Government Cannot LoveDEAL HUDSON
In the midst of Valentine’s Day sentiment, it’s refreshing to hear someone who speaks plainly about love. At a White House briefing on February 6, Jim Towey, the new Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives, said something that ought to be heard — “government cannot love.
In the midst of Valentine’s Day sentiment, it’s refreshing to hear
someone who speaks plainly about love. At a White House briefing on February 6,
Jim Towey, the new Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community
Initiatives, said something that ought to be heard — “government cannot love.
who is Catholic, knows something about the institutions that do works of love
and compassion. He led Florida’s health and social service agency, with 40,000
employees, later leaving to found an organization called Aging with Dignity. But
perhaps his most self-sacrificial work came as a full-time volunteer in Mother
Teresa’s Washington, D.C., AIDS hospice.
They first met on August 20,
1985. Towey was touring refugee camps in Southeast Asia for Sen. Mark Hatfield
when he decided to return through Calcutta to meet Mother Teresa. “I didn’t want
to be around poor people, but I wanted to meet Mother Teresa, so I promised myself
a five-day trip to Hawaii for the effort.”
He never got to Hawaii. Instead
he says he “met Jesus Christ in bed forty-six” when one of the sisters asked Towey
to clean a man with scabies. Having planned to “give the sister a twenty dollar
bill and leave,” Towey ended up working for the Sisters of Charity as legal counsel
for the next twelve years, including during his year-long stint in Washington,
Towey’s view of the faith-based initiative is animated by the example
of Mother Teresa’s integration of love for the Eucharist and service to the poor.
Thus, he doesn’t view his job as a simple matter of administering civil rights.
“The whole issue resolves around relieving the misery of the poor and recognizing
the God-given human dignity of the poor.”
Towey knows well that people
love people. However, an abstraction like government, albeit made up of laws and
those who administer them, cannot love. President Bush, himself, has made this
observation on a number of occasions, yet I’ve never seen anyone comment on it.
That’s a shame, since the view is clearly influenced by the Catholic principle
Subsidiarity means that social problems should be treated
at the most local level possible. In other words, the most effective way of fighting
poverty begins with the people living in the same community — where the people
who help and the people in need can look each other in the face.
can’t love but government can encourage the corporal works of mercy of those people
who can. Fortunately, the program of the faith-based initiative answers the question,
“What’s the government going to do about it?” by providing resources to people
motivated by the earnestness of faith.
As President Bush said at the
annual prayer breakfast on Thursday, January 31, “Faith shows us the way to self-giving,
to love our neighbor, as we would want them to love ourselves. In service to others,
we find deep human fulfillment. And as acts of service are multiplied, our nation
becomes a more welcoming place for the weak, and a better place for those who
suffer and grieve.”
This is the lesson Jim Towey learned from the man
in bed forty-six.
Hudson. "Government Cannot Love." (February, 2002).
This article was reprinted
with permission of Deal Hudson.
W. Hudson is the former publisher of Crisis magazine. He is now Executive
Director of The Morley Institute for Church and Culture. He was associate professor
of Philosophy at Fordham University from 1989 to 1995 and was a visiting professor
at New York University for five years. He taught for nine years at Mercer University
in Atlanta, where he was chair of the philosophy department. He has published
many reviews and articles as well as five books: Understanding
Maritain: Philosopher and Friend (Mercer, 1988); The
Future of Thomism (Notre Dame, 1992); Sigrid
Undset On Saints and Sinners (Ignatius, 1994); and Happiness
and the Limits of Satisfaction (Rowman & Littlefield, 1996) and his autobiography,
American Conversion (Crossroad, 2003).
Copyright © 2002 Deal Hudson