Charity vs. Altruism

Recently I have discovered additional insight as to why many Catholics, even those who are otherwise pretty conservative, support things like government welfare, including this health care mess. It has to do with the difference between charity and altruism.

Charity, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, is a free will gift of one’s own time, talent, and/or treasure to assist those who are less fortunate than we are. In Catholicism there is the principle of subsidiarity which “is opposed to all forms of collectivism.” Private non-profits (the higher-order entity) adhere to this principle by not forcing us (the lower-order entity) to give to them. In this was we still retain a sense of self when helping others.

Altruism, on the other hand, while it has in common with chaity concern for others as part of its definition, is vastly different from charity. This method of helping others violates the principle of subsidiarity. Altruism is defined as completely selfless concern for the welfare of others. Going from that definition the implication is clear. When altruism is placed in practice it means that to help others you must surrender your sense of self. And by surrendering your sense of self it opens you up to being reduced from a human being with civil liberties to a mere source of resources for the sole use of others. And once reduced to such a state one becomes no more than a slave to the class altruists seek to help and thus this leads to the very collectivism that the principle of subsidiarity so opposes. In fact it is altruism that has served as the moral basis for collectivism and slavery (which is really a form of collectivism anyway).  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “”The inversion of means and ends, which results in giving the value of ultimate end to what is only a means for attaining it, or in viewing persons as mere means to that end, engenders unjust structures which ‘make Christian conduct in keeping with the commandments of the divine Law-giver difficult and almost impossible.'”

So to sum it up:

Charity is the self-ISH concern for the welfare of those who are less fortunate. This is another way collectivists seek to justify their view, by using the fact that we have forgotten that there are 2 different meanings for the term “selfish.” One meaning is the negative one, where being selfish means you exploit others for your own personal gain (the other meaning that you simply have a sense of yourself as a human being with dignity and natural rights). This leads me to altruism. Altruism is the opposite. It is self-LESS concern for others. But as we have seen, help for others without a sense of yourself (which is what self-LESS means) conforms more to the “exploit one group for the sake of another” meaning of “selfish.” In this way when altruism is allowed to take hold as a valid part of any economic system, slavery results. One group is effectively yoked to another in one collective. Kinda like those Borg drones in Star trek: TNG eh?

So while charity and altruism may at first glance appear to be synonyms, we see that they are in fact polar opposites. And since collectivism is slavery, and slavery condemned by the teachings of the Catholic Church, government welfare (including ObamaCare) even without provisions that include funding for things like abortions, is still a policy that conflicts with Church teaching.


True Charity and Catholicism

Ah, charity, that greatest of cardinal virtues.  It is by this virtue that a bond is formed between all members of the human society.  This virtue enables us to love one another as God so loves us.  As an expression of this love we dutifully help our fellow man with basic necessities.  We do this because we love our fellow man as members of human society and so we want to do this.

As I have stated in previous blogs, true charity is not found in the mandates of government welfare programs.  The very nature of these programs forces them to obtain funding through taxation.  And so because funding for these programs is forced through taxation, people are helping their fellow man not out of charity and love, but because they are forced to through government mandates.

And thus it is with great sadness that I see an increasing number of my fellow Catholics who have forsaken or who simply have not been taught in the first place the most basic principles of charity, and its relationship to the principle of subsidiarity.  By voting for drastic increases in government welfare spending such as those found in the health care bill, such Catholics are displaying a growing and open defiance of these basic principles.

The principle of subsidiarity, as set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, states:

“A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of  society, always with a view of the common good.” – Paragraph 1883 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

With government welfare programs, the government (the community of higher order) is directly interfering in the internal affairs of the individual (the community of lower order) by robbing him of the freedom to choose whether or not to help someone and interfering in the individual’s monetary affairs.  This is in direct opposition to what the role of government should be, which is an authority that facilitates and co-ordinates commerce with respect to the common good and to freedom.  In the case of help for the poor, the government instead should seek to not put out welfare programs funded through taxation, but instead should facilitate charity through the private non-profit entities whose business it is to help those who are in need of help.  This prohibition against the “nanny state” and activities by the government that lead up to it (the gradual but steady expansion of government welfare spending) is given in paragraph 1885 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states:

“The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism.  It sets limits for state intervention.  It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies.  It tends toward the establishment of true international order.”

Thus do Catholics who vote for people who seek only to expand the welfare state, including this health care bill, do so in direct opposition to Church teaching.  Church teaching in this matter is very clear that because of the principle of subsidiarity, charity must be a free will gift from the heart of one’s own time, talent, and/or treasure and should be geared towards helping the needy become self-sufficient and productive  members of society.  And such a free will gift is not found in government mandates through welfare programs funded through taxation.

The Essence of Christianity

There is one question in the world that human beings yearn for the answer to: Is there life after death?  Or in other words: Is there a reward for being the best we can possibly be in life when the mortal shells of our worldly existence fall to the ravages of time?  This is where faith comes in.

