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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:02:03
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Perfectly well,” was my reply. To men you grant the outward material effect of the action; and to God you give the inward and spiritual movement of the intention; and by this equitable partition, you form an alliance between the laws of God and the laws of men. But, my dear sir, to be frank with you, I can hardly trust your premisses, and I suspect that your authors will tell another tale.”

The first of your Impostures, as you call them, is on the opinion of Vasquez upon alms-giving. To avoid all ambiguity, then, allow me to give a simple explanation of the matter in dispute. It is well known, fathers, that, according to the mind of the Church, there are two precepts touching alms: 1st, To give out of our superfluity in the case of the ordinary necessities of the poor”; and 2nd, To give even out of our necessaries, according to our circumstances, in cases of extreme necessity.” Thus says Cajetan, after St. Thomas; so that, to get at the mind of Vasquez on this subject, we must consider the rules he lays down, both in regard to necessaries and superfluities.

I believe that, father, said I; but you must allow me to tell you my opinion, and to show you to what a dreadful length this doctrine leads. When you say that ‘attrition, induced by the mere dread of punishment,’ is sufficient, with the sacrament, to justify sinners, does it not follow that a person may always expiate his sins in this way, and thus be saved without ever having loved God all his lifetime? Would your fathers venture to hold that?”

I am not far from being of the same mind,” returned he; but let us waive that point, and say no more about the judges.”

Take another instance: It is said in the Gospel, ‘Give alms of your superfluity.’ Several casuists, however, have contrived to discharge the wealthiest from the obligation of alms-giving. This may appear another paradox, but the matter is easily put to rights by giving such an interpretation to the word superfluity that it will seldom or never happen that any one is troubled with such an article. This feat has been accomplished by the learned Vasquez, in his Treatise on Alms, c. 4: ‘What men of the world lay up to improve their circumstances, or those of their relatives, cannot be termed superfluity, and accordingly, such a thing as superfluity is seldom to be found among men of the world, not even excepting kings.’ Diana, too, who generally founds on our fathers, having quoted these words of Vasquez, justly concludes, ‘that as to the question whether the rich are bound to give alms of their superfluity, even though the affirmative were true, it will seldom or never happen to be obligatory in practice.’”


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