Charity, Works of
CHARITY, WORKS OF
The word "charity" derives from the Latin caritas, which meant family affection, friendship, patriotism. It was used by Cicero to express love for humankind, an important tenet of Stoic doctrine (see stoicism). But the Christians used caritas to translate the Greek agape— impregnating the Latin word with all the meaning of the Greek term in Holy Scripture and in particular in the teaching of Jesus—love of God and love of men with all the duties that this rich concept implies [see H. Petré, Caritas. Étude sur le vocabulaire latin de la Charité chrétienne (Louvain 1948) 96–]. Works of charity are the practical embodiment of those duties of love for one's neighbor. They will be considered historically in this survey as they existed in Christian antiquity and in the Middle Ages, and as they continue in modern times.
In Christian Antiquity
The dynamic concept of charity that was to flower in works of charity was implanted in His Church by Jesus Christ.
The teaching of Jesus. In the mind of our Lord, the precept of loving God is inseparable from that of loving our neighbor: they are two aspects of the same virtue. Christ places these two precepts of love at the center of His teaching. Loving God means striving to become like Him—reproducing His universal goodness to men who, as a consequence, have a right to our love and, if necessary, to our pardon (Mt 5:43–48). Christ calls his teaching on charity a "new commandment" (Jn 13:34). Under the Mosaic Law one's neighbor was a Hebrew and the love of others was primarily negative; it consisted in seeking to avoid all that could provoke reprisals according to the terms of the laws of retaliation. Even when the law of love was translated into positive acts, the precept always remained self-interested, inspired by self-love. Even the most humane of the Hebrew moralists, Hillel, understood this when he said: "Do not to your neighbor what you do not want done to you."
Christ denounced this narrow interpretation of the Scribes (Mt 5:43), thereby defining the law of charity as a law of social relations. It is not enough to love one's friends; one must do good to one's enemies (Mt 5:46–48; Lk 10:25–37). The new commandment obliges one, as well, to love the neighbor as Christ has loved him—to the point of giving one's life for him (1 Jn 3:16). Love of neighbor in Christ's teaching (Jn 15:17) is not something optional, but a categorical imperative that all disciples must obey in order to belong to the Master. Jesus calls it "my commandment"; it is not just one of the precepts of His code but His favorite one—the mark of those who believe in Him (Jn 13:35). The command (at the same time a privilege) will make charity in the sight of heaven the touchstone for discerning Christ's own (Mt 25:34–45). Protestations of love for God will not be acceptable to God if they are not translated into acts beneficial to the neighbor in the form of assistance, material aid, etc. The two precepts are in fact one. Jesus is not content with declaring the second similar to the first. He wished to bestow on it a high dignity and stress its serious importance. He even gives it precedence over public worship:
"To love one's neighbor as oneself is more precious than all holocausts and sacrifices" (Mk 12:33).
The transition from the love for man to love for God, besides revealing the originality of Christ's teaching, is the secret of all Christian works of charity and makes them transcend even the most impressive secular humanitarian achievements. The message of Christ, rooted in the universal fatherhood of God, has swept away national and religious differences, attacked racial and caste discrimination (Gal 3.:8), and inspired heroic dedication.
The apostolic tradition. Christ's message of brotherly love constantly leavened the preaching and teaching of the Apostles and the first believers. St. John, the apostle of charity, never tired of recommending it and delighted in insisting (1 Jn 4:20–21) on the fusion of the two precepts into one. St. Paul synthesizes the essence of Christianity into charity (Gal 5:14; 6:2; Rom 13:8); reiterates the equality of the master and slave (Phil ch. 16) and the obligation of the rich to supply the wants of the poor (2 Cor 8:12); and points out the free character of charity in the example of Christ (2 Cor ch. 7–8). St. James proclaims: "Religion pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to give aid to orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself unspotted from this world" (Jas 1:27).
This teaching was immediately translated into action. The author of the Acts thus pictures the first Church of Jerusalem:
Now the multitude of the believers were of one heart and one soul, and not one of them said that anything he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord; and great grace was in them all. Nor was there anyone among them in want. For those who owned lands or houses would sell them and bring the price of what they sold and lay it at the feet of the apostles, and distribution was made to each, according as any one had need. [Acts 4:32–34; also 2:44]
A concrete example of this practice is seen in the Cypriote Barnabas (Acts 4:35). It is true that community ownership of goods was unique to the Church in Jerusalem, and even there it tended to disappear as circumstances were modified.
This thirst for an enthusiastic sharing was not strange in the state of endemic misery that the Mother Church was enduring, tried by hunger, persecution, and political agitation. Moreover, it was necessary to beg constantly in Antioch (Acts 11:29), in Galatia (1 Cor 16:1), and in Macedonia (2 Cor 8:1–15; Rom 15:26), for the faithful in Jerusalem.
As the Christian community grew the first difficulties arose. The author of the Acts tells of the discontent among the Greek-speaking Jews because they felt that the widows of their group were being neglected in the daily ministrations (Acts 6:1–6). The problem sprang from a lack of personnel; the Apostles accordingly ordered the election of seven men to whom they confided the work of helping the poor. Until that time it had been done by the Apostles themselves. The very fact of the election of these deacons (as they were later called by St. Irenaeus) shows the supreme importance the Apostles attached to charitable works.
The special task of the deacons was to assist at the common meal or agape, originally connected with the Eucharistic celebration. According to the tradition, which persisted even later on, the poor had to receive food and drink since a common table, to which all contributed according to their means, united rich and poor alike. However, even here difficulties arose and were denounced by St. Paul (1 Cor 11:18–22). The agape very soon lost its importance.
To aid the poor was not simply a public duty assigned to deacons. They were assisted by widows possessing special qualities precisely outlined by St. Paul: "Let a widow who is selected be not less than 60 years old, having been married but once, with a reputation for good works in bringing up children, in practicing hospitality, in washing the saints' feet, in helping those in trouble, in carefully pursuing every good work" (1 Tm 5:9–10). Private charity thus stood side by side with public charity and Paul frequently emphasized the obligation of each Christian to practice it (Gal 6:10). He held out the example of Tabitha (Dorcas) at Joppa (modern Jaffa) who had "devoted herself to good works and acts of charity" (Acts 9:36). When she died the Christians sent for Peter, who was in nearby Lydda, and on his arrival, "all the widows stood about him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks which Dorcas used to make for them" (ibid. ).
Charity in the persecuted Church. Thus the gospel was transformed into a social message that stimulated it and gave it a special character harmonizing with the growth of the new faith in time and space.
There are reliable proofs from both Christian and pagan sources, of the increasing charity of the generations of Christians that followed the Apostolic age. Lucian writes: "Their law-giver has taught them that they are all brothers; as soon as something happens which touches their common interests nothing is too difficult for them and they are capable of incredible activity" (Peregr. 10). Tertullian says: "Our care for the derelict and our active love have become our distinctive sign before the enemy… See, they say, how they love one another and how ready they are to die for each other" (Apol. 39). Justin in his Apologia to the emperor affirms: "We, who loved above all else the ways of acquiring riches and possessions, now hand over to a community fund what we possess and share it with every needy person; we, who hated and killed one another, now, after the coming of Christ, live in community, and pray for our enemies" (Apol. 1.14). Already in the year 96, Pope Clement, sketching the ideal picture of a Christian community, as Corinth was before it was torn by internal strife, stressed the spirit of charity: "Who, living among you, has not heralded abroad your reputation for unbounded hospitality? You were all happier to give than to receive …, day and night you kept up your efforts on behalf of the whole brotherhood" (1 Clem 1:2). Christian practice was seen against a transcendent background as in the following passage from the Letter to Diognetus (ch. 10): "Any man can be an imitator of God, if he takes on his own shoulders the burden of his neighbors, if he chooses to use his advantage to help another who is underprivileged, if he takes what he has received from God and gives to those who are in need—for such a man becomes God to those who are helped. Then, even though you are on earth, you will see that God rules in heaven."
Prescriptions for the Practice of Charity. Almsgiving, in particular, was considered spiritual ransom, as Clement stated in his second letter to the Corinthians: "Almsgiving is good as a penance for sin; fasting is better than prayer, but almsgiving is better than both, and charity covers a multitude of sins" (2 Clem 16). For this reason the exercise of charity was intimately connected with worship; every Sunday in fact (2 Cor 16:2), or every month, or whenever they wished (Tertullian, Apol. 39), the believers brought their gifts (in money or kind) during the celebration of the Mass and presented them to the bishop (Justin, Apol. 1:67) who placed them on the altar table, as offerings to the Lord. Thus the needy received them from the hand of the Lord. "The grace and kindness of the Lord supported all the poor," writes Pope Cornelius (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6:43). The task of distributing the offerings belonged to the deacons who at the end of the divine service divided them among those present. A part of the offerings was reserved for the needy who were not at the service and later was brought to their homes; the remainder was used for the agape feast. The deaconesses (Const. Apost. 2:17) continued helping them. However, the entire work of assistance was directed by the bishops (Const. Apost. 1:1; 2:25, 26, 27) who "have made their ministry a perpetual refuge for the needy and widows" (Shepherd of Hermas ); in the Didache they were considered as fathers of the poor (ch. 1, 3, 4) and by St. Ignatius of Antioch as "guardians of widows" (Ad Polycarp 4).
The Apostolic Constitutions are filled with detailed prescriptions for the practice of charity in the first centuries—prescriptions for the ministers and the beneficiaries, and details about the means, the abuses, and the value of sacrifice (see ch. 1, 2, 4, 8). Origen has handed down valuable principles to guide the Church in aiding the poor (Comm. Ser. 16 in Mt. ).
Let us be prudent, so that we may come to the aid of everyman according to his dignity, recalling the words: "Blessed is he who is wise in dealing with the needy and the poor." We must not give away too easily the goods of the Church, caring only not to destroy or steal them. Rather we must make distinctions regarding the causes of poverty, the dignity of each indigent person, his education and the degree of his need… Therefore, we must nottreat equally one, who from his infancy, has led a hard and straitened life and one, who accustomed to ease and wealth, has fallen into poverty. Nor must we give the same things to men and women, to the aged and the young, to the sick who can provide nothing for themselves and those who can help themselves in some small way. It is important also to inquire about the needs of large families, especially those who are industrious but still cannot make ends meet. In short, he who wishes to use the goods of the Church well must be very wise.
The same writer, in accord with St. Paul (1 Cor 9:14), vindicating the right of the clergy to live on the revenues of the Church, states: "Our food must be simple and our clothing plain so that we do not keep for ourselves more than we give the naked and thirsty or those who suffer a lack of material things."
It was this prudent spirit of wise administration and a fear of abuses that led the deacons to keep lists and records of the names and conditions of those they assisted. Accordingly, it is known that in the year 250 the Roman Christian community had about 100 ecclesiastics and 1,500 poor; the result was a heavy demand on the common treasury. The funds kept in this treasury were not only the regular offerings of the faithful made during the sacred liturgy, but also periodic contributions, gifts of money or valuables given on special occasions such as Baptism or death, tithes (Const. Apost. 5:20), alms collected in time of emergencies (Cyprian, Epist. 60; Patrologia Latina 4:359), and almsgiving united to fasting to make this good work valuable for salvation (Shepherd of Hermas 5:3; Origen, Hom 10 in Lev; Chrysostom, Sermo de ieunio; Augustine, Sermo 208 in quadrag., etc.).
