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The Church and Social Programs

That’s the title of my latest at Catholic World Report. For people in the thick of things it can look like enterprises like Obamacare would make a lot of things better, but the overall picture is more troubling.



One visceral difference exists between a clinic offering free health care for the poor and ObamaCare that is not often discussed. If I do a work of Christian charity, it is to the glory of God who inspired me with His own mercy towards me. If the poor get free health care due to the coercion and compulsion of a government program, then the poor are made to feel entitled to have others serve them, rather than made to feel grateful (and humble). The rest of us have no real satisfaction from doing works of charity, because we are under compulsion, and we are made to feel as if we had an obligation rather than an inspiration.

The only sense of satisfaction that can be derived from the government program is the feeling that the liberal must have: “I pushed for this program and got it passed into law. I am responsible for the poor getting treatment.” I truly do not understand how liberals derive the same sense of satisfaction out of ramming their programs through that could be obtained from actually working with the poor, e.g. through a church.

The healthcare program is a sort of metaphysical necessity for the liberal.

Christians believe cosmic order already exists, but it’s transcendent so we can participate in it to some degree but we can’t fully grasp it and it’s not fully realized in this fallen world. We think doing a work of Christian charity is that kind of participation. It’s doing the will of God, but necessarily in an imperfect and fragmentary way, because that’s what’s available to us.

Liberals in contrast believe that the world becomes rational and ordered and moral through human action, so by establishing and supporting Obamacare etc. they create as well as participate in and respect cosmic order. So for them it’s a super-sacramental action that constitutes as well as represents the divine. It has to be comprehensive and universal healthcare because otherwise cosmic order wouldn’t be comprehensive and universal.

The same could be said of establishing and supporting the EU. The “European Project” is obviously not a matter of policy. It’s a matter of establishing the rationality of our political and social existence. For that reason it would be unthinkable to give it up because of mere policy problems.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.