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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ignoring Lazarus?

I've been reading a bit about subsidiarity and its meaning as it pertains (or could pertain) to the role of our government in public assistance. Subsidiarity means "decisions should be made at the lowest social level appropriate to the issue being decided."(Gregory Beadbout This Rock 4/06 pg 30) I'd like to share some quotes from various encyclicals and Catholic writers and tie these ideas into the mission of the Catholic Worker movement and in general our role as Catholics. I might also imply how subsidiarity and Distributism could improve our country, thus improving the condition of the poor, but I'll try not to stray to off topic. For now I'll offer a quote from our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI (emphasis mine):
"We do not need a state that regulates and controls everything but a state that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: It is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help but refreshment and care for their souls, something that often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live "by bread alone"(Matt. 4:4 cf. Deut. 8:3)-a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human"
Deus Caritas Est 28

We cannot, and should not, expect government programs to take care of the poor man/woman/child who lives nearby. People such as these are like a Lazarus at our door. (Luke 16: 19-31) What happened to the rich man who passed by Lazarus everyday? Welfare programs are not a substitute for Catholic love and charity towards our fellow man. Can we not see the difference in the person run ragged through the bureaucratic, state run assistance program and the person who has been invited into a Christian home and welcomed with love and compassion? Who will be better off in a year? Who will be ready to strike out on their own, filled with hope and resolve and a desire to help others? Lazarus could well have made do on the table scraps of the rich man, but didn't Lazarus deserve to be invited to the banquet? Are we offering the poor of our country our scraps, a banquet or are we letting them sit outside alone? Let's stop expecting the government to pass off scraps as hope and charity. Invite Lazarus to your table.