Widows and Orphans. These "deposits of piety" as Tertullian (Apol. 39) called them, were distributed according to a scale—the first places being reserved, as we see from ancient church sources, for widows and orphans. The reason for this was the real poverty of these two groups in ancient times, as well as the esteem widows enjoyed in the primitive community (1 Tm 5:16). St. Polycarp called them "altars of God" (Ad Philipp. 4). They formed a category apart, performed special tasks, and were enrolled in a separate register [see J. Danielou, "Le Ministère des femmes dans l'Église ancienne," Maison Dieu 61 (1960) 70–96].
Prisoners and Captives. In a period when Christians paid for their faith in Christ by prison and forced labor, the Church could not be indifferent to the lot of her children. Prisoners were the special objects of both public and private charity (Tertullian, Ad Mart. 1). It was a duty to visit and care for a prisoner and to work for his liberation—this duty was repeatedly inculcated by the Apostolic Constitutions (7:1, 3) and by St. Cyprian (Epist. 37; Patrologia Latina 4:326). St. Ignatius wrote to those in Smyrna: "When the Christians become aware that one of their number is a prisoner or suffering for the name of Christ, they take upon themselves all his needs and, if possible, they free him" (Ad Smyr. 6). It is said of Origen that "he was with the holy martyrs not only while they were in prison, and not only while they were being examined up to the last sentence, but also after this when they were led away to death, displaying great boldness and coming into close contact with danger" (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.3–4).
Although it was one of the duties assigned to the deacons, the visiting of prisoners was done also by private individuals as a duty of charity, and no one hesitated to bribe the jailor to that end (Lucian, Peregr. 12; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.61). The example of the deacons Tertius and Pomponius in Africa, and the charity shown to the martyrs Perpetua and Felicity is well known [see O. Gebhardt, Acta martyrum selecta (Berlin 1902) 66]. The writings of early Christians are filled with histories of this kind and they indicate the double aim of the visits—to console and to sustain the prisoners and to be consoled by their blessing.
Christian charity also reached the brethren condemned to forced labor in the mines. The Christian community tried to keep in touch with them and obtain their liberty. Examples of this type of charity are recorded about the Roman community at the time of Pope Soter (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6:23; Hippolytus, Philos. 9:12) and the Egyptian community during the persecution of Diocletian (Eusebius De mart. palest. 10:1; 11:5).
Besides alleviating the sufferings of prisoners, the Christians sought to ransom them. Episodes of this kind were probably not rare, even though today it is difficult for the historian to say in individual cases whether it was a question of freeing prisoners or ransoming slaves. It would seem, though, that the initiative fell to some courageous individuals rather than to the community. There were numerous occasions of real heroism. "We know that many among ourselves have given themselves up to chains in order to redeem others; many have surrendered themselves to slavery and provided food for others with the price they received for themselves," notes St. Clement of Rome (Ad Cor. 1:2). When, in 253, Numidian brigands seized a number of Christians, the community of Carthage quickly collected 100,000 sesterces for ransom, declaring that they were ready to raise more if necessary. In 255 the Christians of Rome contributed money when the Goths captured some members of the Christian community in Cappadocia (Basil, Epist. 70 Ad Damasum, Patrologia Graeca 32:435–436). Such liberation of prisoners by ransom is often mentioned in 4th-and 5th-century Gallic epitaphs.
Slaves. Particular care was taken of slaves, and Christianity had a decided influence in ameliorating their condition. Converted slaves were accepted as brothers and in the face of this reality their social condition took second place (Iren. 4:21:3; Tertullian, De Corona 13). "Nor is there any other reason," wrote Lactantius, "why we take for ourselves the name of brothers one to another, unless it is that we believe that we are equal; for since we measure all human things, not by the body, but by the spirit, and although the condition of the bodies may be diversified, there are not slaves among us, but we regard them and speak of them as brothers in spirit and as fellow slaves in religion." Slaves participated fully as members of the community and could become clerics and even bishops. As persons, in the moral sense, they enjoyed the same esteem as free men. The honesty and chastity of slaves could not be violated. Since they were expected to practice the same virtues as free men, their virtues were likewise recognized and extolled. The Acts of the Martyrs offers its ample proof of this in frequent praise of the heroism of Christian slaves.
Such presuppositions underlie the recommendations to masters to treat their slaves kindly and not to forget that they are brothers. On their part slaves—conforming to the Pauline teaching prevalent in the ancient Church—were to endure their slavery for the glory of God and obtain true liberty, which is that of the spirit (1 Cor 7:21–24). This did not prevent Christian masters from freeing their slaves, and in some instances community funds were used to purchase their freedom, but those so released were not to regard their liberty as a right (Ignatius, Ad Polyc. 4:3). The Synod of Elvira in 300 denounced ill treatment of slaves (c:5:41; also Origen, Comm. in Rom. 3:4).
The Sick and the Dead. The community assisted the sick, especially the incurable, with the consolation of their prayers, their visits, and material help (Tertullian, Ad Uxor 2:4). But Christian charity was not limited to the living; according to Emperor Julian one of the factors that favored the growth of Christianity was the great care the faithful took to bury the dead (Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History 5:15). This pious task was performed willingly even by individuals (Aristides, Apol. 15); but usually the Church as a community took charge and entrusted the work to the deacons (Const. Apost. 3:7) and expenses for the burial of the poor were paid by the community (Tertullian, Apol. 39). The Christians did not limit their burial duties to members of their own faith; Lactantius writes: "We will not therefore allow the image and workmanship of God to lie as prey for beasts and birds, but we shall return it to the earth, whence it sprang; although we will fulfill this duty of kinsmen on an unknown man, humaneness will take over and fill the place of kinsmen who are lacking" (Instit. 6.12). Their concern for the dead led the Christians to pray and make offerings for the repose of their souls. This ancient custom had important repercussions on the living, bringing them comfort and strengthening the cause of Christianity.
These pious duties became very impressive in the event of public disasters. During the plague that devastated Alexandria in 259 Bishop Dionysius bore witness to the conduct of the faithful:
Most of our brethren, in their surpassing charity and brotherly love did not spare themselves and clinging to one another fearlessly visited the sick and ministered to them. Many, after having nursed and consoled the sick, contracted their illness and cheerfully departed this life. The best of our brethren died in this way, some priests and deacons, and some of the laity. The conduct of the pagans was just the opposite; they would drive away those beginning to fall sick and people fled from their dear ones; they threw the dying into the street and bodies were left unburied. [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 7:22:9–10:1]
St. Cyprian recorded much the same regarding the plague in Carthage in 252 (De Mortalitate 14; Patrologia Latina 4: 591–593); while others fled, he gathered his own congregation and reminded them of their duty, setting them the example (Vita Cypriani, Patrologia Latina 3:1489). During the plague that raged in the reign of Maximinus "all the pagans were aware of the zeal and piety of the Christians. They alone, in such evil surroundings, showed their compassion and love for all men by actual deeds. Some dedicated themselves to caring for the sick and burying the dead. Others gathered together crowds of hungry people and fed them. These glorified the God of the Christians and confessed that only the Christians were pious and religious" (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 9:8:14–15).
Travelers. Outside their own community the Christians sought to provide for strangers, especially for their brothers in the faith. This assistance was not left to the good will of individuals; although hospitality was widely practiced by Christians as a duty (Rom 12:13; 1 Pt 4:9; Didache 12; Hermas 8:10; Tertullian, Ad Uxor 2:4; Cyprian, Epist. 7, etc.), it also had a community character. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Clement stresses, among the other virtues that had signalized the Church, the splendid and noble custom of hospitality (1 Cor 1:2). The example of the Roman community is particularly worthy of note. In a letter written during the time of Marcus Aurelius, Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, mentions the ancient custom of receiving any of the brothers who passed through Rome: "You keep up the ancestral custom of the Romans, a custom which your blessed bishop Soter has not only maintained but even increased, providing abundant help to the saints and, with blessed words, encouraging the brethren who come to Rome as a loving father his own children" (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:23:10). The great regard in which the Roman community was held did not depend so much on its being the center of apostolic activity in the West, as on its charity. In a period when Christianity existed in scattered communities, the infrequent trips of some of the brethren were the only contact between them. For this reason hospitality was of vast importance and was the subject of a treatise (now lost)—Peri filoxenias —by an oriental writer, Melito, bishop of Sardis (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:26). Clement never tired of extolling hospitality (1 Cor 10:7; 11:1; 12:1).
This spirit of welcome occasioned some abuses: heretics, tricksters, and vagabonds could infiltrate and jeopardize the community. However, measures were taken to forestall this: the new arrival had to prove that he was a Christian; if he possessed the gift of prophecy his works had to correspond to his words. Hospitality was limited to two or three days, after which the guest had either to leave or earn his own living (Didache 11, 12). Later, a traveling Christian had to present a kind of passport issued by the community he was leaving (Council of Elvira, c. 25).
Beginning of Union among Scattered Church Communities. The care lavished on a wayfaring brother in the faith formed a bridge, as has been stated, between the scattered communities. What the guest had to tell of the sufferings or the good fortune of his own church was of common interest. The ancient churches felt a strong bond between them and reacted according to the Pauline rule: "If one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with it, or if one member glories, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, member for member" (1 Cor 12:26–27). Such a spirit made brotherly love dynamic and the most distant people neighbors. "They know each other and love each other by invisible signs even before they meet," exclaims the pagan Cecilius (Minutius Felix, Octav. 9:3).
The knowledge of belonging to a holy society very early took deep roots in the minds of individuals and it was linked with a sense of responsibility toward the whole company, even toward all mankind. "Pray for all the saints," Polycarp counseled, following St. Paul (1 Cor 59:2), "pray for the emperors, and authorities and rulers, for those who persecute and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross" (Ad Phillip. 12:3). The bishops worked to put this concept of charity into action, intervening in particular circumstances to eliminate the motives for dispute and to create a climate of common understanding. But charity shone with a special light in extraordinary cases when one community would make its own the suffering of another community.
St. Paul had worked from the beginning of his missionary life among the pagans to foster these bonds of charity, promoting the idea of helping the Church in Jerusalem. A generation later, the persecutions began, and those who lived in relative tranquility worried about those who were threatened or stricken. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, affirmed this, writing to the Romans about the year 170: "It has been your custom from the beginning to do good in various ways to all the brethren, sending help to the Christians in the mines" (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:23:10). A hundred years later, another Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, in a letter to Pope Stephen mentioned, almost in passing, the assistance given by the pope to the Churches in Syria and Arabia (ibid. 7:5:2). Basil of Caesarea narrated that at the time of Pope Dionysius (259–269) the Church of Rome sent money to Cappadocia to liberate the Christians who had fallen into the hands of the barbarians. This fact was remembered with gratitude in that country as late as the 4th century (Epist. 70 Ad Damasum Patrologia Graeca 32:435–436). Eusebius recalled also that the Roman Church kept alive the custom of helping suffering communities even during the last persecution of Diocletian (Eusebius, op. cit., 4:22:9).
