The Catholic Church – Builder of Civilization, Episode 8: Catholic Charity

By | August 29, 2019

Even Her detractors admit that the charitable work of the Catholic Church has been extraordinary. But today we’re going to see that Catholic Charity has historically been even greater than Catholics themselves may r ealize. So join me today for The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization. (music) Thomas: Welcome to The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization. I’m Thomas Woods. Today, we’r e talking about Catholic charity. Now, we all think we know all about Catholic charity and indeed we do know a great deal about it. Even Her opponents ad mit that the Catholic Chur ch has done more charitable work than you can possibly believe. But Catholic charity is, in fact, even greater than people realize, and today we are going to explore why. For instance, it’s the quality of the charity as well as the quantity… it’s not simply that the Catholic Church did a lot of good work for people… that, we’ll look at in a moment… but it’s the spirit that animated that charity as well. So for instance, the Catholic church taught that you should help somebody not because you expect a reward or you’re going to keep hectoring this person forever that, “You owe me something. “Remember, I helped you 3½ years ago,” or, you don’t do it so that you can show the world what a great person you are. You do it because it pleases God, because you respect a fellow human being as being made in the image and likeness of God and that you know that charitable work pleases Him. This is why you do it. You do it out of a love for God and your fellow man – not because you expect any kind of r eciprocity. Beyond that, we have the council from the Church that you should help your own enemies! What are you, crazy?! In the ancient world, they would have thought that was crazy! In ancient Greece and Rome that would have been consider ed absurd. And indeed, in the ancient world, a lot of the giving was self-interested. It was not given out of the pure desire simply to help a fellow human being. So the quality, the kind of charitable work, the spirit that animated it was very different in the Catholic world than it had been in the world that preceded the Church. But we should not, at the same time, disparage the question of quantity because here, too, the Church excelled, because for the first time, you had institutionalized car e for the sick and widows and orphans and the poor. Now again, there had been gener osity shown in the ancient world… no one would deny that but nowhere near the level that we see under the Catholic church. Now, r emember my rule… I want to cite anti-Catholics whenever I can to show that what I’m saying really is true because even an opponent of the Chur ch admits it. Well, I’m found of citing an historian from the 19th century named W. E. H. Lecky because he was known to be an opponent of the Catholic Church. And yet when he wrote about this subject… and he spanned the historical record… he concluded that ther e is no question that neither in practice nor in theory; neither in the institutions that were founded nor in the place that was assigned to it in the scale of duties, did charity in antiquity occupy a position at all comparable to that which it has obtained by Christianity. So it is both the quality and the quantity of the Catholic charitable work that distinguishes it and makes it so historically inter esting and compelling. Now, one objection can be raised to what I’ve said so far. There was an ancient school of philosophical thought called Stoicism and the Stoics did indeed seem to be people who called for doing good deeds out of a sense of duty and without any expectation of recipr ocity. The Stoics, in effect, believe that the wise man was a man who had no emotional connection to the world, who was such a master of his own person that he was utterly unperturbed by outside events, no matter how tragic. Well, it was in that spirit, that very, in a sense, empty kind of spirit of mer ely discharging your d uty that the Stoics engaged in charitable work. Yes, they taught that the wise man knows that he is a citizen of the world and all men are, in effect, to be cared for; but they are to be cared for without lending any emotional attachment to the relationship. So for example, Seneca, who was a Stoic, said… Well, that was the spirit of the charity of the Stoics. So they themselves were to be unperturbed by outside events, by the misfortunes of those whom they helped. And so, naturally, they were perhaps not as eager to go out looking for evil because they, in effect, tried to ignor e the existence of evil. They did not make the kind of emotional connection that we see, for example, in a Mother Teresa. Mother Ter esa these people were not! In fact, we have example after example for Stoics being given bad news. For instance, “Sir, your child has just perished. “And we hear the Stoic reply so flippantly, “Well, had to go sometime!” Who on earth would say that with losing a child?! But that was how the Stoic demonstrated his complete mastery of the outside world. “I’m unperturbed by this. “Nothing can affect me. “I do not let my emotions get the better of me.” Now, getting back