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.