From the satire on Peregrinus (Peregr. 13) by Lucian, we learn how lively and active the interest and preoccupation of all the communities were for their distant sister-communities during the persecution under Marcus Aurelius. The letters of Ignatius to the various churches are also an eloquent commentary. From this source we learn of the sincere interest of the communities of Asia Minor and Rome in the fate of a bishop they had never seen and the care they took of his church at Antioch, left without a shepherd. Monetary aid took second place to the personal interest that led whole communities, bishops and faithful alike, to console and encourage one another and bear each other's sufferings.
From the edict of Constantine to Gregory the Great. The conversion of some of Roman society to Christianity was not immediately followed by a flowering of evangelical ideals. However, from the 4th century Christianity introduced new notions even into secular civilization; one of these is the concept of charity in the social sense of the word, of the fellowship and responsibility of man toward his brothers, the disinherited, the poor, the homeless, the vagabonds, the sick, and the mentally ill. There is no text of Roman law that is inspired by caritas. This concept remained foreign to the juridical order of the classical Roman age. But once caritas became a fundamental Christian virtue, it inspired juridical texts of the postclassical age and texts inserted by the Justinians [E. Albertario, "'Caritas' nei testi giuridici romani" in the Rendiconti dell'Istituto Lombardo di scienze e lettere 64 (1931) 375–392]. Respect for the human person, founded on the religious conviction that he is an object of the merciful love of God, was unknown to the pagan world. The liberality of the master toward his slaves was a very different thing, as were the benefits—bread and circuses—which the people received from the government: dividends of the spoils of conquests.
Liberty of worship, the juridical right to own property, and the restoration of the wealth confiscated by Diocletian (Lactantius, De morte persecutorum 48) allowed the Church a more liberal and substantial organization of charity. And it was a providential coincidence that as the end of persecution brought an influx of conversions to the Church so it also brought an increased number of needy converts who had to be assisted. The Church was able to raise money from the large fortunes of converts from aristocratic families. In 367 the consul Lampadius, on taking office, made large donations for the needy (Ammianus Marcellinus 27:3:5) and the prefect Nebridius, at Constantinople, did the same from his annual income (Jerome, Epist. 85). Placilla, the wife of Theodosius (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 5:18), engaged in works of charity and many noble Roman women followed her example, e.g., Pauline, daughter of Paula; Fabiola; and Melania. St. Jerome bore witness to this in his writings (Epist. 77, 108; Patrologia Latina 22:690, 878), as did St. Paulinus of Nola (Epist. 29 ad Severum; Patrologia Latina 61:315). At the death of his wife Paulina in 396, the senator Pammachius gave a banquet in the Vatican basilica for all the poor of Rome. St. Jerome noted: "The precious stones which once adorned her neck now serve to feed the poor" (Epist. 66; Patrologia Latina 22:641). The name of Pammachius was connected with a hospice he founded at the port of Rome, near Ostia; and the name of Fabiola was linked to a hospital in the city where she gave personal service as well as financial aid to the poor. Paulinus of Nola, who knew all these instances well, summed up the complete change in social values when he called the beggars "patrons of our souls" (Epist. 13 ad Severum; Patrologia Latina 61:313). It was now the rich who appeared in the place of servants.
But the principal source of charitable endeavors was the possessions of the Church, which had come to her through imperial favor and which, besides covering the expenses of the clergy, were used to carry on charitable works. "The possessions of the Church are the patrimony of the poor," said St. Ambrose (Epist. 18:16; Patrologia Latina 16:1018). The bishops, as usual, assumed the leadership. From the time of Constantine the emperors gave them authority to administer the provision of food for orphans and widows, and later for prisoners (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 1:10). The councils reminded them of their obligation to care for the needy. From their ranks came some of the most representative apostles of charity both in the East and the West.
The Rise of Church-sponsored Charitable Institutions. In Caesarea of Cappadocia, St. Basil, not content with having provided food for an entire year (368) to a region devastated by famine, began to construct (372) on the edge of the city a group of buildings (church, monastery, school of arts and trades, hospices, and hospital) destined to receive wayfarers, sick persons, and especially lepers, and staffed them with qualified personnel (Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History 6:34; Allard, St. Basil 109–111). Such "homes for the poor" (ptochotrophia ) were not isolated phenomena. During the same period many others could be found, for example, at Amasya in Pontus and elsewhere. The Church of Alexandria had a group of nurses (parabolani ) under the protection of the bishop; their number in the period from 416 to 418 exceeded 500. Another organizer of charitable works in Constantinople was St. John Chrysostom, who was aided by some generous souls of the aristocracy [C. Baur, Johannes Chrisostomus und seine Zeit, 1 (Munich 1929) 130, 303; 2 (Munich 1930) 55, 73]. Such was his ardor in condemning the avarice of the wealthy that in many texts he seemed to doubt the right of individuals to own private property. He did not, however, sanction the right of the poor to revolt against the rich. Rather he intended to incite the rich to the practice of charity.
In the West it is sufficient to name such bishops as Ambrose of Milan, Epiphanius of Pavia, Maximus of Turin, Paulinus of Nola, Martin of Tours, Nicetius of Lyons, and Sidonius Apollinarius. Ambrose was interested in everyone without distinction of rank; anyone could approach him, wrote St. Augustine (Conf. 6:3), unless the crowds of needy formed an impenetrable barrier around him. As soon as he was consecrated bishop, he gave all the gold and silver he possessed to the Church and to the poor; later on he bequeathed all he owned to the church in Milan (Vita Ambr. 38; Patrologia Latina 14:42). In the second book of his De Officiis, he insisted on the duties of charity, good works, and hospitality, and when in 378, after the defeat of Adrianople, many Christian soldiers fell into the hands of the Goths, Ambrose ordered all the vessels that had not yet been used for the sacred rites to be melted down and used as ransom. To justify his action he said: "It is better to conserve the living chalices of souls than those of metal! How beautiful is the sight of a procession of prisoners of whom it can be said: Christ has ransomed them. Here is useful gold, the gold of Christ that frees from death, the gold that ransoms modesty and saves chastity" (De Off. 2:28:136–143; Patrologia Latina 16:148).
It can be affirmed without a doubt that many of the bishops were very much aware of the urgent need for charity in all areas: from providing food and clothing to protecting the poor against the avidity of tax collectors and defending debtors from the mercilessness of usurers; from combating the rigors of the law to the guardianship of the rights of the poor of whom the bishops were, by their office, the defenders. In tragic times, such as those of the 5th century, when, according to St. Jerome, on account of the incessant wars "satis dives est, qui pane non indiget, nimium potens, qui servire non cogitur" (he is rich enough who does not lack bread; he is strong enough who is not compelled to be a slave; Epist. 120 ad Rusticum ; Patrologia Latina 22:1085), the preoccupations of a bishop could not differ from those of Peter Chrysologus: "Where are the barns … kept for the hunger of the poor?" (Sermo 122; Patrologia Latina 52). By this time the organized charity of the bishops had passed beyond the simple stage of a private duty and assumed a public character. The continual increase of the needy and the growing lack of those who could care for them conferred on the bishops a kind of investiture, which the events of the time made quite natural.
Development of Charitable Institutions under Church Administration. The bishops' work assumed a particular importance in regard to hospitality; the numerous hospices and hospitals erected during this period, although administered autonomously, were the property of the Church and as such headed by the bishops. The laws of the later empire recognized their position and entrusted the control to them, leaving to the heirs of the benefactors and their executors the tasks of administration. In the time of Justinian the juridical picture of hospital administration under the vigilance of the bishop was traced in its essential lines. These, it may be noted, were institutions that are today in the hands of the laity and have become an essential characteristic of every civilized state. But the historian of civilization must stress the fact that they are derived from a Christian inspiration and developed for many years under the protection of the Church. Herein lies the value and importance of the first two centuries of the free Church. Instead of being amazed at the length of time it took for the Christian ideal to penetrate human society, the historian must recognize the Christianization of social institutions that later expanded into the medieval city. In fact, Emperor Julian the Apostate testified to the influence of Christian charity on society when he wrote in 362 to the priest Arsacius: "Why do we not turn our eyes towards those institutions to which the impious religion of the Christians owes its growth, towards the help it gives to aliens? Build many xenodochia in every city. It is a shame for us that the inhuman Galileans sustain not only their poor but ours as well" (Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History 5:16).
Active assistance was already considered a fundamental element of monastic life as early as the 4th century, the heroic era of the Fathers of the desert. There is, in the technical language of the Egyptian monks, evidence that the strong disciplinary organization of the cenobite community tended to centralize the gathering and distribution of alms to the needy in a specialized service that was called diaconia. Cassian was the first to explain the meaning of this word, which was the name given to the almshouse of the Egyptian monastery of Diolco, supplied by the faithful and headed by a monk with the title of diaconetès [H. I. Marrou, "L'origine orientale des diaconies romaines," Mélanges d'Archéologie et d'histoire 57 (1940) 95–142]. Cassian's text brings us back to the middle of the 4th century. Little by little as they developed, the monastic diaconias tended toward autonomy. Almsgiving was made possible more by the contributions of the faithful than by the work of the monks. When larger offerings, such as lands, possessions, etc., were added to the fruits of the earth brought by the peasants, the diaconia became a proprietor, and had to receive juridical recognition. This autonomy was the first step toward independence, which probably was realized at Aphroditus from 573 to 574. Favored by the imperial government, the diaconias soon spread widely in Egypt, in Palestine (Marrou, op. cit. 9), in the Greek East (ibid. 10–11), and after the Justinian reconquest, in the Italian peninsula and even in Rome (ibid. 11–14).
Papal Patronage. At Rome, for that matter, thanks to the solicitous vigilance of the popes, the practice of charity always held first place. Reference has already been made to Pope Cornelius's interest in the poor. The pope as "Father of the Poor" meets us in the persons of Leo the Great and Gelasius. Symmachus founded three homes for the poor. Pelagius I was anxious that the patrimony of the Church should always be sufficient to care for the needy (Lib. pont. 1:263). But the service of the poor reached its peak under Gregory the Great.
Gregory had scarcely ascended the pontifical throne when he made his first concern the assuring of provisions for the city. He therefore warmly recommended to Peter, administrator of the patrimony of Sicily, that he not permit the consignments of grain to decrease. In the absence of civil authority and even contrary to it, Gregory felt it his imperative duty to protect the interests of the needy. "We have no wealth of our own, but the care and administration of the goods of the poor have been confided to us" (Registrum Epistolarum 13:23). This was his aim in the wise administration of the wealth of the Church and he stressed it to his administrators: "Have the Judge before your eyes for He will come; and remember you gather the best treasure for me, not when you acquire new riches but when you bring me the blessings of Heaven through your service to the poor" (ibid. 13:37).
The term "goods of the poor" is often used to indicate the patrimony of the Church, which by that time had developed to a notable degree. Gregory took charge of this patrimony energetically and made it a masterpiece of administration as well as an important organ of ecclesiastical government. The saint did not distribute alms at random; a special register listed the names of the persons aided and the date and amount of the alms donated (Giovanni Diacona, Vita Gregorii 2:30), but when there was a famine he opened the granaries of the Church to the poor. His charity was clothed with delicacy and is sometimes quite touching. Wracked with pain on his deathbed, he remembered a bishop who suffered from the cold and sent him a cloak, insisting that the messenger go at once because of the rigor of the season (Epist. Reg. 14:15). According to the well-known saying of John the Deacon, Gregory was "the father of the family of Christ" [H. Grisar, San Gregorio Magno 65 (Rome 1928) 324].
