05 September 2011

The Charity of Cardinal Merry del Val or the "Charity" of Wealth Re-Distribution

I've been reading a wonderful biography on Cardinal Merry del Val, Secretary of State under Saint Pope Pius X and one of the greatest statesman to ever serve the Church. While he will long be remembered for colloborating with Pope Pius X on reforming the Church and the battle against Modernism he is equally to be remembered for his humility and service to the sick and poor. He was also a Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of Malta and his cause for canonization was introduced by Pope Pius XII and he is currently declared a "Servant of God." Here is a brief characterization of his charity from the author and an example of the charity he gave from a Canon of the Basilica of St. Peter.
Like all great souls, Cardinal Merry del Val had a passion for charity that knew no limits; merciful charity that helps a person without humiliating him; pious charity inspired not by any human motives but only out of love for God.

"No one ever had recourse to him in vain; no one ever left him without getting some sort of help and comfort. He gave to all, and in order to give even more he imposed upon himself a way of life that was parsimonious and at times even downright austere (he once took the sheets and mattress from his own bed to give to a family in need). He was always so courteous and genteel in exercising his charity it seemed as if he was the one accepting it."
One last example from a former member of the Pious Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which he founded to help the young boys of Trastevere, one of the poorest sections of Rome.
"It was he who paid the rent for families unable to pay it. It was he who found work for those that did not know how or where to find it. He was the one who went out and procured employment for needy young men. Finally, it was he who, disregarding the sacrifice entailed or the expenses involved, would provide the sick, the infirm, and the invalids with care, support, and medicines."
What would happen if more of us would live our lives by his shining example? Instead of community organizing or radical social activism we acted as true Christian disciples how much more would God bless our efforts? Rather than abdicating our responsibilities to "the Government" or slandering those who might have a different political or economic philosophy we ourselves took care of our brother in need. Government has a proper role to be sure but too often those who work for it have their own selfish motives and interests in mind far removed from true Christian charity. Contrast the anonymous charity of Cardinal del Val with the self-promoting paying off of special interests to ensure their votes in the next election. Too often among these individuals there is a self-aggradizing look at me, I have compassion for the poor, while the example of the Saints is to show us that what they do is solely out of love of God and neighbor and seen by Him alone.

Today at a labor rally in Detroit, union boss Jimmy Hoffa, used inflammatory rhetoric to motivate the "labor crowd" in a war against corporations, Republicans, and anyone else they imply is not a labor supporter. The problem with this rhetoric is that calling your opponent "s-ns of b--ches" and threatening to "take them out"  is a decidedly un-Catholic view of the relationship between labor and capital. In honor of "Labor Day" here in the States here is a portion of the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII. Though it has been updated by the encyclicals of subsequent popes, being the original document of the Church to address the changing social questions it still has relevance to us today.
1. That the spirit of revolutionary change, which has long been disturbing the nations of the world, should have passed beyond the sphere of politics and made its influence felt in the cognate sphere of practical economics is not surprising. The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable, in the vast expansion of industrial pursuits and the marvelous discoveries of science; in the changed relations between masters and workmen; in the enormous fortunes of some few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses; in the increased self-reliance and closer mutual combination of the working classes; as also, finally, in the prevailing moral degeneracy. The momentous gravity of the state of things now obtaining fills every mind with painful apprehension; wise men are discussing it; practical men are proposing schemes; popular meetings, legislatures, and rulers of nations are all busied with it—actually there is no question which has taken a deeper hold on the public mind.

2. Therefore, venerable brethren, as on former occasions when it seemed opportune to refute false teaching, We have addressed you in the interests of the Church and of the common weal, and have issued letters bearing on political power, human liberty, the Christian constitution of the State, and like matters, so have We thought it expedient now to speak on the condition of the working classes.[1] It is a subject on which We have already touched more than once, incidentally. But in the present letter, the responsibility of the apostolic office urges Us to treat the question of set purpose and in detail, in order that no misapprehension may exist as to the principles which truth and justice dictate for its settlement. The discussion is not easy, nor is it void of danger. It is no easy matter to define the relative rights and mutual duties of the rich and of the poor, of capital and of labor. And the danger lies in this, that crafty agitators are intent on making use of these differences of opinion to pervert men's judgments and to stir up the people to revolt.

3. In any case we clearly see, and on this there is general agreement, that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen's guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hard-heartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.

4. To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community.

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