to the Catholic Church, where does this spirit of Catholic Charity come from? Well, it comes fr om Her Founder. It comes from the teaching of Christ Himself, Who, of course, said to us… St. Paul went to an even greater extreme to some people when he specifically noted you should show charity even toward your enemies. And Christ instructed that of us, as well but St. Paul was cited repeated on this front. His letters were cited repeatedly by Early Church Fathers to encourage people to follow the counsel of St. Paul and, in fact, to do good even for their enemies. Now, we’re going to talk mor e about Catholics doing good for their enemies a little bit later but right now, let’s look at Early Church history and see them taking the words of Christ and making them into reality. We already see that in Early Church history, d uring the context of the Mass, the faithfuls’ offerings for the poor would be placed on the altar. Early Christians also imposed fasts on themselves so that they could save the money they would otherwise use to buy food and give that to those who were in need. Now, the Church Fathers, even, who, as I said in a pr evious episode, wer e pr olific writers. And that St. Isidore of Seville once said that “If you tell me that you’ve read everything that St. Augustine wrote, you’r e obviously a liar,” yet, they found time to do this because this is an indispensible part of the Christian life. St. Augustine, for instance, established a hospice for pilgrims, ransomed slaves and gave away clothing to the poor. In fact, he told people, “Don’t give me expensive clothing as a gift. “You may like me; you may be impr essed with my writing and my speaking but don’t give me expensive clothes because I’m not going to wear them. “I’m just going to sell them and give the proceeds to the poor.” St. C yprian, St. Ephrem organized r elief efforts during times of plague and famine. Now, St. C yprian, in particular, instructed Christians… this is the 3rd century… during a pestilence in Carthage, he said… Now, there was a fellow named Peconius in the Roman Army in the early 4th century who’s very impr essed that at a time when famine and disease struck the army, who came out and helped them? Who came out and lent their undiscriminating assistance? It was those who believed in Christ! Here they were helping some of the very people who had persecuted them in the past. This amazed Peconius! He wondered what kind of religious tradition could it be that could inspire this kind of disinterested benevolence in which you would indiscriminately do good, even to those who had done evil to you. He couldn’t believe these people! So what do you think happened? He began investigating the faith. “What is this all about?” And before long, he himself was a convert. This is, in large part, how a gr eat many Catholics have converted non-Catholics. It’s not always by debating them into the Church or bashing them over the head into the Chur ch… although, by the way, that’s how I came in! People bashed me over the head over and over and said, “It’s the One, True Church! What’s the matter with you, you Lutheran?” It made me think and I came in. But other people have been br ought into the Church because Catholics have just “niced” them to death! They’re just so nice to them all the time; they just can’t take it any more!! “Okay, I’ll look into this! How can you people be so good to me?” And that’s what brings them in. That’s what brought in Peconius. This is the great witness of Catholic charity. Now, as I say, it’s always fun to see what anti-Catholics have to say and there are many of them. But even anti-Catholics have admitted, as we’ll see after the break, famous anti-Catholics have admitted that they don’t know how to account for what the Catholic Church has done. They look at Mother Teresa and they don’t know how to explain this without using a supernatural explanation. Well, let’s go ahead and come on back after the break and we’re going to see some of the Chur ch’s most out-spoken opponents and what they’ve had to say about Catholic charity. So come right back. (music) (music) Welcome back to The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization. I’m Thomas Woods. Today we’r e talking about the extraordinary story of Catholic charity and arguing that, in fact, it’s been far gr eater than even the Church’s greatest friends, I think, have sometimes appreciated it. So we’ve gone through and seen, for example, what the Early Church Fathers did in terms in charity. I gave a few examples of that. We’ve seen in the Scriptures where Catholics are urged to display an exemplary degree of charity. We’ve seen how it contrasts with the attitude of the ancient world, in which charitable work was something to be done, in effect, for a r eward or to call attention to oneself. And even when you do have the example of a school of thought like the Stoics that does seem to say you should do good without expecting a reward, they do it out of such an emotionless sense of duty that we almost view it as dehumanizing today. That’s not what the Catholic Church calls for, at all. Well, just before the break, I was pointing out that a great many of the Church’s best known opponents over the years have conceded this point about Catholic