Stimulus Packages, Bailouts, & The Truth About Charity

Bail Out

by Jason D. Christensen

Last month leaders of the G-8 Nations gathered and at the top of their agenda was the global economy which stands fragile and in recession for most places.  Chief among their concerns was our domestic economy – which so many other nations are dependent upon its success. 

As governments like the United States take a Keynesian approach to stimulating their respective economies and bailing out various sectors of the market, Pope Benedict XVI’s issuance of his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) could not have been timelier.

The Holy Father cautioned that any approaches for economic recovery must genuinely serve the common good and not simply be for immediate relief at the expense of others.  He declared:

“The truth that God is the creator of human life, that every life is sacred…and that God has a plan for each person must be respected in development programs and in economic recovery efforts if they are to have real and lasting benefits….In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid…must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all.”

Benedict is casting a vision that says the way we do things must go deeper and further than what we have done before.  There’s another message that is being sent to us as well; which he stated in his very first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est.” He essentially says that we cannot abdicate to the state our responsibility to be charitable.  It falls upon all of us.  He’s also suggesting that we look beyond the causes of poverty.  We can easily identify them.  What we really should be doing, as author Michael Novak has proffered is to examine the “causes of wealth.”

Catholic Charities and other faith-based non-profits are proving that we have a far-better handle on people’s situations, needs and struggles rather than governments.  Hurricane Katrina exemplified that fact.  The efficacy of government was practically non-existent.  But who was there early in the crisis and who remains to this day?  Faith-based organizations.

Here at Catholic Charities and at our newly created Hanifen Center at Marian House we have developed our programs around a model of efficiency and by identifying all of the factors that keep people trapped in poverty.  Briefly stated, we’ve taken a holistic approach in the treatment of poverty among our consumers.  Those who access services can self-direct if they wish.  Others may not have the capacity.  Either way, everyone will have contact with a Catholic Charities’ employee who will provide love and accountability.

Love and accountability.  They’re not qualities often applied to government services and probably won’t be found in a bailout or stimulus package.  But, it’s something that is in abundance at Catholic Charities.  And it’s a far more worthy and cost-effective way to be charitable. 

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3 Comments

Filed under Catholic Charities, Thoughts

3 responses to “Stimulus Packages, Bailouts, & The Truth About Charity

  1. Wendy Davis

    Jason-

    Have you studied the LDS welfare system at all? It is pretty impressive. If you ever get the chance to come to SLC, let me know, and I’ll arrange for a tour of some of the facilities and introduce you to some of the programs.

    One of my favorite programs is a work program through Deseret Industries. A person can be employed (for a distinct period of time) with the primary goal to help the individual gain a skill, trade or education while working. The goal is to provide “help” so that they can be self-sufficient. To that end, there is a language program to teach non-native English speakers. All of this is part of the program. It’s quite impressive.

    Our stake also has a garden….6 acres. We volunteer to plant tomatoes. The tomatoes are grown, harvested and canned at the local canneries and then donated as sauces to local food pantries. It’s a true “welfare” system IMHO….

    I love serving in the dry pack and wet pack canneries because I know that the service will benefit people in a meaningful way.

    Lots to think about in your post!

    Thanks!

    Wendy

  2. Lance Boecker

    Great points about the need for private instead of public charity. Not only is public charity inefficient it also does little to promote individual connection to the poor and less fortunate. It may actually increase resentment towards those populations.

    One thought I had about the Novak quote is that it is essential we understand what he means by “wealth” and what that implies before we determine the causes. I think of the Amish in America who by most any standard would be considered very poor, however, their level of happiness, contentment and community involvement are exceptionally high. My guess is that they possess a very high degree of spiritual/religious wealth and therefor seek not material goods to fill their lives.

    If someone reposessed my flat-screen I would be less “wealthy” but I might spend more time playing with my kids.

    LB

  3. Fr. John Toepfer OFM Cap.

    Well stated, Jason.

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