Dwight Writes


Why government cannot be a charitable organization.

Our diocesan weekly newspaper features a bi-weekly article by a priest on the subject of justice. Reading his article, which I always do, I get the impression that he would be quite happy if the government would stop fighting wars, and put the money to better uses, like making more subsidized housing available, or providing everyone with health insurance. I would not be surprised if he looked favorably on the recent law passed in Massachusetts regarding health insurance for all.
I understand his concern for the poor. I share that. What I find misguided is his insistence that government be a part of the answer to all social problems. After the misguided War on Poverty, and the well-meaning welfare programs of the recent past, why isn't it clear that government is unable to provide the answers. Yet, when speaking with someone who advocates government assistance of varying kinds as the solution to problems of poverty, one instead hears that the private sector cannot handle the problem (impoverished as it is by excessive taxes); the government is really the only element in society large enough to handle such an enormous set of problems. Somehow these people do not see the problems inherent in charity-by-government.
First of all, consider this: if it is the government's responsibility to help the poor, then my part of the good that might be accomplised by government programs is finished when my taxes are paid. I have no personal responsibility to the poor. My taxes are paid: I've done my part.
Second, government is about force and coercion. It is about doing the things that no other segment of human society can accomplish, such as war (defense) and dealing with other countries as one nation to another. But helping the poor? Government may be able to set up a bureaucracy and pass out money, but it cannot do it with caring. That requires a human soul reacting, not to government mandate, but in response to the love of God. Government cannot do this. Government cannot care. And caring is what is needed when it comes to giving support to those who cannot care for themselves. Government aid to the poor is charity-by-coercion; taxes are hardly freewill offerings.
Third, government cannot judge need. The most seasoned bureaucrat cannot distinguish between real need and the clever scammer. It doesn't have time for that. It isn't in their job description. That too requires a person who cares. Tough love still requires the ability to love. Government-as-charity is inherently inefficient.
If none of this has convinced you, let's ask the commnonly-heard question: what would Jesus do? We don't have to guess about this. Did Jesus command his followers to give away their money to... the government, to give to the poor? Could Jesus, on Palm Sunday, have said yes to those who wanted him to ascend to David's throne, and have shown us how government is done in a definitive way? If government was the answer to social justice and poverty, wouldn't Jesus have shown that by his actions regarding government?
Oddly (from the point of view of those who think government programs are the answer instead of the problem) Jesus seems kind of cool to government. Sure, he did say to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but he could have been merely pointing out the importance of respect for a person's property. Yes, he had a kingdom, though not of this world, and not one that anyone was forced to be subject to. (Now, that is an interesting model for government!)
No, the answer to social justice and poverty is not more government, but much, much less. If government did not take over 25% of GNP, we would have a lot more to take from our own pockets to give directly to those in need. Then the responsibility would be back where it belonged. Then the principals of solidarity and subsidiarity would be addressed in truth. Then charity would indeed be love freely given, and justice would spring from the heart.

Preliminary Thoughts On a Guild

Financial advisors are nearly unanimous about one thing: every family should maintain a cash reserve of between three and six months of expenses to carry them through the occasional rough spot. That "rough spot" can be sickness, unemployment, or any number of other unexpected events that most families can expect to face at one time or another.
But putting aside readily-available cash in that amount is not efficient. If you put it under the mattress, or bury it in the backyard in a coffee can, it will be there (probably) when an emergency arises, but will have returned no interest in the meantime. Putting it into a typical bank savings account will earn a little bit, and its safer than the mattress or coffee can, but it still is not as efficient a use of the money as is possible.
What would be better is to pool the cash, using it in the way that banks and insurers do. These companies work on the well-known principle that it is unlikely that all "demand deposits" will be demanded at the same time by all the people who deposit them. So they hold some portion of it aside, but they invest the rest in ways that will provide the maximum return for the least risk to capital and availability.
By pooling their cash reserves, in other words, a group of families can still be responsible about their emergency supply of cash and, at the same time, make the most efficient use of their cash.
I am looking, therefore, for up to one hundred families who would be interested in forming a corporation to pool their cash reserves and invest some part of them in safe and efficient ways to maximize the value of those reserves. The investors will be co-owners of the corporation, and will make the decisions jointly about how the reserves are invested, and what uses are to be made with the returns on those investments. My real interest is not to generate additional cash reserves for the families involved, as if this were merely another investment group, but to make use of the investment returns in creative ways, for the possible benefit of many.
I believe in the power of people working together for good. And I see in the prudence of the family cash reserve an untapped opportunity to discover new ways for us to serve others. If any of this sounds reasonable and prudent, as well as the right thing to do, contact me. Become a part of something wonderful.


"The reason the world does not recognize us is that it never recognized the Son." -- I John 3: 1b

How does the secular world see the Church? At best, it sees us as unfortunate misguided people, not aware that the world has discovered that "God" is not necessary (evolution, after all, explains everything). It sees us as believers in pious myths, unable to stand on our own, but needing the prop of religion to survive in this world. At worst, it sees us as dangerously out of touch with reality. After all, we do not realize the moral necessity for contraception and abortion, the rightness of divorce (we were not meant to live with the same person our whole lives), intolerant of homosexuals and unaccepting of their civil rights, imposing a faulty and archaic worldview on innocent children, who should be taught how to live in the real world.

But how does the Catholic see the Church? He views the whole universe through the prism of Jesus of Nazareth, the only man ever born who can rightly claim divinity. As a result, the Catholic sees the history of humanity as a progress of encounters with God, first through the prophets of Judaism, and then, subsequent to the life of Jesus, through the teaching and sacred works (sacraments) of the Church. He views morality as the sole province of the Church, who alone rightly defines what is right and what is wrong in an authoritative way. He sees that he has a purpose in living a good and holy life, in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. He anticipates a final state of everlasting life, where all tears are wiped away, and every injustice is answered.