US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Celebrating St. Vincent DePaul, Dolan notes that charity is not enough

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Yesterday marked the feast of St. Vincent DePaul, a name that most people likely associate with clothing donations, secondhand furniture, warm meals, and other works of charity for people who may need a helping hand. In a statement issued with his fellow bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Cardinal Timothy Dolan makes a somewhat surprising statement while honoring the "star of Christian charity": Charity is not enough to help those in poverty.

Acknowleding that these are dark days for the nation’s poor and struggling, the bishops note two significant points:

Government programs provide enormous support to poor Americans. In addition generous Americans contribute billions to charities each year. And so there is much to be grateful for.

However, two things must be said.

1) It is not enough. Even with the generosity of the American people, and the work of groups like the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and so many others, much more needs to be done, and not just by private charity. The government must continue to play its part as well.

2) There are very dark clouds. Too much rhetoric in the country portrays poor people in a very negative way. At the same time, this persistent sluggish economic and slow pace of recovery does two things that hurt the poor: it does not provide sufficient jobs for poor people to earn decent living to support themselves, and it provides less resources for government to do its part for Americans in need.

We all know Cardinal Dolan isn’t always the biggest fan of the government’s involvement in certain policies, so it's especially striking to hear him talk about the role government must play in helping the poor. However, the USCCB has been mostly united and relatively vocal in its opposition to proposed budget cuts that would harm the most vulnerable among us.

The message still serves as an excellent reminders of our priorities that spring from Jesus' own commitment to the poor. As a nation and as individuals, we've got to work together to help our brothers and sisters. Or, as Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio said in their statement: "There is too much finger pointing and not enough joining hands. Solidarity is critical to ensure the dignity of all."