Charity, so I’d like to make good on that pr omise and go through a few of them because this is quite astonishing what we hear. Voltaire was perhaps the most anti-Catholic French intellectual of the 18th century… and that is saying something! And yet even Voltaire had to admit that he could not get over the extraordinary sacrifice that women religious made in order to work in hospitals. These nuns in their good work were extraordinary to him. So Voltair e actually said… Well, of course, ours is the “Roman religion” that he names. Now, that is quite extraordinary, isn’t it, that even Voltaire, who despised Catholicism, had to say, “I have to hand it to them. I don’t know how to account for this.” Another example I sometimes cite is Julian the Apostate. Julian the Apostate was a 4th century Roman Emperor fr om about the 360s and Julian was anti-Christian through and through. He despised the toleration that had been extended to Christianity in the Edict of Milan in 313 by the Emper or Constantine. And in fact, Julian wanted to bring back ancient paganism and wipe out the Christian pr esence. And so what did he try to do? He tried to r evive a pagan priesthood and pagan ceremonies and all the trappings of an ancient pagan religion and give that the support of the state. One thing Julian kept coming back to was that people kept being attracted to the Christian religion because the priests in that religion were so good and kind and gener ous and the faithful in that religion were so good and kind and generous. It drives Julian crazy! He says repeatedly, “These people are so nice. “Why ar e my pagan priests not that nice? “Why ar e you pagans not so nice? “Because the Christians ar e coming in and snatching up people right and left by their good example. Why can’t come anywher e near imitating them?” Well, ther e’s an inter esting compliment, isn’t it? I mean, Julian has no particular interest in complimenting people who have the faith, and yet, here he is forced to do it because “you are showing us up as pagans.” Now, my personal favorite in this list is Martin Luther because I myself am a former Lutheran. That is a whole other story for a whole other program. However, I know a little something about Luther; I read a lot of what Luther wrote. And Luther himself admitted that he couldn’t quite get a handle on Catholic charity, either, and why it was that charitable work under his teaching seemed to dry up. He had no explanation for this and it drove him crazy! Now, before I go any further, I want to anticipate an objection here because sometimes I get this. I get people saying, “Well, should you really portray Martin Luther as an enemy of the Catholic faith? “I mean, wasn’t he, toward the end of his life, did n’t I hear something about maybe he was having second thoughts?” Well, I don’t think so, because in fact, the last book Martin Luther wrote was called Against the Papacy at Rome: An Institution of the Devil. So if he’s having second thoughts, he has a very funny way of showing it. Well, Luther, of course, taught the doctrine of justification by faith alone and he repeatedly said that we don’t need to do good works in order to get into Heaven. Now, this is a very technical, theological discussion here. And Luther, by the way, was not saying that nobody should do good works. In fact, Luther argued that a Lutheran could do good works in an even purer spirit than a Catholic could because a Lutheran would know that the works were not going to do anything for him salvation-wise. He was doing them only because he loved God, whereas, a Catholic is always a Catholic is always thinking in terms of self-interest when he does good works. But Luther’s point was that good works aren’t going to anything in terms of your salvation… whether they are done in the state of grace or whatever… it’s not going to do anything. But what some people took Luther to mean… and Luther is partly to blame for this – was that you don’t need to do good works period. Because Luther would speak in such exaggerated language that at one point, he actually said, “You can commit adultery 100 times a day and you can commit 100 murders a day, but as long as you have a lively faith, this will not tear you away fr om Christ.” Well, I think people can be forgiven if they conclude fr om that that good works are not that important. So what Luther started to see in his day was this phenomenon whereby a tradition of good works began to dry up completely. In fact, Luther himself deeply regr etted this and said, “At least under the papacy,”…that is to say, at least under the Catholic Church…”you didn’t have to force people to be charitable. “You didn’t have to hold a gun to their hands; they would be charitable spontaneously.” He said, “Whereas, living under the Gospel”…and “under the Gospel” he means under Lutheranism… he says, “not only do I see no charity. “To the contrary! People are grasping at each other’s belongs.” People have become envious and self-center ed. He was very interested in this. And throughout his life, he continued to observe good works by Catholics in hospitals and so forth and it really was a rebuke to him. In fact, at one point he got so frustrated with his fellow Germans, he tried to leave altogether! He said, “I’ve had it