The Middle Ages
By the Middle Ages the Church had spread throughout the Western world and its charitable works and institutions flourished under the influence of Rome.
Charity in the Western Church. Many churches in the West were inspired by the Roman example that "charity resides in the bishop." This was especially true of the Frankish Church, which for all of the 5th and part of the 6th centuries was one of the most glorious of the ecclesiastical provinces, known both for its men of virtue and its fervor in good works. The bishops led exemplary lives and were distinguished for their doctrine and piety. Many of the bishops carried out the ideal of charity, first realized by Martin of Tours, the great anticipator, whose glory increased as his example encouraged. The Church, in fact, continued that tradition and felt honored to dedicate her strength to all kinds of poverty and need. Lists of the needy were kept and the matricularii formed a kind of association of the poor of Christ who had the privilege of begging from door to door, of receiving regular subsidies and of living in "a house of the poor." The bishop was the official protector of both the poor and the oppressed, and defended them in the courts.
An analogous situation existed in the British Isles at the time of Gregory the Great, but we do not know how far the results fulfilled the wishes of the Pontiff (Epist. 12:21). It would seem that the ancient rivalry between Britons and Anglo-Saxons injured discipline as well as charitable efforts. It was only later, at the time of Pope Vitalian, that the monk Theodore of Tarsus skillfully succeeded in bringing about peace. A new spirit then appeared in the field of charity. Bishops and abbots took great interest in the lower classes whom they protected against the power of the wealthy. Sometimes they acted as a curb, sometimes as a spur through penitential discipline, encouraging good works and pious foundations, liberating slaves, improving roads, aiding the peasants who were reduced to hunger by wars, and reconstructing destroyed dwellings.
In the Iberian Peninsula charity suffered as a result of the political and religious activities of the Arian government, which harassed the Church and confiscated its possessions. Only after the conversion of the Visigoths did Spain slowly accept the discipline and institutions already in use in other Western churches. St. Leander of Seville made his influence felt in the reorganization of charity under the protection of the bishops. According to the prescriptions given by the Council of Chalcedon, the bishops were obliged to appoint an econome to administer the goods of the Church [Conc. Hisp. (c. 590) c. 6]. From the end of the 6th century, through the urging of wise and saintly men such as the above-mentioned St. Leander, and Isidore of Seville, Masona of Emerita, John of Gerona, and Fulgentius of Astigi, the bishops were established as fathers of the poor and defenders of the goods of the Church, which were considered as the patrimony of the poor [Conc. Tolet. (c. 589) c. 3, 5, 6; (c. 638)c.15].
The influence of the councils. The most prominent bishops of the time did not limit their work to their own dioceses. By encouraging regional councils they gave greater influence to the tenets of the Church and established uniformity in practice throughout an entire kingdom. This was true in Merovingian France, where from 511 to 614 more than 30 national synods were held. During these synods the issue of church discipline was discussed and questions regarding the practice of charity periodically recurred.
The documents of the time recall the dignity of the poor to whom a quarter of the tithes belonged, according to the Roman custom mentioned by Gregory the Great (Epist. 11:64). The synods recommended assistance for those unable to work and the infirm [Conc. Aurel. (c. 511)c. 16]; for wayfarers and pilgrims; for abandoned children and lepers. This latter category of unfortunates attracted the particular attention of all the saints of the period, e.g., Romain of Luxeuil (d. 653), Aregus, Bishop of Gap (d. 604), Radegunde, Odile, etc. The West did not possess, as did the East, different types of institutions to aid various classes of needy. In the East, from the 4th century, rich and populous cities could boast of hospitals and other institutions adapted to the types of unfortunates who needed help. In the 9th century the xenodochium or hospice, principally for pilgrims and the poor, appeared, and sometimes, like the one in Lyons founded by King Childebert and mentioned in the Council of Orléans [(c. 549) c. 15], accepted also the aged and infirm.
The Status of Slaves. The synods definitely brought about the penetration of Christian ideals into legislation and morals. The problem of slaves is an example. Among the pagans during the early Middle Ages, the condition of slaves was no better than it had been in ancient times. The Church did not remain insensible to their fate and acted in various ways to alleviate it, for example, by encouraging emancipation, as happened in England through the work of those monasteries that received slaves in order to free them. This practice influenced the conduct of private citizens. Adopting a solution offered by German law, which recognized servitude as an intermediate condition between liberty and slavery, the Church transferred a number of slaves into this category, prescribing at the same time that the "servants of the family of God, through motives of justice and mercy, should be obliged to work less than the servants of private individuals" [Conc. of Eauze (c. 551) c. 6; ibid. 114]. The synod of Agde (c. 506) obliged the bishops to give these servants wages, in money or in kind. Many laws of the councils took pains to make the condition of servants as humane as possible, forbidding labor on feast days, upholding the right of slaves to indissoluble matrimony and—in some cases—even recognizing their right to receive Holy Orders. Finally, codifying a Roman law on the right of asylum, the Council of Orléans (c. 511) offered slaves recourse to a privilege that saved them from torture and unjust condemnation to death (cc. 1–3; ibid. 2).
The Status of Women and Children. Another important step in the progress of charity was the slow transformation of the position of women. The Council of Mâcon (585) assured to widows and orphans the assistance of the bishop in judgment (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, c. 12, Concilia aevi merovingici, 169). Particular protection was given to those widows who intended to live in a state of religious consecration [Conc. Paris. (c. 556–573) c. 6; ibid. 144]. The Church also ruled against the German custom of repudiating a wife, and the synod of Orléans (533) forbade the breaking of the marriage contract for reasons of illness (c. l1; ibid. 63). The actions of queens, such as St. Radegunde and St. Bathilde, contributed to mitigating the violence of the period, and the example of consecrated virgins, such as St. Genevieve and St. Odile, who delighted in serving the poor and infirm, "precious members of the Lord," was of great influence.
Greater protection was assured also to abandoned children. Roman legislation, amended in the 5th century under Honorius and Theodosius II, had given ample powers to the Church in this matter. This law protected the Church in her actions even after the new peoples in France, England, and Spain had come under its influence [Monumenta Germaniae historica Leges Visigothorum, ed. Zeumer, 193; Formulae merovingici et Karolini aevi, ed. Zeumer, n. 49, 21; n. 11, 241].
The Status of Prisoners. Another Roman law inspired prescriptions in favor of prisoners. The Council of Orléans (c. 549) decreed that the archdeacons should pay a weekly visit to prisoners to provide for their needs and console them (Conc. aevi merovingici, c. 20, 107). The Church frequently paid the prisoners' expenses, and bishops ransomed prisoners of war. The public was particularly influenced by these works of mercy.
Decentralization. After Gregory the Great the religious and political scene of the Christian world changed rapidly. Byzantium lost its hold on the West; Africa and Spain became Muslim camps, and Christianity turned to the Germanic peoples. The affairs of the Church were more and more discussed in national diets and councils, where the decisive word was often left to the secular power.
The very organization of charity among the new peoples mirrored social and economic conditions very different from those of the preceding epoch. In the ancient Church, most of the poor were urban and all charitable works stemmed from the bishop; but the Germanic people were rural. To adapt to this situation, a process of administrative decentralization slowly developed through the erection of rural churches (parishes) served by resident clergy to whom were confided those charitable works that had been the concern of the bishops [see G. Forchielli, La pieve Rurale (Bologna 1938)].
The evolution is especially clear in Merovingian France of the 6th century. With the increase of conversions in the country and the expansion of dioceses, the relations between the rural community and the bishop became more and more difficult. A need for churches that would be religiously and economically independent, though still under the authority of the bishop, consequently arose. A step toward decentralization of administration was occasioned by the prohibition to transfer ecclesiastical possessions [ Conc. Epaon. (c. 517) c. 12 in Conc. aevi merovingici 22]. The rapid growth of the bishops' patrimonies made efficient administration impossible, and distribution of assistance to the poor declined. A solution was found in the free transfer or rent of small properties to poor laymen (the precaris ) or ecclesiastics. When the Council of Orléans (c. 538) forbade the bishops to take back the grants already made to ecclesiastics (c. 20; ibid. 79) the foundations of the regime of benefices was laid. The Council of Carpentras (c. 527) went further and authorized rural churches to accept legacies (ibid. 41). As a consequence canonical legislation regarding the role of bishops in patrimonial matters was extended to the parish priests. The decentralization of the administration of Church funds was accompanied by the decentralization of charitable work as well. This took place toward the middle of the 6th century and was sanctioned by the synod of Tours in 567, which imposed on each ecclesiastical community or parish the obligation of taking care of its own poor: "Each city shall nourish its poor and needy with suitable food—according to its means" (c. 5 ibid. 123). This new approach to charity was authorized in all the states of the Carolingian Empire and even beyond: in Spain, England, and even in Rome during the time of Adrian I (772–795).
Before Charlemagne, the practice of charity involved the Church in great difficulties under the last of the Merovingian kings. Clovis claimed and obtained the right to name the higher clergy (Conc. Aurel. c. 4 in Conc. aevi merovingici, 4). As a result, the dioceses were soon occupied by men from the court who used the goods of the poor for their personal needs. The golden age of charity was only a memory.
Decadence reached its peak under Charles Martel, who handed over Church property to his own vassals. Their misuse of it brought on the impoverishment and demoralization of the clergy. The strenuous efforts of St. boniface, the apostle of Germany, succeeded in obtaining the recognition of Church property and the promised payment of an annual rent by the new beneficaries [Synod of Lestinnes (c. 743) Monumenta Germaniae historica, Conc. Aevi Karolini, 1.7, iii]; but with Pepin the Short secularization of Church revenues returned.
The work of Charlemagne and feudal decadence. A renewal took place under Charlemagne, who, although holding firmly to the idea that the sovereign had a right to dispose of Church property, was faithful to his program of becoming the refuge of the needy [Monum. Germ. Hist. Capitulare Missorum (c. 802) in Capitularia Regum Francorum 1:93]. He sought to stop abuses and both supported and encouraged ecclesiastical benefices; decisions in this matter can be found in the capitularia of Charlemagne. They contain norms for providing shelters [Cap. Franc. (c. 783)], assistance to widows and orphans [Cap. Saxon. (c. 797)], and hospitality to strangers [Cap. Missorum (c. 802)]. At the Chapter of Nimwegen (806), which regulated the practice of begging and the repression of vagabondage, the duties of the nobles toward the poor of their domains was also fixed as well as the obligation of running the xenodochia according to the intentions of the founders. The missi dominici, charged with controlling the administration of the nobles, had to watch over and respect the rights of the poor and the correct use of revenues and resources destined for them.
Under Louis the Pious another strong impulse toward charitable action on the part of the clergy was attempted in the synod of Aachen (Aquisgranum, c. 817). In the spirit of the canonical reform introduced by Chrodegang of Metz, some decisions of the synod referred to the organization of charity: each bishop was obliged to maintain a hospice for the needy, and the clergy was obliged to contribute to its support by paying a tax on their income. The direction of the hospice was to be in the hands of a canon. Monks were obliged to erect a hospital outside the cloister, but within the monastery, and were required to shelter widows and destitute women in a suitable house.
