Recently Angelina Jollie and Brad Pitt announced that they were going to sell their first baby photos to celebrity magazines (People and Hello!) and donate the proceeds to charity. These pictures could sell for up to $7 million dollars.
I have thought about the concept of charity in American culture for the past few years. For the rich, it is often seen as a way to help out in the common good of the world and get a break on your taxes. For the poor, this is often where the largest donations come from towards making changes in society all the way from the first to the third world.
I cannot begin to say that I understand what the “common good” is. I believe the Catholic Church to be doing great things in promoting more just societies and helping governments see just what they are doing to there own people when half the budget goes toward the defense fund.
I think in situations like Pitt and Jollie’s we have to be thankful that they are at least paying attention to the poor even if they are using a celebrity status that does make them more money to do some good, and yes, I do think it is good that they are donating the money. My question lies in the formation of persons in the way of Kingdom.
What the Church should be careful of in talking about charity is to not mistake the practices of those not of the Kingdom of God with those that are. If, for example, they decide to donate money to Namibia, a place famous for diamond export, it is the task of the Church to call into question that practices of a government that, while so rich, has so many poor. If they go otherwise, we must be wise with our words, for or against.
Pope Benedict XVI said in his first encyclical, “For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally be left to others, but is a part of her nature, so indispensable of her very being." (Thanks John for pointing this out!!!)
However, we have to have eyes to see the Kingdom when it sprouts up in unusual places and claim those bursts of life as the work of the Holy Spirit. We are in season of Pentecost after all.