For the Church, Leo notes, assists the temporal welfare of the poor directly, through alms, and indirectly, though more effectively, by promoting Christian morality. We do not follow God’s commandments so as to gain comfort in this life. But those commandments restrain “the greed of possession” and “the thirst for pleasure”—twin engines of a diseased soul and a dying society. They destroy us even amidst abundance. Christian morality, by contrast, can supply much of our want by means of—note the word Leo uses—“economy,” that is, the right governance of a household. It teaches us to be content with “frugal living”—again, note the word. The frugal person makes full use of the fruits nearby; thus is frugality a part of temperance and of gratitude to God, lest we tread His gifts underfoot.
Now, if people are meant for one another, and if they generally prosper by the natural virtues, then they should be free to form associations to promote their temporal and moral welfare. The Church has formed such associations from the beginning; she has invented the hospital, the orphanage, the home for pensioners, schools for the indigent, and so forth—“deposits of piety,” says Leo, quoting Tertullian; and again the financial metaphor is apt. She begs on behalf of the beggars! She “has established congregations of religious and many other useful institutions for help and mercy, so that hardly any kind of suffering could exist which was not afforded relief.” But the secularists of Leo’s day were working to force the Church out of her right role, seeking to supplant charity with secular mechanisms. Nothing has changed. We have seen, in the United States and Canada, an aggressive attempt to squeeze the Church out of her schools, hospitals, colleges, adoption agencies, and other social services, unless she agree to become what she is not, an appendage to the State, truckling to her false master, ashamed of the True. One cannot serve both God and Mammon.