The influence of the Carolingian legislation was felt in England where, as in the imperial dominions, the economic basis for charity was the payment of tithes [Canones Aelfrici (c. 960) in D. Wilkins, Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae (London 1737) 1:253] imposed on the nobles of the kingdom as well as on the clergy [Constit. Regis Aethelstani (c. 928); Canones sub Edgaro Rege, (c. 960); Wilkins, 1:205, 238]. Even after the decadence caused by the Lombards in Italy, the Carolingian influence was felt. Old hospices were restored to their original use after the secularization of Charles Martel [C. Mantuanum (c. 782) c. 12; Pippini capitulare italicum (c. 801–810) in Capitularia Regum Francorum 1:195:3; 210:9]. Others arose in the course of the next century. The foundation by the archpriest Datheus in Milan of a hospice for abandoned children was characteristic (Muratori, Antiquitates Italicae 3:587). In Rome the charitable activity of the popes was noteworthy: Paul I, a worthy emulator of Gregory the Great (Lib. pont. 1.463); Adrian I, (772–795); Leo III (795–816); and Pascal I (817–824). The Liber pontificalis stressed the interest and charity of Pascal I toward distant communities like those in Spain, to which he sent help for the ransom of prisoners (Lib. pont. 2:60).
The principal means the popes employed in Rome to administer "alms to our brethren in Christ—the poor" (Liber diurnus, form. 95) were the diaconias, which from the end of the 7th century to the 9th kept their specific character of public institutions for charitable aid. Popes, clergy, and laity contributed to their upkeep [G. Ferrari, OSB, Early Roman Monasteries (Rome 1957) 355–361].
Decline of Charitable Institutions. After Charlemagne, notwithstanding the precautions sanctioned by Louis the Pious, charitable organizations underwent another decline. In fact, the general historical situation did not leave much room for charity. Europe was again in conflict and countries were devastated; on the north by the Normans and Danes; on the east by the Magyars; on the southwest by the Saracens. The struggle between the successors of Charles increased the feudal anarchy, and the insecurity of the country and the difficulties of transport greatly reduced agriculture and trade.
The Church in councils frequently raised its voice on behalf of the oppressed: first through the "peace of god," which obliged belligerents to respect the rights of the innocent; then through the "Truce of God," which attempted to limit wars by making the belligerents respect Sunday as a holy day; later, the truce extended from Wednesday to the following Monday.
Effect of Feudalism on Charity. The exercise of charity was impeded also by the complex structure of feudal society. In principle, the Church maintained the supervision of public assistance but the spiritual power was limited by a network of privileges annexed to the land of a parish or a diocese; the clergy themselves were divided by diverse obediences. Besides, the feudal lord was obliged to assist the poor who lived on his lands and depended on him. In addition, trade associations, confraternities, and similar groups carried on works of charity. Hence, the exercise of charity was no longer the exclusive task of the Church. A common characteristic, however, signalized the most diverse initiatives, namely, the religious inspiration that was faithful to the teaching of the Church and a lively faith that put its resources at the service of the poor and suffering.
The breakdown of the practice of charity continued during the feudal period. In fact, except for England, the care of the poor by the Church does not reappear even in the 11th century, when a new spirit of religious reform began that was to establish itself strongly in the following century. The absence of the Church's voice from the Decretals of Gratian is symptomatic. The task of caring for the poor was left to individual institutions—the monasteries, hospital orders, and secular associations.
The monasteries. The charitable preoccupation of Eastern monasticism permeates the rule of St. Benedict and the customs of the great medieval abbeys. Almsgiving was traditionally one of the fruits of monastic labor. St. Basil, Cassian, the Regula Magistri —principal sources of St. Benedict's rule—taught that the monk should not only support himself but also give the fruit of his labor to the poor. St. Benedict lists comforting the poor (pauperes recreare ) as an example of good works, and he confides this task to the particular attention of the cellerarius, stating that "in them we minister to Christ." Following his example the medieval abbeys practiced great charity toward the poor, often devoting a large part of the monastery's income to that purpose. In one year, for example, the monastery of Cluny provided for 17,000 needy persons, and that of Saint-Riquier daily supplied the needs of 300 destitute persons, 150 widows, and 60 members of the clergy.
The reception of guests in the Middle Ages was an indirect form of giving alms to anyone who had need of a bed or a meal or was infirm or unable to work. St. Benedict dedicated a chapter of his rule to hospitality (Regula ch. 53). The guest house (hospitale hospitum ), designed to receive travelers, pilgrims, clerics, monks, and nobles both secular and ecclesiastic, was separated from the hospice for the poor (xenodochium ), which received beggars, invalids, the aged, and the infirm. After the reform of Charlemagne, cluny encouraged hospitality in all its forms and exemplified it throughout Europe. The Council of Mainz (1261) explicitly mentions that such hospices are usually annexed to every monastery [P. Schmitz, OSB, Histoire de l'Ordre de Saint Benoit 2 (Maredsous 1942) 34–50].
In the 12th century the Cistercians, wishing to live the Benedictine Rule in its original purity, gave a new impulse to charity. Outstanding among the members of this order was St. bernard of clairvaux whose abbey practiced almsgiving in all its forms. During a famine in Burgundy (1125) 2,000 poor were cared for by the saint. Every Cistercian abbey had a guest house where pilgrims, travelers, and the infirm received lodging and care. The abbot himself waited on them after having welcomed them by prostrating himself at their feet [E. Vacandard, Vie de Saint Bernard v. 1 (Paris 1910) 454)]. The monastery of heisterbach in 1197 distributed food daily to 1,500 poor people.
Canons regular and secular associations. If the exercise of charity and, in particular, of hospitality was considered in the Benedictine monasteries as a function subordinated to the contemplative ideal, the inherent value of this service was stressed by the canons regular who, in the renewed religious climate of the 12th and 13th centuries, were responsible for the renewal of hospitalitas in its widest social implication, viz, assistance to pilgrims and travelers, permanent and occasional care of the sick, the poor, expectant mothers, the aged, and abandoned children. Bound to cathedral chapters during the time of the Gregorian reform, they were genuine religious orders. The laity cooperated in providing hospices. The geographical location of these foundations—at a river crossing, in the heart of a forest, or an alpine pass—symbolized this intention to aid travelers and pilgrims. Together with the monks of Cluny, the Canons Regular played an important part in the organization of pilgrimages to the shrine of St. James in Compostella. The vogue of the legend of St. Julian the Hospitaler illustrates this movement in which the laity played an important part (C. Dereine in Dictionnaire d'histoire et geographie eccl. 12:385–386).
Augustinian hospital work flourished from the beginning of the 12th century, when many communities, all living under the rule of St. Augustine, devoted themselves to the care of the sick. Among the first were the Hospitalers of St. John of Jerusalem whose motto was: "Defense of the Faith and Service to the Poor." In the rule, written by Raymund of Puis, the sick man is defined as "quasi dominus" of the house [L. Le Grand, "Les maisons-Dieu," Revue des questions historiques 16(1896) 134)].
The teutonic knights added the obligation of serving the sick and pilgrims to military service. The Antonines directed the hospital of Mota (Vienne) and became the largest order of hospitalers in Europe. The order of the Holy Spirit was founded between 1170 and 1180 at Montpellier; to its founder, Innocent III confided the direction of the Roman hospital of S. Spirito in Sassia built in 1204.
The possession of hospitals by secular associations began in the 12th century when the Canons ceased to live a common life. Hospitals belonging to them were little by little taken over by groups other than religious orders. Thus, the Hôtel Dieu of Paris, which had been the hospital of the Chapter of Notre Dame, was confided (1217) to a corporation of four priests, 30 lay brothers, and 25 lay sisters. Although not bound by religious vows, this and similar autonomous communities of hospitalers lived a common life under the direction of a prior or prioress, and obeyed a rule of life based on that of a religious order, usually the rule of St. augustine. The latter was adapted to the particular circumstances and was completed by special statutes. Associations of this kind prospered everywhere: the Brothers of Penance in Brussels, the Beghards, the Alexians, the Hospitalers of Aubrac, Rodez, etc. Some joined an already existing order of hospitalers: for example, the Brothers of the Holy Spirit became associated with the order of the same name [M. Heimbucher, Die Orden und Kongregationen der Katholischen Kirche (3d ed. Paderborn 1933–34) 1:611–620].
Under the impulse of both the hospital orders and the autonomous associations, the network of new foundations spread rapidly in the 13th and 14th centuries. At first, these, too, were under the direction of the bishops, but the movement for emancipation of the cities, which tended to centralize public works in the hands of the city government, brought about the exclusion of the bishops from charitable institutions. The intervention of city magistrates did not limit itself to controlling the financial direction of the institutions but extended even to the choice of hospital personnel. Charity became the business of the state. The aim of this intrusion was not to remove pious works from religious influence but to avoid the guardianship of the bishops. This movement was felt particularly in Italy where bishops and abbots found themselves involved as temporal princes in a bloody rivalry between citizens and feudal authority. Nothing damaged charity so much as the quest for wealth and power. Because the Church was so intimately bound to the structure of medieval society it did not escape this pitfall, especially when peace brought wealth and well-being to the West. The luxury and worldly spirit displayed by many bishops and prelates provoked protests, one of the strongest being that of St. Bernard, who contrasted the hunger and nakedness of the poor with the pomp of bishops (De moribus et officio episcoporum 2 in Patrologia Latina 182:810) and even with the luxury displayed by monks in their churches: "The Church shines with walls, but is lacking in care for the poor" [Apologia 12:28 in S. Bernardi Opera III (Rome 1963) 105].
The influence of the mendicants. It is not surprising that when heretical movements arose in revolt against this neglect of the poor (waldenses, brothers and sisters of the free spirit, albigenses) St. francis of assisi's call to poverty and penance served as an exorcism (1182–1226). He does not belong to the heroes of charity for any external acts: he was not an innovator in works of charity; he did not found any charitable institutions. But the influence of the Poverello was extraordinary; his mysticism of poverty gave a new character to the exercise of charity. Medieval mysticism saw Christ in the poor; Franciscan spirituality gave this mysticism an intimate, fraternal spirit.
St. Francis has been perpetuated not only in the order he founded but also in the Third Orders and the Confraternities that incorporate his spirit. The same may be said of St. dominic. The Third Orders Regular for women prepared the way for the modern congregations of charity. They still exist in great numbers under Franciscan and Dominican titles. The Beguines also participated in this religious renewal and led many women to the practice of charity. (see beguines and beghards.) Living a religious life in small communities, although not bound by vows, these women dedicated themselves to pious works and the care of the sick both in hospitals and in their own homes. The movement had notable success in the Rhine Valley and the Low Countries. (see spirituality, rhenish; spirituality of the low countries.)
