What Happened to “Especially”?

This is a charitable time of year. In honor of God’s great gift of Christ — the Incarnation, the dawn of our redemption — Christians give. Coins clink among dollars in the Salvation Army kettles, Angel Tree gifts arrive at parishes, and everyone is making a list and checking it twice.

Christian giving of course is not limited to “the Christmas season” nor should it be, for need and the response that it prompts are year-round.  The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world.  Her extension of compassionate care to all men “makes the nations prove (test) the wonders of His love.” For this reason many Catholics pride themselves quite consciously on the non-discriminatory nature of their liberality, on their willingness to help all, regardless of religious affiliation.   In fact many Catholics would view the suggestion that they ought to discriminate in their giving toward their co-religionists as being akin to a suggestion that they should exclude from charity persons of some ethnicity or race.

Saint Paul’s sensibilities were not that delicate, though. Certainly he was mindful that the Lord enjoined us to do good to even our enemies:

[I] say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. But love your enemies, do good…. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:27-36 RSV).

Nevertheless, without diminishing what Christ said about doing good to all, the Apostle supplements the command with a focus and priority for our charity:

And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:7-10 RSV, emphasis mine).

St. Paul is not the only apostle to direct our attention to the needs of those in our household of faith. In the context of discussing those present at the celebration of the liturgy, St. James writes:

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16 RSV).

And the Beloved Apostle reiterates:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren…. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (John 3:14, 16-17 RSV).

The references to our brothers and sisters — the brethren — are talking about our fellow Christians and especially those who share in Catholic worship with us.

But doing good is not merely a matter of how we direct charity. It encompasses other economic decisions we make as well. All other things being equal, we should seek to buy goods from a Catholic-owned business, eat at a Catholic-owned restaurant, hire Catholic contractors and craftsmen, and obtain the services of Catholic physicians, mechanics, hairdressers, and computer programmers. And maybe sometimes we need to do that when all other things are not equal, when economies of scale do not favor our brethren, but we can.

In a world that is so steeped in the culture of death, our economic decisions become even more weighted. Giving business to those who support “same-sex marriage” or “abortion rights” for instance, means that some of the money you spend may end up in the coffers of those who are attempting to destroy every vestige of Christian morality still alive in our country, and who are attacking our religious freedom and the conscience rights of Catholic professionals. The battle for life is always underfunded, while the forces of death are constantly waging economic warfare against pro-lifers. Faithful Catholic business people who give to their parishes and to other Catholic institutions deserve priority consideration from their fellow Catholics. It is time we took seriously the Apostle’s council and put the “especially” back into our decisions.

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  • elkabrikir

    Mary, funny enough, I thought about this issue just yesterday after reading my diocesan newspaper. There was an article about a new church sponsored “over 55″ community for needy people. Apparently it will be available to all denomiations.

    I thought, “Well, I sure hope that Catholics get priority. After, all, you should take care of your family first.” Even as I thought it, I knew that I’d be condemned by some elements.

    Thanks for helping us give some thought to this issue of prioritizing our charity.

  • Mary Kochan

    Well, that is the kind of thing that I would ask questions about. I would ask what the proposed budget was for this thing, and where it was coming from. If some of the money is coming from government funds, it might not be possible for them to limit it to Catholics. However, if the entire budget comes from Catholic parishoners, then the first priority should be other Catholics as well as the formation of a solid Catholic environment for the seniors being served. And if people from various denominations are going to be there, I would ask what is the finacial committment of those denominations to the support of the project.

    Something like this is a very long term committment! There is a lot to learn and often we just don’t get enough information. This is where lay people have to be more proactive. Whose idea was it? Who owns the land or property the thing will be established on? Did anyone who stands to profit have a say in the decision? I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to give to anything where there is not transparency and a whole lot of detailed information.

  • elkabrikir


    I’m with you on the transparency issues. I try to give as directly to the point of need as possible.

    With regard to the specific low income 55 and better community, it was financed by a diocesan organization. If Fed $$$ were used, the article didn’t mention it.

    I also read that the bishops will be pursuing a postcard campaign in January to push for immigration reform (whatever that is.) I’m very thankful that I haven’t given a dime to the bishops, because this issue, as are many others (excluding abortion) is too complex to be handled with a peace and justice platform.

    Mexicans, who comprise most of the illegal aliens, are not fleeing war. They come here for economic opportunity. The Mexican government has squandered their vast oil wealth through corruption, primarily. Until the Mexican government abdicates its authority to the US Constituion, we do not have a legal or moral obligation to absorb their spillover costs. We are a world of Nation-States. Therefore, the appropriate place for bishops to work for peace and justice is in Mexico. Americans can charitable work for justice across the border.

    Also, the best way to “reunify” families is for people to return home, with their children. Then the whole family can be raised within their ancestoral culture. Justice demands that their culture be upheld by the bishops, as well as our cultural heritage. (for instance, I should be able to speak to a native English speaker when I call the IRS).

    Sorry for the above tangent. But until the bishops and Church organizations focus on propagating the faith, none of their fruit will ripen on a decayed tap root. Let’s see if they can get more than 3% of Catholics to believe in the Truth and Beauty of marital love, as expressed through congital love, before they scatter their sterile seed.

    The end.

  • goral

    We already give 20, 30 and 40 percent of our wealth to those who hate us, we don’t need to give them anymore. So much of that money goes for various programs that we Catholics abhor.

    Secondly giving money to our enemies is not doing good, it’s doing evil. Actually we don’t even need to give it to them. They extort it with impunity. Giving food and shelter and correction to our enemies is most likely doing good.
    Helping everyone in our lives regardless of how they feel about us is the Christian thing to do. Buying Girl Scout cookies is not necessarily doing good.

    We’ve all been financing the culture of death, that’s why it’s doing so well.
    There should be more calls from our bishops such as this one.
    Give to those who are doing God’s work and be generous.

  • jamespereira

    I love your comment about Catholics using the services of Catholic businesses, first. I’ve noticed that this is what many Evangelical communities do. They always give priority to businesses owned by Evangelicals.

    Of course from an Evangelical view this also ensures that tithing to the church is kind of assured.

    Somehow this is lost on us Catholics.

  • wgsullivan

    While we’re on the subject… Doesn’t the Salvation Army support one of the big no nos? I thought I read somewhere that they support abortion or homosexual marriage or both.
    Makes for a great reason to not drop coins in the bucket. More importantly to let others know.

  • patti

    I never thought about giving to the Salvation Army as something that could be supporting anti-Catholic values. I will look further into that on.

    This article was a good reminder that we should give serious thought to how are money is spent. There’s so much bad out there, we NEED to look for businesses we can trust.