Robert Pondant, BS, OSB, Benedictine Monk, High School Teacher at St Bede Academy in Peru, Illinois

Charity and Justice: Walking Tall with Two Feet of Love in Action


“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” Martin Luther King The kind of social action that was common in the Civil Rights era has diminished, so that today, most community work revolves around social service efforts. We increasingly spend most of our resources dealing with the symptoms of problems instead of the causes of problems. The maxim that says, “If we give a man a fish, he eats for a day; if we teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime” will fail if the man has no access to the pond! My presentation will examine how unjust structural barriers prevent the disadvantaged from realizing their full human potential (the common good). I will compare the biblical meaning of justice, especially justice with compassion (empathy), with our current understanding of social justice, exemplified by the Seven Principles of Social Teaching. I will apply the model of action that Msgr. Moffett devised called “the two feet of social ministry”: charity (direct service) and justice (advocacy) to real world examples. Throughout this presentation, I will interact with the audience to challenge them to embrace a greater sense of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need: from the poor, to the immigrant here illegally, to the prisoner in solitary confinement, to the person with disabilities, to the elderly…to see them all as persons deserving of dignity.