Gaudium et Spes 28

Gaudium et Spes 28 turns our attention to something of the questions raised about the last few posts. It reminds me of the practical (and more charitable) approach we used with a family that kept applying for parish funds. Their real problem was not their limited income, but their inability to keep to a budget. So a parishioner volunteered to assist me and them in sitting down and managing their funds. It was a bit more complicated than handing them an envelope with a check–the maintenance of a band-aid solution for their woes. It was also declined. So we felt no particular obligation to give them money, and that was the end of it. People are free to decline a charitable act.

A person who engages in charity does have a responsibility to make the gift that would be most needed. Presumably, the person benefitting has some appropriate input. At a soup kitchen, one can hand out peanut butter sandwiches, for example. If one person claims a nut allergy, then maybe there’s some cheese or jelly or a bit of cold cuts that will suffice. A suggestion to make a special pot of soup or grill a piece of steak wouldn’t seem within the bounds of charity in most cases.

Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.

“Knowing” a person is scrounging off charity isn’t enough. Knowing why would seem to place the giver in a more Christ-like place.

This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.(cf. John XXIII, encyclical letter Pacem in Terris: AAS 55 (1963), p. 299 and 300) God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.(cf. Luke 6:37-38; Matt. 7:1-2; Rom. 2:1-11; 14:10 14: 10-12)

This is the distinction for which one of my Catholic Sensibility commentators might be searching. Charity is not blind to error, but it is blind to judgment; its mission is to assist with love (caritas et amor). On that note …

The teaching of Christ even requires that we forgive injuries, (cf. Matt. 5:43-47) and extends the law of love to include every enemy, according to the command of the New Law: “You have heard that it was said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you” (Matt. 5:43-44).



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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