instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Need alone is the poor man's worthiness

A commenter at Catholic and Enjoying It! provided a link to testimony from the North Dakota Catholic Conference last winter on North Dakota House Bill 1385, Drug Testing for TANF and SNAP Recipients.

The testimony includes this statement, which I think is an excellent summary of Catholic teaching:
Asking why a person is poor has its value, but not for the purpose of determining whether the person deserves help.
A footnote on the preceding paragraph puts the following statements from St. John Chrysostom into the public record:
“For if you wish to show kindness, you must not require an accounting of a person's life, but merely correct his poverty and fill his need.”
“The poor man has one plea, his want and his standing in need: do not require anything else from him; but even if he is the most wicked of all men and is at a loss for his necessary sustenance, let us free him from hunger.”
“When you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune.”
“Need alone is the poor man's worthiness . . .”
“We do not provide for the manners, but for the man.”
“We show mercy on him not because of his virtue but because of his misfortune, in order that we ourselves may receive from the Master His great mercy . . .”
Of course, the question of whether a person deserves help is different from the question of how to help him. Someone could argue that yes, a poor drug addict needs help, but that giving him TANF benefits doesn't help him in practice, because he will use that money for drugs instead of food. Such an argument can be judged on its own merits -- although I'd be curious to hear the follow-up proposal for how then society does help hungry families of drug addicts.