with you people! “Nobody’s living the Gospel; nobody’s living the Christian life.” That’s interesting. He had to concede, the Catholic Church had helped to make people charitable. Now, a couple of years ago, I was interviewed in the Washington Post, so obviously, somebody was fired over that. But I was interviewed in the Washington Post in their “Live On Line” segment, which I really like because it’s a live question and answer session on the internet. And so r eaders can type in questions and then I’m sitting at my computer and I’m seeing all the questions come in and then, I answer them. Well, the questions are coming in fast and furious, so if you didn’t have carpal tunnel syndr ome before this pr ocess, you definitely have it afterwards. One of the questions I got I thought was very interesting and I thought a fair question. The person asked, “After all, however, isn’t Catholic charity, at its r oot, self-interested? “Because, in fact, isn’t the person engaged in charity because he expects a reward; he expects to go to Heaven? “So can’t we r eally say that Catholic people ar e no different from people in the ancient world? “They are all seeking rewards.” And so I thought that was a fair enough objection so I gave this answer. I hope this is a good enough answer. If you don’t think it’s a good answer, write to me and I’ll give a better answer next time. But, I gave an answer that was two-fold. I said, first of all, the Catholic Church recommends to us… in effect, tells us ther e are thr ee different levels of sanctity when it comes to doing good. Some people do good simply because they are afraid of going to Hell and that is the only motivation that will reach those people. Now, that’s considered to be sort of good enough but it’s certainly not the ideal. At the next level, people do good because, as the questioner suggests, they seek Heaven. Now, I personally see nothing wr ong with that. But even that is not the ultimate level that the Church r ecommends to us. The Church says ther e is a top level. There is a level at which people do good solely because they love God and they want to please God… that’s why they’re doing their good works. Not for any expectation or hope of r eward but because they want to please the God they love. And I said to the questioner, “This is what the Church is calling us to, is pr ecisely this level of benevolence at which we are not thinking ourselves, we’r e thinking only about God and only about doing good for its own sake.” But then secondly I said, “Consider Mother Ter esa’s Missionaries of Charity,” because they are such an excellent example. I said, “Consider them. “Now, you may say, ‘They are doing all these good works and helping all these people who are in wretched conditions oftentimes and the sickest of the sick and the poorest of the poor, and they are helping those people simply because they want to go to Heaven.’ “But they could go to Heaven by working in an air-conditioned office. “So what makes them want to work in Calcutta? “What makes them want to work in AIDS hospices?” I said, “They can get to Heaven doing those mor e comfortable things. “They could be in an air-conditioned office. “Why do they seek this out, then? “If all they care about is going to Heaven, they could do something else. “And moreover, look into their eyes. “Look into the eyes of one of those Missionaries of Charity nuns in one of these AIDS hospices in which she’s looking at patients who oftentimes d uring their lives have been alienated fr om the Chur ch and sometimes even hostile. “And when they look up from their beds at these women religious, all they see are eyes filled with love.” And I said, “Can you really look into those eyes and say that all you see is a woman seeking a r eward… that’s all you see? “Don’t you see something ther e that’s far deeper and more significant and mor e moving?” That was my answer, and I think that is ultimately the answer. And in fact the Christian God, following from the Hebr ew tradition, believes that it is good for human beings to be good to each other. This was something new among of the r eligions of the Ancient Near East. The gods of ancient Sumer did n’t seem to car e about the human race at all or what they did! The gods of ancient Greece sometimes used human beings as playthings. They treated them arbitrarily. They were capricious toward human beings. They didn’t seem to care how people behaved toward each other. If you wanted to satisfy some of those gods that I’ve mentioned, you could do so only through various kinds of ritual sacrifice, and then just hope for the best. But Our God is pleased not only by the Sacrifice of the Mass, but is also pleased by good behavior. He cares about how we treat each other. This was something new under the sun. He doesn’t want only ceremony… as important as that is. But He cares that we should be good. We should be good to each other. That’s one of the things that pleases Him. It should not come as a surprise that a God Who teaches this is going to give a brand new morality to His people. So next time, we’re going to see how Western standards of morality have been shaped by the Church. So join me for The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization. I’ll see you then. (music)

