Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What is the meaning of Christian charity?

More Vatican dissonance. Here is some of what Reuters writes about the Pope’s encyclical:

"Our times call for a new readiness to assist our neighbours in need," he wrote.

Catholic charity organisations cannot be used as a tool to win converts from other religions -- something which some in non-Christian countries fear.

"Love is free. It is practised as a way of achieving other ends. But this does not mean that charitable activity must somehow leave God and Christ aside. For it is always concerned with the whole man. Often the deepest cause of suffering is the very absence of God," he said.

Like many other people, I have often felt that Christian charities are used to a great degree as a publicity tool and as a means to proselytise. Ratzinger seems to recognise it – though it should be noticed that he only speaks of converts from other religions which suggests that atheists are fair game. Yet, once he talks about bringing people to God as a charitable activity, he has worked himself into a corner. Either you try to convert people using charity work or you don’t. Of course, a cynical person – myself, for example – is going to read that and think that the first point is purely for publicity while the second reveals the truth about Catholic charities such as Caritas. After all, how difficult would it be to set up a non-denominational charity or to tell priests and other Catholics to help others through an already existing one. As it has been observed elsewhere and under different circumstances, the only charity that approaches true giving is one that is totally anonymous. So long as the Church does not take that step the various more or less moral motivations will not be capable of being separated out.

N.B. I wonder how much I now owe the Vatican having quoted Reuters quoting Ratzinger?


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