In this life we have a wide variety of faiths that explore that two-fold question, and I shall give you an example of some of their answers.  Buddhism says (or perhaps it’s Hinduism that believes in reincarnation…I have a bad habit of getting the 2 mixed up): I don’t know, or that your reward is to be born into this imperfect world again and again.  Some reward, to be burdened with another imperfect life, eh?  Conficius says: I don’t know.  I’m beginning to sense a bit of a theme here.  Other faiths believe that the things of this imperfect world have divine powers.  Say what?  How can an imperfect thing have any divine power over us?  Still other faiths believe in a god or gods upon whom they seek to project their own human arrogance towards those deemed “not worthy.”  And that’s the kind of god some say exists after death?  One who is arrogant?  I say no way!

This is what makes Christianity in general and Catholic Christianity in particular so unique.  We as Christians believe in a God who loves us so much that He created the universe and all life within it so that he could share His love.  We believe in a God who loves us so much that He gave us the freedom to choose whether or not to love Him of our own free will.  We believe in a God who loves us so much, that He allows us to make mistakes and learn from their consequences so that we might grow in understanding.  We believe in a God who loves us so much, that He humbled Himself, became human, so that we might have a reward for seeking to rid ourselves of our darker impulses while we live in this world.  This is the heart, the essence, of Christianity.  We follow God, to seek a personal relationship with Him.  We seek to follow Him into divinity because He followed us into humanity.  And we as Catholic Christians in particular believe in a God who chose a woman and elevated her as a real-world example of the kind of perfect dedication we seek to give to God: the Blessed Virgin and Mother of Christianity, the woman Mary.  Like a mother who, after bringing us forth into the world through her labor, points us in the direction of our fathers, their husbands who create in their wives new life, who say to us “Look upon your father,” Mary brings us forth into the new life we seek in Christ and points Him out to us.  This is why in some Catholic Churches you may see that the statue of the Blessed Mother is positioned in such a way so as to be pointing to the ever-present crucifix and the tabernacle beneath it.

We as Catholics believe in a God who loves us so much that not only did He make Himself into a sacrificial lamb for our sins, but also chose and elevated a woman who He knew would dedicate her life perfectly to Him to be the Mother of all who come to be re-created by God through His sacrifice, the mother of all the truly living, the new Eve who will lead us to our final reward when we die which is to dwell in Christ, the new Adam, for all eternity: Mary.  In this way the Catholic Church, modeled after this woman of perfect love for God, has a much more real connection with the loving God of Christianity, made ever more real by the near perfect re-enactment of the Last Supper through the Eucharist.  In no other church in this world do you see such a real and ever-present connection between mortal and divine.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my Protestant brethren to death.  But I choose to remain in a Christian Church whose beauty and richness in the sacred Tradition make the connection between me and my Lord more real.  And the Catholic Church was, is, and forever shall be, this Church of God, the Church that makes the new life we seek more real than it could ever be in any other church, more real than sacred Scripture alone could ever make it.

So when you sail the ocean of life, you need to choose where to set your anchor.  Will you set your anchor in the imperfect and transient things of this mortal life?  Or will you set your anchor in a god who has no mercy upon us in our imperfection?  Or will you instead set your anchor in a God who loves you so much that He would humble Himself, make Himself our loving sacrificial lamb, so that we might have life after death, and who also happens to sometimes reveal His presence to us even more concretely in the form of miracles, events that defy all rational explanation?  And when you choose a church, will you choose one that glorifies the imperfect and transient things of this world?  Or perhaps will you choose one whose rituals and formality remain closed to those who seek mercy?  Or will you instead choose one whose rituals and formality seek to make God more real to us and whose rituals and formality seek to create a more real and sense-perceptible sign of His mercy and love?  Our time in this world is limited, so I recommend making your choice and making it wisely.

Jesus: Son of Man, Lamb of God

Why Jesus?  How is it He is God the Redeemer made flesh?  To better understand this, one must first understand the original Passover meal given to us in the Book of Exodus and the part the lamb played.  In chapter 12 verse 5 we are told that the lambs used had to be unblemished, that is one of the key words right there.  Lambs, as we know, are the most innocent and trusting of all the creatures of the world, and yet the Jews were directed to slaughter these innocent animals, eat their flesh, and smear their blood upon their lintels.  It is shortly after that that by God’s grace they are led out of slavery to the Egyptians.  So for the Jews to be free of the Egyptians, they had to sacrifice the lives of numerous lambs, unblemished and innocent (sound familiar yet?)

God did not do this just to free His Chosen from the Egyptians, he did this to prefigure to His Chosen how He would save them from slavery to sin.  In order to do this He would have to create a virgin womb by protecting the woman He chooses to be the Virgin Daughter of Israel, who would necessarily be the owner of this virgin womb, from the stain of the original sin, making her and the womb she possesses untouched by sin.  In this womb would he use the Virgin Daughter of Israel’s flesh for the unblemished flesh of the new Son of Man, into which God would pour His very essence, and thus would this new Son of Man become the unblemished Lamb of God, whose slaughter and sacrifice would free us from sin and purchase for us the means by which we can be restored to grace.  Some said that He could not have been the Messiah because the temple was not rebuilt.  But they forgot what constituted a true temple.  No building or construct of man could ever hope to house the full essence of Our Lord.  Yet the unblemished yet frail flesh of Jesus housed God’s full essence.  That would make Jesus a true temple and He did indeed willingly destroy this temple and rebuild it in 3 days (when He resurrected).  And thus in the Catholic Church the tabernacles are true temples as they house the Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord, the Lamb of God, appearing to us under the forms of bread and wine.