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Government Cannot Love

  • DEAL HUDSON

In the midst of Valentines Day sentiment, its 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.


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In the midst of Valentines Day sentiment, its 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.

Lowey, who is Catholic, knows something about the institutions that do works of love and compassion. He led Floridas 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 Teresas 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 didnt 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, D.C.

Toweys view of the faith-based initiative is animated by the example of Mother Teresas integration of love for the Eucharist and service to the poor. Thus, he doesnt 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 Ive never seen anyone comment on it. Thats a shame, since the view is clearly influenced by the Catholic principle of subsidiarity.

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.

Government cant 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, Whats 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.

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Acknowledgement

Deal Hudson. "Government Cannot Love." (February, 2002).

This article was reprinted with permission of Deal Hudson.

The Author

hudson1hudsonDeal W. Hudson is the director of the Morley Institute for Church & Culture, and is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine, a Catholic monthly published in Washington, DC. He is the author of seven books: Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States; Understanding Maritain: Philosopher and Friend; The Future of Thomism; Sigrid Undset On Saints and Sinners; Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction and his autobiography, An American Conversion.

Copyright © 2002 Deal Hudson
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