The increasing numbers of lay people of both sexes serving in health and welfare institutions can be explained by the growth of cities in which poor hygienic conditions contributed to illness, and inadequate sources of food supply created hunger. Preachers did not fail to encourage the alleviation of these conditions. Best known was the Franciscan Berthold von Reichensberg (d. 1272) who in his missions throughout Europe constantly extolled works of mercy as a true service of God. The response of the people is evident in the number of legacies to pious works and charitable foundations. In 1244 Pier Luca Borsi, head porter of a wool guild in Florence, founded the Company of Mercy with money he collected by taxing his colleagues for swearing. The Company of Bigallo (1256) in the same city developed into a powerful charitable institution. Symbols of the age's pious emulation are the hospitals in Chartres, Florence, Cologne, Lübeck, Milan, and Rome. But their grandiose exteriors were more impressive than their interior development and the services offered. In this respect the West had nothing to compare with contemporary Byzantine hospitals. The monastery of Pantocrator of Constantinople, which made such an impression on Anselm of Havelberg (1134–36), had annexed to it a series of charitable-social institutions. Beside the hospital itself, there was a home for the aged, a section for special diseases (the mentally ill and epileptics), a pharmacy run by laymen, and a school of medicine that carried on the tradition of aesculapius. A century later James of Vitry called attention to the hospitals of St. Anthony and St. Sanson, worthy to be numbered among the principal hospitals of Christianity[G. Schreiber, Gemeinschaften des Mittelalters (Regensberg, Münster 1948) 3–80].
Special charitable activities. In the West, although hospitals admitted those suffering from almost every kind of sickness, for sanitary reasons they did not accept those with diseases considered contagious, such as leprosy. Hospitals for lepers (leprosaria ) were organized outside the cities and were financed by legacies and donations. They were staffed by communities of lay brothers and sisters, such as the Franciscans and the Knights of St. Lazarus. The latter group founded a large number of leprosaria, possibly 3,000, throughout Europe.
From the time of St. Louis IX hospitals for the blind had been established in Paris (L'Hôpital des Quinze-Vingts), Hanover (1256), Tournai (1351), and Padua (14th century). Toward the end of the Middle Ages conditions for the care of the mentally ill, who until then had been treated as prisoners or worse, were greatly improved and hospitals were erected in Hamburg (1375) and Mirandola (1400). Special hospices for orphans and foundlings increased in number, especially in Italy as early as the 15th century. One of the most famous was the Hospital of the Innocents founded in Florence in the 15th century.
Special concern was shown for prostitutes. Their number had multiplied after the Crusades through the dissoluteness of the soldiers and the development of the towns. Innocent III in 1198 called attention to this social calamity. A house of refuge, the first nucleus of a religious congregation, was founded in Paris in 1204 by Folcus of Neuilly. His example soon found imitators in Marseilles, Bologna, Rome, and Messina. In Germany the Congregation of the Penitents of St. Mary Magdalen was founded. Its inspiration grew out of the Council of Mainz (1225) and the congregation was constituted an order for penitents by Gregory IX as a result of their favorable influence in various cities. In the 13th century there were 50 houses of the order.
Special hospices for the assistance of travelers greatly increased. From the 11th century hospices were established near mountains, forests, and rivers—special hazards for the traveler. Hence arose the mountain refuges (Roncesvalles, Grand-Saint-Bernard, Aubrac, Vallombrose, etc.); the work of the "Fratres Pontifices" (Bridge Builders) in Provence and Spain, who constructed bridges and roads, and the Congregation of Altopascio, in Italy, whose members transported travelers across the marshes of Lucca; and the forest refuges in the North (Flône, Affligem, Vicogne, etc). Associations for the maintenance of roads and bridges were protected by kings and lords and favored with indulgences by the bishops.
Another work prompted by charity was the ransoming of prisoners captured in the long struggle against the Moors in Spain. The first to dedicate himself to this work was St. john of matha. The trinitarians, founded by St. John and approved (1198) by Innocent III, ransomed prisoners and labored to alleviate the condition of those who remained in slavery. The Order of Mercy, founded by St. peter nolasco, was also dedicated to this work. It began as a military order but soon became a mendicant order.
Toward the end of the Middle Ages the shortcomings of the charitable institutions became many and evident. The cause of the poor suffered from the consequences of the Great Western Schism, the worldly spirit of many spiritual leaders, and the piling up of benefices and the system of giving in commendam that converted so many charitable institutions into sources of easy gain for those who held them. Added to this was the misery of the age: destitution caused by wars and the endless calamities that accompanied them. Charity, it is true, still had at its disposal resources and an organization: confraternities increased in number; the instinct for charitable giving, as is shown by the number of legacies and bequests, remained alive in individuals. But charity lost its luster because it was no longer in intimate touch with the misery of the poor; it took on bourgeois attitudes and its very instruments became fossilized. In the 16th century the revival of the Church in its better representatives moved toward a revival of charity. Meanwhile, the Church had to meet the new era under unfavorable conditions, giving ground in some regions to the attacks of the Protestant reformation and surrendering a large part of its position to the civil power.
The secularization of charity, which began during the period of the communes, spread considerably at the beginning of the 16th century and achieved a complete separation from the Church because of the Reformation. The process was closely related to contemporary socioeconomic developments and to the new spiritual movements inherent in humanism. The object of charitable assistance was no longer the poor man as a brother in Christ but the citizen as such. Charity was divested of its transcendent quality. Currents of the new orientation were strong in the Flemish cities, in the Rhineland, in other sectors of the Empire, and in Italy.
It was not that the Church relegated, even temporarily, her charitable action to convents and religious sodalities. The intervention of the Church continued to leave its mark on social institutions; e.g., the measures it took against the abuses of usurers, and in particular the erection of public pawnbroker establishments, montes pietatis, protected by the Franciscans. These developed especially in Italy in the 15th century through the initiative of Barnabas of Terni, St. James of the Marches, Louis of Verona, St. John Capistran and, above all, by Bl. Bernadine of Feltre [M. Weber, Les Origines des Montsde-Piété (Rixheim 1920)]. In countries not yet touched by heresy there was beneficial collaboration between civil and religious authorities. Thus in Italy, Pius II in 1458 issued a bull recognizing the statutes of hospitals founded by the state in Milanese territory. In Portugal the popes were always disposed to collaborate with secular authority for the expansion of charitable institutions: e.g., Alexander VI, who (1499) authorized King Don Manuel to incorporate small hospitals in Coimbra, Evora, and Santarem into the larger hospitals of the same locality, and finally extended the permission to other places; Leo X, who at the request of the king (1516) provided benefices for All Saints' Hospital in Lisbon. Since most charitable institutions were of ecclesiastical origin, jurisdiction over many of them was given to the clergy.[F. de Almeida, Historia da Igreja em Portugal, v. 1 (Coimbra 1915) 2:467–470].
Where the secular power violently attacked the rights and works of the Church, as in Protestant countries, there were grave results. "Under the Popes," luther admitted, "there was a strong drive to give alms to the poor, but now everyone has become cold and insensible" [H. Grisar, Martin Luthers Leben und sein Werk (Freiburg 1926) 497]. It was really Luther himself who contributed to this situation by his doctrine on the inefficacy of good works for salvation, at a time when there was a fresh outbreak of poverty largely as a result of the confiscation by secular authority of monasteries and other sources of Catholic charity.
The work of the Council of Trent. The Council of trent contributed greatly to improving the spirit of charity. The earnest entreaties of that synod had antecedents that cannot be ignored. Such, for example, was the initiative of the bishop of Verona Gian Matteo Giberti (1495–1543). Assisted by Louis di Canossa, bishop of Bayeux, Giberti founded (1528) a large Xenodochium Misericordiae for orphans and the infirm; the following year he founded a society of charity; he reopened many Montes Pietatis and provided for the rehabilitation of prostitutes; he named visitors for each parish to make a census of the poor in order to assist them with public funds. At his death he left 6,000 gold florins for charitable works. Many of his recommendations to the clergy were included in the canons of the Council of Trent.
At the same time, numerous charitable associations were carrying on important works: the Company of St. Jerome and the Company of Divine Love, founded respectively at the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th, did much to revivify charitable endeavors. From the Company of Divine Love sprang a new institution to assist those afflicted with syphilis, for which there was then no cure. Syphilitics were always refused by hospitals for fear of contagion. Thanks to the generosity of Ettore Vernazza, the first hospital for such incurables was erected in Genoa (1499); Rome, Naples, and other cities followed suit [P. Cassiano da Langasco, Gli ospedali degli incurabli (Genoa 1938)].
New Charitable Orders. Charity was revived with the rise of new religious orders that either made charity a primary end or gave it an important place. Among the first group were the Congregation of Clerks Regular of Somascha founded about 1530 by St. Jerome emiliani for the care of orphans; the Brothers of St. John of God, and the Ministers of the Sick of St. Camillus for the care of the sick and for hospital service. The second group included the Barnabites, Capuchins, Jesuits, Clerks Regular of the Religious Schools, and the Theatines.
Through the Council of Trent the Church not only reaffirmed the validity and the indispensability of good works for salvation but even promulgated a juridical order for the development of this position, proclaiming indirectly, by numerous works of mercy, the primacy of charity.
The Influence of the Bishops. Both the means approved by the council for the administration of pious works and the powers of control confided to the bishops influenced more or less extensively the bishops' actions. There was almost no activity in the countries won over to Protestantism; episcopal action was fettered in France, where civil authority was dominant, but functioned freely in Spain and Italy, where the authority of the bishops was recognized. A noble example was St. Charles borromeo in Milan who devoted himself to putting the spirit of Trent into practice. He lived so much like the poor that in his funeral oration it was said: "Charles had of his wealth what the dog had of the wealth of his master; a little water and a little straw." The 11 diocesan synods and the six provincial synods over which he presided regulated the care of the needy with a real sense of pastoral responsibility. He approved the new society of Ursulines in Brescia, founded to educate the children of the poor, and he aided in every possible way the development of numerous houses already existing in Milan for the rehabilitation of wayward girls. To the Oblates of St. Ambrose, which he founded in 1578, he assigned the care of souls in charitable institutions. During a plague in 1576, he replaced the governor who had fled and went about among the stricken, consoling and assisting them. He exhorted his clergy to aid the victims of the plague even to the point of sacrificing their lives [Delle cure della peste. Istruttione di s. Carlo card. di Santa Praesede ed arciv. di Milano (Venice 1630)].
Charity in mission lands. The missionary work of religious orders opened new fields for Christian charity and enlarged others already initiated by the hierarchy. After the conquest of New Spain, institutions for the relief of the natives had been established under the direction and with the cooperation of the Church. Vasco de quiroga, Bishop of Michoacán (1537–65), was one of the pioneers of charity. While still a layman and a member of the second tribunal of Mexico he learned of the extreme misery of the native peoples and with his own money built a hospital, Santa Fé, which he later completed by adding a home for abandoned children. In 1533 he was sent on a mission to the Province of Michoacán and built another Santa Fé on the banks of Lake Pátzcuaro near Vayámeo. When he returned to Michoacán in 1538 as bishop, he began, with the favor of the crown, the organization of work in common, the equal division of the fruits of labor, civil and religious education, and the eradication of begging and vagabondage. Before Quiroga, others had begun similar institutions such as the hospital of Jesus Nazareno, founded (c. 1521) by Fernando Cortés. Later, in 1534, Bishop zumÁrraga founded an institution of charity in Mexico, called Amor de Dios, which grew through revenues from Charles V. Toward the middle of the 16th century, the hospital of St. Joseph was founded for the natives. In 1564 Dr. Pedro Ortiz founded the hospital of St. Lazarus for lepers. This was followed by another, Nuestra Señora de Los Desamparados, for blacks, mulattoes, and poor children. The franciscans and augustinians were energetic hospital builders in New Spain, especially in Michoacán, where charitable institutions developed rapidly. This work was especially necessary because of the severe epidemics. In 1555 the provincial synod of Messino decreed that there should be a hospital next to the church in every village. This decree bore fruit in the following decade.