11 thoughts on “The Catholic Church – Builder of Civilization, Episode 8: Catholic Charity

  1. xdassinx Post author

    Let's ask Hypatia about Christian chairty.

    Is Catholic charity supposed to be some sort of pay off to the bloody path Catholics have blazed through history?

  2. DougtheKnight1 Post author

    Cynical attitude throws cold water on a good thing and accomplices nothing…

  3. xdassinx Post author

    Wow, 2 months for me to get a contrary reply. Maybe I'm less cynical then you think. It could be you're overly charitable. Or maybe you're down with a good old fashion Catholic boy buggering.

  4. Stephen Mozier Post author

    Indeed. Too many fallacies for which to respond. Best not to feed it.

  5. Victoria DePalma Post author

    Continuing …

    Section 13.2 > Catholic Dogma on automatic excommunication … for physical participation in a heretic cult such as the vatican-2 cult

    Section 19.1 > Dogma on Abjuration for re-entering Christianity (the Catholic Church) … Formal Abjuration also provided here.

    Section 13.3 > Matt 16:18, Gates of Hell scripture … is not about the Papacy … defined at Constantinople II

    Section 10.2 > Returning to state of grace, in places and times when Confession is not available, like now

  6. Victoria DePalma Post author

    All – The vatican-2 heretic cult (founded in 1965 at the Vatican) *cannot possibly be* the Catholic Church … since it *enforces* the opposite, the opposite, and the opposite of the Catholic Dogma.

    The founding documents of the vatican-2 heretic cult … the “vatican-2 council” documents … have well over 200 heresies *against* Dogma.

    Site > Immaculata-one (dot) com

    Section 12 > Anti-Christ vatican-2 heresies (50 listed)

    Sections 13 and 13.1 > Photographic *proof* of heresy at the Vatican

  7. mussman717word Post author

    It's kind of upsetting not to hear one mention of Dorothy Day in this episode. Still not a bad watch.

  8. machias Houlton Post author

    I have been homeless so I can tell you by my own Experience this is false.

    first of all, New York and Boston are the largest catholic cities in America. The homeless are considered garbage to everyone there. The NYPD, BPD, LAPD, ETC. are almost entirely made up of catholics and they beat the homeless for sport. Sometimes they charge them with a crime too like resisting or assaulting an officer. google Robert leone
    Check these

  9. C.R. Coughlin Post author

    responding to xdassinx: The Hypatia story is a myth.As is the bringing of the (Catholic owned) Library of Alexandria.  I do understands your mistake. Most negative Catholic history that is brought to my attention by critics is composed of widely disseminated anti- Catholic dis-information.The record of the Catholic Church through history is far far better than is commonly believed. 

  10. David S. Post author

    I see the Catholic Church has gotten in on the infomercial craze……..LOL.

  11. Buck Post author

    Coming from the Tom Woods podcast, it's weird to hear him talk in such a gentle, mild voice.


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