Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/369

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ALMS 329 ALMS ligation. Community of ^oods (Acts, iv, 32), collec- tions in church (Acts, xi, 29 sqq.; I Cor., xvi, 1; Gal., ii, 10), the ministry of deacons and deaconesses were simply the inauguration of that world-wide system of Christian duirity which luis circuni-scribed the globe and added another testimony to the Divinity of that Church whidi directs her ministrations to- wards the alleviation of human misery in every shape and form (l.ecky, Historj- of European Jlorals, II, 100, 3d od.. New York, 1891). The Katlicrs of the Church frequently and unequivocally inculcated the necessity of alni.-igiving. To this matter St. Cj'p- rian devoted a complole treatise (l)e Opere et Eleemosyna, P. L.. I', 601 sqq.). St. Basil re- counts how St. Lawrence distributed the treasures of the Church to the poor. Questioned by a jiagan governor regarding the treasures which he had promised to transmit, Lawrence pointed to the poor, saying: They are treasures in whom is Christ, in whom is faith. Contrary to the envy of the Arians, St. Ambrose lauds the breaking and selling of sacred vessels for the redemption of captives (De Officiis Ministrorum, xxviii, xxx, P. L., XVI, 141 sqq.). The more effectively to urge the precept of alms- giving, the lathers teach that the wealthy are Clod's stewards and dispensers, so nuich so that where they refuse to aid the needy they are guilty of theft (St. Basil, Homil. in ilhid Luca;, No. 7, P. G., XXXI, 278; St. Gregor' of Nyssa, De Pauperibus Amandis, P. G., XLVI, 466; St. Chr-sostom, in Ep. I ad Cor., Homil. 10, c. 3, P. G.,LXI,"86; St. Am- brose, De Nab. lib. unus, P. L., XIV, 747; St. Au- gustine, in Ps. c.xlvii, P. L., XXXVII, 1922). Dis- cretion in almsgiving is c()un.scllcd in the Apostolic Constitutions: "Alms must not be given to the mali- cious, the intemperate, or the lazy, lest a premium should beget on vice" (Const. Apost.,ii, 1-63; iii,4-6). St. Cj'prian asserts that adherents of other religions must not be e.xcludcd from a share in Catholic charity (De Opere et Eleemosyna, c. xxv, P. L., IV, 620). After the Patristic epoch the teaching of the Clnirch regarding almsgiving did not vary throughout the ages. St. Thomas Aquinas has admirably sum- marized this teaching during the medieval period (St. Thomas, Summa Theol., II-II, QQ. xxx- xxxiii, De Misericordia; De Beneficentifi; De Elee- mosynd). No writer of modern times has so ad- mirably epitomized the position of the Church as X^III (Encyclicals, Kerum Novanim, 15 May, Leo 1891; Graves de Communi, 18 Jan, 1901). In so much as the obligation of almsgiving is coextensive with the obligation of charity, evcrj-one falls under the law. The donor, however, must be entitled to dispose of what he contributes, because almsgiving usually implies that the beneficiary acquires a title to whatever his benefactor gives. Ecclesiastics are bound in a special way to obserc the precept of almsgiving, because they are constituted fathers of the poor, and are besides obliged by their example to lead the laity to entertain correct views concern- ing the importance of this duty. As a general rule, the indigent of every class, saint or sinner, country- men or foreigners, friend or foe, have their claims upon the charity of those competent t give alms (Proverbs, xxv, 21; Romans, xii, 20; Sylvius, Summa, II-II, Q. xxxii, art. 9; De Conninck, Disp. xxvii, Dub. 0, No. 70). The conjunction of genuine in- digence in the poor and ability to minister relief in the rich, is necessary to concrete the obligation of almsgiving (St. Thomas, op. cit., II-II, QQ. xxxii, art. .5, ad ■3'"). Diversity of actual conditions cir- cum.scribing the needy, specify the character of in- digence. Where the necessaries of life are wanting, or where imminent peril threatens vital interests, indigence is extreme. Where the ab-sence of aid leads to serious reverses, in goods or fortune, indi- gence is serious or pressing. Where the quest for the necessaries of life involves considerable trouble, indigence is common or ordinary. The obligation of almsgiving extends to this triple indigence. Script- ure and the Fathers speak indiscriminately of the poor, the needy, and the indigent without restricting the obligation of almsgiviiig to any particular species of indigence. Nearly all theologians adopt this view. Nevertheless, the better to determine the character of this obligation in the concrete, it is necessary to consider the character of temporalities in those who hold pro|X!rty. In the first place, property neces- sary to maintain vital interests is indispensably necessary. Property without which vital interc.-ts are not jeopardized is considered superfluous there- unto. Pioperty required to maintain social prestige, i. e. to live in keeping with one's position in society, to educate offspring, to engage domestics, to enter- tain, etc., is considered equally indispensable from a social standpoint. Proix-rty without which sociul prestige is not endangered is reputed superfluous thereunto. Accordingly, there is never any obliga- tion of using the necessaries of life for alm.sgi ing, becau.se well-regulated charity ordinarily obliges everyone to prefer his own vital interests to those of his neighbour. The only exception occurs when the interests of society are identified with tho.se of a needy member (Miiller, Theol. Moralis, II, tr., i, I 30, 112). To a neighbour in extreme indigence relief must be ministered by using such commodi- ties as are superfluous to vital interests, even though such should be required for social advantages (.St. Thomas, Sumnui Theol., II-II, Q. xxxii, art. 6; St. Alphonsus Liguori, Theol. Moralis, III, no. 31). For charity demands that the vital interests of an indigent neighbour should supersede personal ad- vantages of a nnich lower order (Suarez, De Chari- tate, Disput. vii, § 4, no. 3). The transgression of this obligation involves a mortal sin. Neverthelc-s no one, however wealth}', is obliged to take extraor- dinary measures to assist a neighbour even in direful straits, e. g. a wealthy citizen is not bound to send a dying pauper to a more salubrious clime, or to bear the expense of a difficult surgical opera- tion for the betterment of a pauper (Suarez, loc. cit., § 4, no. 4). Nor is a wealthy individual obliged to imperil his social standing to aid a neighbour in extreme need (La Croix, Tlicol. Moralis, II, no. 201). For charity does not bind anyone to employ ex- traordinan,' means in order to safeguard his own life (St. .Mphonsus, op. cit.. Ill, no. 31). To a neighbour in serious or pressing indigence, alms must be given bj' using such commodities as are superfluous in relation to present social advantages. Nay, more likely in the more acute forms of such indigence those commodities which may in some measure tend to future social advantages must be taxed to succour this indigence (Suarez, loc cit., no. 5; De Conninck, loc. cit.. no. 125; Viva, in prop, xii, damnatam ab Innoc. XI, no. 8). The trans- gression of this obligation likewise involves a grievous sin, because well-regulated charity obliges one to meet the serious needs of another when he can do so without serious personal disadvantage (St. .M- phonsus, II. Ap. tr., iv, no. 19). In the ordinary troubles confronting the poor alms must )C given from such temporalities only as are superfluous to social requirements. This does not imply an obliga- tion of answering every call, but rather a readiness to give alms according to the dictates of well-regvdatcd charity (Suarez, loc. cit., § 3, nos. 7, 10). The- ologians are divided into two schools regarding the character of this obligation. Those holding that the obligation is serious seem to espouse a cause in harmony with the teaching of Scripture anil the authority of the Fathers (St. .Mphonsus, op. cit.. Ill, no. 32; Bouquillon, Institutioncs Theol. Moralis Specialis, III, no. 4S8). At all events, such aflluent