Charitable works had other promoters as well—among them viceroys, governors, confraternities, and private citizens. They met the most diverse needs and populated the southern provinces with hospitals, hospices for the poor and penitents, maternity homes, and homes for abandoned children. Montes Pietatis were established at Darien and Bogota in Colombia (1555); Lima (1538), Cuczo (1538), Huamanga (1555), and Juli (1570) in Peru; Santa Cruz de la Sierra (1612) and La Paz (1617) in Bolivia; Quito (1565) in Eucador; Santiago (1540) and La Imperial (1570) in Chile. The work developed from Mexico to Argentina and from the Antilles to the Philippines.
In the Portuguese colonies overseas, the practice of charity flowed naturally from the tradition of the mother country. In addition to the usual relief given to beggars by the secular and religious clergy particular help was given during epidemics or other public calamities. Such, for instance, were the famine (1564–76) in Braga; the plague (1569, 1579, 1598) in Lisbon, in Braga (1569) in Evora (1580), and at other times in Algarve, Santarem, and Coimbra. In these crises the generosity and heroism of priests and religious and particularly of Bps. Bartolomeo dos Mártyres and Theotonio de Braganza were exemplary. Among works begun by the clergy were the hospital of St. Mark in Braga, the orphanages of Our Lady of Grace and Our Lady of Hope in Oporto, the Pietà hospital and orphanage in Evora, the retreats of St. Mary Magdalen in Castillo Branco and Coimbra, the orphanage of Jesus and the retreats of Our Lady of the Incarnation and Our Lady of the Angels in Lisbon [F. De Almeida Historia de Igreja en Portugal, v. 3 (Coimbra 1915) 2:467–488].
During the Middle Ages many religious associations of the laity in Portugal were dedicated to charitable practices, e.g., Espíritu Santo, Nossa Senhora de Rocamador, Nossa Senhora de Piedade, Penitêncîa, and Santissima Trinidade. Queen isabella greatly influenced these organizations and in her will she mentioned "Santa Misericordia de Rocamador." The name "Misericordia" is especially connected with two persons: Queen Eleanor, wife of John II, and Fra Miguel Contreras, a Spanish Trinitarian. On the advice of the latter, the Queen founded (1498) the Confraternity of Misericordia in Lisbon, which spread rapidly throughout Portugal and across the ocean. The statutes (compromisso ) of this pious association (issued 1516) bound the 100 members, half of whom belonged to the nobility and half to the working class, to the practice of the 14 works of mercy. Members went in pairs to visit the sick, prisoners, and poor people in their homes to discover their needs and supply them with food, money, dwellings, beds, etc. The many privileges that King Manuel granted to the association occasioned its rapid spread. At the death of Queen Eleanor (1525), 61 branches of the Misericordia had taken solid root in metropolitan territory [see V. Ribeiro, A santa casa da Misericordia de Lisboa (Lisbon 1902)].
From the 17th to the 19th centuries the Misericordia spread to Portuguese dominions overseas. In Asia there were more than 25, some of which still exist (Goa, Ormuz, Diu, Damâo, Chaul Cannanore, Cochin, Quilon, Nagatapam, Colombo, Mannar). The Misericordia at Goa, the first (1519) and most important branch, added to the general charitable program outlined by the compromisso of Lisbon the establishment of the Hospital del Rei (1542) and the Hospital dos pobres (1568) for Christian natives and the care of needy young girls, especially orphans. Another social and religious problem arose—that of the prostitutes whom the confraternity sought to help by founding homes for penitents, such as Nossa Senhora da Serra (1605) and Santa Maria Magdalena (1609). Furthermore, in the East the Misericordia took on the functions of a bank and became the guardian of legacies and inheritances which, after the death of the owners, were transferred to their heirs in the mother country.
Pietro della Valle summed up the work of the Misericordia in Goa: "… almost all the works of mercy which elsewhere are performed by diverse institutions and societies are carried on here by the Misericordia, which keeps deposits, handles letters of credit, helps the poor, the sick, hospitals and prisoners, protects children, arranges marriages, looks after converted prostitutes, redeems slaves; in short, does all the works of mercy of which a city or country has need. Surely it is a holy thing and of infinite service to the public …" [J. Wicki, SJ, "Die Bruderschaft der 'Misericordia' in Portugiesisch-Indien," Das Laienapostolat in den Missionem (Beckenried 1961) 79–97].
In the 16th century offsprings of the Portuguese Misericordia were found even in Japan (Nagasaki, Sakai). But the activity of the famous institution did not cover all charitable work in the Far East when missionaries entered the scene. The Jesuits in Japan began a hospital at Oita (Kyushu) with the help of a Portuguese doctor, Luis d'Almeida (c. 1555); foundations of the same kind for men, women, and lepers multiplied in the following decade at Nagasaki, Sakai, and Urakmi. Through the work of the Franciscans, who had erected St. Anne's Hospital in Manila (1580–81), two others were built (1594–97) at Miyako [D. Schilling, OFM, Hospitäler der Franziskaner in Miyako (Beckenried 1950)]. The Jesuits also founded hospitals in India for the natives at Margão (Salsete) and especially in the Pescadores and Mannar, where there were seven by 1571 (Mon. Hist. S.J., Documenta Indica 8:32–33).
In Brazil, the Misericordia worked in Baía, Maranhão, Santos, and Rio de Janeiro, and missionaries ran hospitals in all the great centers. The Jesuits were especially active [S. Leite, Historia da Companhia de Jesus no Brazil (Lisbon 1938) 2:570]. The college at Rio had a hospital annexed to it and provided two large rooms where slaves and their families were cared for. The colleges in general were centers of charitable work. In every college there was a priest who was "procurator of the poor." The work of assistance included another beneficial social function: the workmen were the first to benefit from the harvest on the estates connected with the missions.
Mention must be made of those who tried to limit the effects of the commercial organization of slavery after the conquest of South America. If, notwithstanding the abominable crimes of which they were victims, the slaves embraced the religion of their oppressors, it was because of the charity of its missionaries. Peter claver (1580–1654), "the slave of the Negro slaves," is a symbol; for 40 years he was the incarnation of heroic charity. Other protectors of the natives and slaves were Bartolomé de las casas (1474–1566) and Antonio Vieira (1608–97), who dared to condemn the iniquity of government officials and slave traders.
The problem of begging and St. Vincent de Paul. Economic and political factors at the beginning of modern times brought about an almost permanent state of pauperism for large segments of the population and led to the consequent problem of begging. The Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives had studied the problem in De subventione pauperum, sive de humanis necessitatibus (Bruges 1526). The Benedictine Juan medina published De la orden que en algunos pueblos de España se ha puesto en la limosína para remedio de los verdaderos pobres (Salamanca 1545). Both books advocated the suppression of begging and the gathering of the genuinely poor into public institutions. Practical application of these principles was attempted in Flanders and the Spanish countries, but protests arose, e.g., D. de Soto's authoritative Deliberacion en la causa de los pobres (Salamanca 1545). [On this question see A. Muller, La querelle des fondations charitables en Belgique (Brussels 1909).] The secular power intervened to repress begging, first by general prohibitions and then by threats of corporal punishment, including death (as in England, the Low Countries, and Flanders).
The prohibitions were useless; the necessity of offering asylum to the homeless, the sick, and the unemployed remained. Attempts to solve the problem were made by housing beggars in buildings destined for this purpose and providing work for them. Hospices of this kind appeared everywhere. Sixtus V founded one in Rome; it soon closed for lack of funds, but was reopened by Innocent XII and Clement XI. In Spain shelters (albergues ), extolled by Christoval Perez de Herrera in Discursos del amparo de los legitimos pobres y reductión de los fingidos … (Madrid 1598), multiplied but without significant results. In England workhouses developed around the end of the 17th century. Fruitless attempts to cope with the problem were made in France, where in Paris alone there were about 40,000 beggars.
St. vincent de paul came on the scene at this juncture. He is considered the most characteristic representative of Catholic charity in modern times, justly called "Le ministre de la charité nationale, le grand aumônier de la France." The confraternity of charity that he organized (1617) among his parishioners of Chatillon-les-Dombes to visit the sick poor in their homes was the seed from which a remarkable number of charitable institutions grew. He brought women into charitable works more completely and more independently than ever before. For members of the nobility he founded the Ladies of Charity, who soon spread to all the provinces of France. Since they were unable to cope with all the needs of the poor, the saint, with the aid of St. louise de marillac, founded (1633) the Daughters of charity, a religious congregation devoted entirely to the service of the poor. Similar institutions were founded under the influence of the Daughters of Charity: the Daughters of St. Géneviève, founded by Françoise de Blosset; the Daughters of the Holy Family, by Maria Miramion; the Daughters of Providence, etc. Pauperism was reduced in France by the untiring work of these institutions. In 1653 the hospital of the Holy Name of Jesus was founded in Paris (the modern Hospital of the Incurables) to take care of the aged. In 1656 the General Hospital was founded to care for and give work to beggars. Louis XIV donated a number of buildings for this purpose, thus enabling the hospital to receive as many as 10,000 needy persons and foundlings. With the help of the clergy, especially the Jesuits, other general hospitals were founded in the provinces. Père Chaurand alone founded about 123 and Père Guevarre, who succeeded him after his death, continued the work in various parts of France and in Piedmont [C. Joret, Le P. Guevarre et la fondation des bureaux de charité du XVII siècle (Toulouse 1899)].
Specialized assistance. Failing in their aim to eliminate begging, the general hospitals took up their original role of helping the really poor, the infirm, orphans, and destitute women. In France the Hôtels-Dieu, open to all types of unfortunates, spread throughout the country, though often the help they gave was more generous than wise. Every year 25,000 persons passed through the hÔtel-dieu in Paris. The same was true of Rome's hospital of St. James in Augusta. But certain categories of needy were taken care of in specialized houses. Hospitals for strangers in Rome have been mentioned: there were 22 of these, seven of which were founded after the 15th century [Piazza, Opere pie di Roma (Rome 1697)]. Through the initiative of St. Philip neri, the hospital of the Trinity for pilgrims was founded in Rome; another of the same type was started in Naples. Orphans found asylum with the somascan fathers (an order founded by St. Jerome Emiliani c. 1528 for the care of orphans), while other institutions provided for the moral preservation of young girls; 17 in Rome, 22 in Naples, etc. Refuges for the rehabilitation of prostitutes were numerous in Palermo, Naples, Florence, etc.
The Mentally Ill. Vives in his De subventione pauperum had given wise counsel for the treatment of these unfortunates, but his contemporaries continued to consider the mentally ill as possessed or sorcerers. They were interned in common prisons, not with a view to cure but to assure public safety. They were treated like animals until the end of the 18th century, and very few asylums were provided for them in any country before the 19th century. In Spain there were asylums at Valencia, the Association of the Innocents (1409) founded by a member of the Order of Mercy; at Saragossa, the hospital of Our Lady of Grace (1425) founded by Alfonso of Aragon; and other institutions at Seville (1436), Valladolid (1489), and Toledo (1483). In Italy the care of the insane was confided to the Roman confraternity of S. Maria della Pietà, which rose under Pius IV (1561) and which in the 18th century came under the direction of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. In England, an ancient priory in London (Bedlam) was transformed into a mental hospital at the time of Henry VIII. In the 18th century, similar asylums rose in York, Nottingham, Manchester, Norwich, and Liverpool. At the same period, there were houses for the insane in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Ghent. Coercive methods used with the violent were often nothing less than torture; and patients were chained, not only during their violent seizures, but permanently. It was only at the end of the 17th century that courageous doctors in France began using the straight jacket.
