425. IX. THE BENEFACTIONS OF CHARITY ARE GIVING TO THE POOR AND RELIEVING THE NEEDY, BUT WITH PRUDENCE.
We must distinguish between the obligations of charity and its benefactions. By the obligations of charity those exercises of it that proceed directly from charity itself are meant. These, as has just been shown, relate primarily to one's occupation. But benefactions mean such acts of assistance as are given apart from these obligations. These are called benefactions because doing them is a matter of free choice and pleasure; and when done they are regarded by the recipient simply as benefactions, and are bestowed according to the reasons and intentions that the benefactor has in mind. In common belief charity is nothing else than giving to the poor, relieving the needy, caring for widows and orphans, contributing to the building of hospitals, infirmaries, asylums, orphans' homes, and especially of churches, and to their decorations and income. But most of these things are not properly matters of charity, but extraneous to it. Those who make charity itself to consist in such benefactions must needs claim merit for these works; and although they may profess with their lips that they do not wish them to be considered meritorious, still a belief in their merit lurks within. This is clearly evident from the conduct of such after death, when they recount their works, and demand salvation as a reward. But the origin of their works and the resulting quality of them is then inquired into, and if it is found that they proceeded from pride or a striving for reputation, or from bare generosity, or friendship, or merely natural inclination, or hypocrisy, from that origin the works are judged, for the quality of the origin is within the works. But genuine charity proceeds from those who are imbued with charity because of the justice and judgment in the works, and they do the works apart from any remuneration as an end, according to the Lord's words in Luke (14:12-14). They also call such things as are mentioned above, benefactions as well as duties, although they pertain to charity.