Appeared in Winter 1992, Vol. XVIII, No. 4

Catholic social teachings stress the need for society to defend and succor the poor, the weak, and all who, through no fault of their own, need help to live. Traditionally, this injunction has fallen to the church, and has been carried out through the dedicated efforts of priests, nuns, members of religious orders, and lay men and women, through hospitals, churches, schools, hospices, and many other organizations. Emphasis has always been on person-person effort, with the caregivers ever mindful that they were helping individual people in a spirit of Christian giving, not functioning as cogs in some monolithic social welfare system. A guiding principle was to instill Christian values and attitudes into all people, whether in need or not, so as to give them a true sense of their own worth and their place in the world. If governmental intervention becomes necessary to correct injustice and secure the common good, as it sometimes does, there must be no mistaking the ultimate goal: not materialism, but man’s spiritual good.

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