Deaf Mutes. As early as the 16th century serious efforts had been made to rehabilitate deaf mutes. This problem greatly interested the former Jesuit L. Hervás y Panduro toward the end of the 18th century [see his Escuela española de sordomudos, 2 v. (Madrid 1795) 1:8]. Spain was the first country to provide educators for these unfortunates: the Benedictine Pedro Ponce de León (d.1584) taught speaking, writing, arithmetic, and religion to deaf mutes (Hervás y Panduro, op. cit., 1:297–305). His example bore fruit and in 1620 Juan Pablo Bonet of Aragon suggested in Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a hablar los mudos grammatical instruction according to the inductive method. Attempts of this kind multiplied everywhere: in England, by an Oxford professor, John Wallis (1660–61); in Holland, at Amsterdam, by a Swiss doctor Johan Konrad Amman (Surdus et mutus loquens, 1692); in Italy, by Fabrizio d'Acquapendente at Padua and by the Jesuit F. Lana-Terzi at Brescia; in France, by the Spanish Jew Jacob Rodriguez Pereira. But it was Abbé Charles-Michel de l'Épée (c. 1712–89) who opened institutions for these unfortunates, teaching them by a method of imitation. Abbé Tommaso Silvestri, who opened a similar school in Rome in 1784; Abbé Stork, who perfected the one already existing in Vienna; and Henri Daniel Guyot, who in 1790 started a like institution in Groningen, Holland, all studied and used the method of Charles-Michel. Religious and priests were pioneers in this difficult field of education.
Prisoners and Captives. Christian charity placed special emphasis on aid to the incarcerated. Prison conditions were atrocious and cruelty was commonplace. But protesting voices offered concrete suggestions: in Spain, Cristóforo Pérez de Herrera (1598) called for prison inspection to correct negligence and limit the absolute power of those in authority; in Italy, G. Battista Scanaroli of Modena (1655) published a work rich in interesting proposals, and in France D. Mabillon (1695), referring to the imprisonment of religious, proposed an excellent program that seemed to be a forerunner of the penal reform of the 19th century [Thuiller, Ouvrages posthumes de D. Mabillon (Paris 1724) 2:321–335]. But public attention was especially awakened in the 18th century when an Englishman, John Howard, revealed the condition of European prisons after firsthand inquiry in different countries.
In the meantime the Church supplied these deficiencies as best she could. Hundreds of confraternities with this specific aim developed. A few examples will suffice: in Rome, the Archconfraternity of Charity founded in 1519 by Cardinal Giulio de Medici (later Pope ClementVII); in Milan (where work for the imprisoned was quite ancient and greatly influenced by Charles Borromeo), the confraternities of Pietà and Our Lady of Loreto, which constituted, according to the judgment of G. Toniolo "a reform school for penal law and prisons much older and more efficacious than the writings of Beccaria" [L'Histoire de la Charité en Italie in Congrès scientif. des Catholiques (Brussels 1895)]. There were numerous confraternities of this kind in France: at Aix, the White Penitents (1517) and the Sisters of the Dominican Third Order, who took care of female prisoners; at Marseilles, the Work of Prisons (1674); at Lyons the Confraternity of Mercy (1636). In France the intervention of St. Vincent de Paul on behalf of those condemned to the galleys was particularly effective.
This latter group of unfortunates calls to mind another great social problem. After the defeat of the Moors in Spain, piracy became organized. Pirate ships from the Mediterranean ports of North Africa sacked the coasts of Spain, France, and Italy, and carried men, women, and children into slavery. Their sufferings awakened heroic dedication all over the West. Trinitarians and merce-darians continued their mission, although the difficulties of the time obliged them to modify their primitive rule. The Trinitarians organized confraternities to gather funds for the ransom of captive Christians. Other societies performed the same tasks, e.g., the Roman confraternity of the Gonfalone. The Lazarists in Tunis and Algiers sacrificed themselves for the material and spiritual comfort of Christian slaves. Lack of documentation makes it difficult to determine the number of persons ransomed. In the 18th century the Trinitarians and Mercedarians united their efforts and special missions went abroad every three or four years. In 1720 about 1,000 prisoners were liberated.
Charity after the French Revolution. Works of charity in the second half of the 18th century dried up at the source in many European countries after the suppression of mortmain and the secularization of public help. States confiscated the property of pious foundations and used it for other purposes. In France this confiscation was carried out on a large scale during the Revolution of 1789; the goods of the clergy were seized (Nov. 2, 1790) and religious congregations suppressed (Aug. 18, 1792). Hospital funds were declared national property (1794) and all assistance centralized in the state. The repercussions in the field of charity were disastrous. On the eve of the Revolution the poor and sick found help from 35,000 religious, in 2,000 hospitals, capable of receiving 100,000 unfortunates and spending annually 30 million lire (R. Herrman, La Charité de l'Église, 149). When private charity was abolished by the Revolution as being humiliating, the poor fell into the most complete destitution.
Resurgence of Religious Institutions. But the state had to retreat. By 1796 it became necessary for the French government to give back to charitable institutions all property that had not been sold or given away; an effort was made in the towns to organize offices of assistance and committees for the poor; nursing sisters had to be called upon to staff hospitals while awaiting Napoleon's decree of 1804, which reestablished religious teaching congregations. Charitable congregations of women were then aided by the state.
In the 19th century the resurgence of charity was so great that it is impossible to measure its achievements. The growth of charitable institutions already in existence was significant (the Daughters of Charity in less than 50 years increased from 1,500 members to 8,000). A great number of new institutions, especially those for women, made the service of the poor the principal aim of their vocation. They spread rapidly in countries like Germany, where after the secularization of relief and the near disappearance of local hospitals, a rebirth of religious congregations was evident. The Daughters of Charity, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, and the Sisters of St. Charles may be instanced. Even important personages in the political and cultural fields wrote their names in the annals of charity: Antonio rosmini-serbati (1797–1855), for example, was the founder of the Institute of Charity (1828) and the Sisters of Providence (1833).
Needs of the Period Met by New Foundations. Works of charity proliferated to such an extent as to pose a problem of wise administration. In Turin, for example, the Little House of Divine Providence, founded by St. Giuseppe cottolengo (1786–1842), formed a city within a city with its 8,000 unfortunates of all classes (aged, sick, insane, retarded) who were cared for by hundreds of nuns and priests [P. Gastaldi, I prodigi della carità cristiana (Turin 1910)]. St. John bosco (1815–88) assured the continuity of his institutions for needy youth by founding the Salesian Fathers (1859) and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters, 1874).
There was no type of misery that did not find a vocation to succor it: in France a young servant girl, Jeanne Jugan, founded the Little Sisters of the Poor and Aged (1840) to provide homes for the aged; Anna M. Jahouvey founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny in 1807 (see st. joseph, sisters of) to care for infants; Father Ludovico da Casoria in Naples founded the Grey Brothers and the Sisters of St. Elizabeth for the care of the blind and deaf mutes; St. M. Euphrasia pelletier founded the Sisters of the good shepherd (1835) to aid women with criminal records or who had fallen into vice; and the Marchesa Giulia Falletti Barolo founded the Daughters of Anne of Providence. Don L. orione (1872–1940), who with Don Bosco and Cottolengo, forms the Italian triumvirate of great apostles of charity, founded the Daughters of Divine Providence and the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity. "Convinced that the world would be conquered by love," he created in Italy and beyond an immense network of foundations.
The introduction of the Catholic laity. In the first half of the 19th century a new phenomenon arose in the history of charity—the organized participation of Catholic laymen. In 1801 in Paris, under the direction of the former Jesuit Delpuits and through the initiative of some medical and law students, the Congregation of Maria Auxilium Christianorum was founded; it is recognized as the source of modern French charity [G. de Grandmaison La Congregation (Paris 1902)]. It was destroyed by the revolution of 1830, but three years later it was replaced by another group of lay apostles, the nucleus of the Conference of Charity, called, after 1836, the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. This group was composed of six university students in Paris led by A. Frédéric ozanam (1813–53) who, envisioning a vast association of charity for the relief of the lower classes in every country, saw his work spread rapidly through the whole Christian world. In the mid-1960s the membership numbered more than 210,000, divided into more than 15,000 working groups in 80 nations aiding all types of unfortunates with no distinction of religion and employing no humiliating investigations [Ozanam, Le Livre du Centenaire (Paris 1913)]. The work has female branches, such as the Society of St. Elizabeth in Germany and the Female Society of St. Vincent de Paul founded in 1856 by Celestine Scarabelli in Italy.
The plan of Ozanam was to put a group of selected Catholics at the service of the poor and thus establish bonds of brotherhood among those separated by rank and fortune. Using different means, others aimed at the same end: In Italy there were those who listened to the voices of Bruno Lanteri and Rosmini; in England a great number were mobilized by H. E. manning, the cardinal of the poor, in his war against misery. The very birth of Catholic socialism is associated with this movement of charity. In Germany, A. kolping and W. von ketteler, before being social reformers, were men of charity for the essence of charity is the desire to raise one's neighbor from his misery. One of the admirable features of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is that it avoids bureaucracy by direct and personal contact with the needy.
With the industrial revolution and the consequent accumulation of wealth by the few and the misery of the many, it became evident that the old idea of pure charity could not offer an adequate solution unless it were associated with the goals of "social justice." A few isolated attempts were made to infuse charity with the concepts of social justice. Such were, for example, Ozanam's advocacy (1840) of a "natural wage" that would assure the workingman and his family enough money to live and be educated; the beginnings of Christian socialism promoted by Père J. B. lacordaire, Abbé H. L. C. maret, and Ozanam in 1848; the "Union of Fribourg" (1886), which gathered a nucleus of interested Catholics from various countries in order to find a just solution for social problems. Some prelates, such as Ketteler, the bishop of Mainz in Germany, and Cardinal Manning in England, addressed themselves to the problem. But it was Pope Leo XIII, who wrote the Magna Carta of Christian social activity in the encyclical rerum novarum (1891). Pius XI's encyclical quadragesimo anno (1931) reaffirmed and updated Leo's teaching.
One essential point emerges from these solemn pontifical documents: the coexistence of two leading principles, social justice and social charity. Social justice must erect "a juridical and social order which can penetrate all economic life"; social charity "must be the soul of this order and public authority must work to protect it" (Quadragesimo anno ).
When social questions are discussed, temporal society and its common well-being are directly concerned. In this field the charity of the Church cannot indefinitely operate alone. Its role is sometimes temporary, until public authority takes necessary measures; at other times the Church assumes a complementary role, helping those who, for one reason or another, are not protected by laws that must be generalized and are sometimes too slow to meet cases of immediate need.
See Also: catholic near east welfare association; hospitals, history of; mercy, works of; catholic charities usa; pontifical mission for palestine.
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