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Give to the Poor Only Your Superfluous

Since Pope Francis is increasingly emphasizing his so-called "Church of the poor" and the obligation of all to give their properties to the needy, we are led to compare his doctrine with that of the previous Magisterium of the Church on this topic to see whether his demands are well-based.

When we read Leo XIII's Encyclical Rerum novarum, we find a different doctrine, which teaches us to give to the poor only after our own needs and conveniences and those of our families are satisfied. The following text is decisive on this topic.

Pope Leo XIII

Certainly no one is obliged to alleviate the needs of his neighbor by depriving himself of what is necessary for him and his family; nor must he suppress anything that is convenient or decent for his person. "No one, indeed, should live in a way that is not convenient to his state of life." (St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae II. II. q. 32, a. 6, e)

But, as long as his needs and decorum are satisfied, it is a duty to give from the superfluous to the poor. "From the superfluous give alms." (Lk 11:41)

This is not a duty of justice, except in the cases of extreme necessity, but a duty of Christian charity. Consequently, it is a duty whose fulfillment cannot be enforced by human justice. But, above the judgments of man and his laws, there are the law and judgment of Jesus Christ, our God. (§ 36)

(Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum novarum of May 15, 1891,
Petropolis: Vozes, 1954, p. 18)

Posted January 30, 2016