care of the poor

The care of the poor is a function of Christian charity. Its charitable character must ever be borne in mind, particularly at the present time, when all charity tends to become less devotional and sentimental and more methodical and scientiflc. Private care of the poor is administered either by individuals from their own resources or by societies, lay or ecclesiastic, organized for the purpose and supported by voluntary contributions. Public poor-relief is given through state institutions or agencies and is supported entirely or in part from state funds. The aim of all poor-relief must be remedial, preventive, and educative. Remedial relief demands that provision be made for the immediate needs of the poor and that their material status be so readjusted in time as to enable them to procure for themselves with reasonable effort the minimum of material, intellectual, and moral goods requisite for normal human life. Preventive poor-relief aims at analyzing and removing the causes of poverty. Its ultimate aim is the creation of a complex of social and economic conditions under which anyone who is able-bodied, fairly efficient, and normally intelligent will be able to support himself and his dependents in ordinary decency. The educative phase of poor-relief partakes of both the remedial and the preventive elements; but while the latter concern themselves primarily with material means and measures, the educative is interested in the moral or spiritual. In so far as it is remedial, it purposes to nullify the demoralizing influences of poverty by reestablishing the self-confidence and self-respect of the poor and by fostering in them the desire for work, independence, and a more wholesome religious and moral condition. In its preventive phase, educative poor-relief seeks to develop, especially in the young, habits of thrift and industry together with the efficiency to cope successfully with the contingencies of modern society. The duty of caring for the poor is, in the first place, an individual obligation. Still from the very beginning, the Church has ever supplemented, extended, and systematized individual effort by concerted measures. The State, too, must aid the helpless and promote measures tending to prevent poverty. Its intervention should, however, be only subsidiary, since the offices of charity should ordinarily be discharged by neighborly and voluntary relief. The Church, therefore, asserts her innate right to care for the poor concurrently with the State and to exercise also in state institutions her educative and moral influence.

New Catholic Dictionary

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