can “step in” But the fact is that a very effective and efficient provider of social services is being kicked to the curb unless there can be some sort of religious exemption. It is of course the poor who will suffer. We may as you say be hitting rock bottom if something cannot be worked out.

      Nevertheless I really liked your answer to Mr Catania about how much of his salary is paid by Catholic Taxpayers. Too bad Mr. Orzekowski didn’t think of that one.

  31. Morning's Minion says:

    I thought this post was headed in another direction. I thought it was going to make the point that political advocacy for the poor, while essential, could not become an end in itself, could not be divorced from the mysteries of faith. But your post went in another direction, touching upon the degree of cooperation with evil when doing God’s work in the secular world, in a democracy in particular. It is clear that we cannot be consequentalists. We cannot choose evil so that good might come of it. But this goes far far beyond serving the poor. It also captures those in the pro-life movement who consider abortion the most serious political priority. How many bishops, priests, and Catholic lay people have been tempted to overlook the failings of a person who adopts the right position on the unborn, but the dramatically wrong position on a whole host of other issues (torture, war, the environment, economic justice etc.) with serious practical consequences that are notably detrimental to the common good? In the public sphere, one brushes by evil every day. Finding a bright line, a degree of proximity to that evil that we may not cross, is not often easy. But this is true no matter what political positions or preferences we deem most important. Consequentialism is an equal opportunity temptor!

    • What you say is correct but at a practical level it is hard to realize. Abortion, euthanasia, stem cell, cloning etc are all prety cut and dried. But there are legitimate differences about the environment, economic justice, going to war and even defining torture. I suppose if a Pol we’re to say, I’m against giving anything to the poor, or I’m for a dirty environment the matter might be clear. But matters like this are usually over how best to serve the poor (big govt or private sector), Global warming is still a much debated matter and even matters of polution are something of a debate in that some debate what levels of pollutants are tolerable etc. Torture is more a matter of definition. I have been following the debate on other Catholic blogs and still puzzle over how to define torture. Some it would seem think that even yelling or playing loud music is torture. Others reserve the term for sothing that does permanent physical damage. So what I trying to say is that the matters you list are all open for some interpretation in terms of definitions but also in terms of best solutions. While I accept your point in general it is hard to nail it down in reality.

  32. anon says:

    Father, in light of what you’ve written, how, then, are we to interpret David’s and Jesus’ disciples’ behavior as recorded in Mark 2:23-28, and Jesus’ commentary on both? Or the common Catholic teaching that we may miss Mass on Sunday (without violating God’s commandments or the Church’s precepts) in order, say, to care for a sick friend?

  33. Leo Holahan says:

    Dear Msgr. Pope,

    I am belatedly honored that you commented on my comment. I actually did not mean to suggest that Catholic Charities should only serve and offer relocation services to the Catholic Poor I meant any of the poorest of the poor who can’t leave on their own but want something better and are at least willing to accept help from the Catholic Church. May God continue to bless your exemplary apostolate and thank you for pointing out the need to clarify an issue I may have left a little cloudy.

    Leo

  34. blog.adw.org says:

    The strangest idol of all.. Reposted it :)

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