When Charity was Administered by the Church Not the State

CharityThe modern welfare state has its origins in the breakdown of traditional structures that normally took care of those suffering from misfortune. This was especially true of the Church’s institutions of charity that were ideally suited to carrying out this arduous task.

Read the popular article: We Must Resist the Temptation to Secession

England was one of the first to use state intervention. In the fifteenth century, Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, confiscated and plundered the monasteries, and squandered Church riches. Shortly after, Elizabeth I saw how important the monasteries were to general wellbeing of the nation. Without the charity of the monks, the poor were left without aid in time of need; their numbers proliferated. The state stepped in to fill the gap by instituting poor laws and establishing poor houses. The cold bureaucratic “charity” often made the problem worse by turning alms into entitlements.

398px-Índice_de_Biografías_-_Esteban_Murillo_-_Santo_Tomás_de_Villanueva_dando_limosnaIt is noteworthy that nineteenth century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli recognized the great good done by those abnegated monks who administered charity in the name of Christ. How contrary were their actions to the modern bureaucratic welfare state!

Disraeli affirms: “The monks were, in short, in every district a point of refuge for all who needed succor, counsel and protection; a body of individuals having no cares of their own, with wisdom to guide the inexperienced, with wealth to relieve the suffering, and often with power to protect the oppressed.” (As quoted in Harry C. Veryster, It Didn’t Have to Be This Way: Why Boom and Bust is Unnecessary—and How the Austrian School of Economics Breaks the Cycle, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Wilmington, Del., 2013, p. 171.)


  • Albert Maslar

    Charity give by the state with other people’s money tends to grow uncontrollably until the charity is no longer charity but a state-given right, an “entitlement.” There is no such thing that can be forever sustained, grown, and magnified. Entitlement is a much maligned word and does not belong to Social Security which was designed as a self-pay
    program, dependent upon employee contributions matched by the employer. This does not constitute entitlement as it is a return of the workers purchase of what in effect is an annuity. But the system has been stapled, mutilated, and bent out of shape and turned into a current budget grab, leaving the fund in dire straits. Delving deeper into the problem at one time there were seven contributing workers to support each retiree, but alas, the birth rate intentionally declined due in great part to abortion on demand, and
    now there are just over two workers to support each retiree…UNSUSTAINABLE, but still referred to as an entitlement that needs to taken from those who bought and paid for the promise. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, a biblical lesson government lives by, the giving to those not having earned it, but the taking away from those who paid and earned it.

    • Kevin Edwards

      Very good observations. There is one more curious thing about the welfare state (which I’ve noted from those who take advantage of the system in my family):

      The imminent destruction of gratitude to God and countrymen who make charity possible. When it comes from the state it becomes a right.

      When the religious who normally take a vow of poverty and have very little themselves donate to the needy it’s different. The takers are forced to remind themselves that it is true CHARITY and not a right.

    • Lukas Lumbantobing

      Can this idea (about no state intervention in charity like social security) being applied in non-Christian majority state like Indonesia?

  • Patrick Eoin Brogan

    Henry VIII broke with the Church in the 16th, not 15th, century.

  • Alan olivier

    Blame communism and freemasonry and now world socialism for mankind demise. They have sadly cast God’s law aside and now are paying the price. Had the popes done as Our Lady of Fatima asked and consecrated Russia to her immaculate Heart, she would have dealt with mankind problem there and then,but since her requests were not met, we must now fight the internal enemy by ourselves albeit with the grace of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ and the saints.

  • Alan olivier

    Margarert Thatcher had a very good analogy about socialism…….she said and I quote… The trouble with socialism ( communism) , is you soon run out of other people’s money. End quote.

  • Carol S.

    There you have it; multi-generational welfare brought to you by our Democrat president Lyndon Johnson. The same president who made that law stating that churches have to be silent on biblical principles and political candidates or loose their tax exempt status!!! Everyone has the gall to be so shocked and upset about 9/11 and the Boston bombings…. what part of you reap what you sow do people not understand?!