Dear Father Angelo,
my name is C., I’m 55 years old, I’m married, and I have a 19 year old daughter.
I no longer have a regular job, but for some time now I’ve been helping an 86 year old widowed and childless lady, who is smart but with failing eyesight: we go out together for a walk, and together we take care of a few errands three times a week for two hours, and she gives me 10€ per hour.
In this time of Covid, we stay in our homes, but we really enjoy talking on the phone, as we have both grown fond of each other.
My daughter, however, suggests that I stop going because, in her opinion, it is an “illegal job” and we will pay for this sin in hell, and this includes the lady, me, and also the person who introduced her to me.
I did some research about how to make this service regular, but it is not possible.
Telling this lady that I’m not going to help her anymore would be painful for me, and I dare not think how much it would be for her…
If I told her that I don’t want to be paid, she would be offended…
In addition to the joy that I would deny to this lady, I am also responsible for my daughter who sees only the “letter” of the Law and not the human face of this situation.
How can I solve this problem?
My deepest thanks to you,
1. Keep doing what you are doing.
2. Your daughter has qualms because what you both are doing would not allegedly be done according to human laws.
Indeed, she says that the lady, you, and the person who introduced her to you will pay for everything you have done in hell.
3. Your daughter, however, forgets a very important aspect, i.e. that the lawmaker makes the laws according to what happens in normal situations.
And with this, she forgets that the lawmaker, who is presumably wise, already knows from the outset that in some situations it will be necessary to depart from a law he has enacted, so that the uncompromising enforcement of the law may not bring forth an utmost injury (ne summum ius fiat summa iniuria).
4. As the divine lawmaker knows of all situations in advance, and for this reason the moral law which matches with the Ten Commandments is valid for all of us without exception, the same cannot be said for the human lawmaker.
This is why St. Thomas says that human laws are valid in most cases (in the ut in pluribus of situations), while in some few cases (ut in paucioribus) they will have to be waived, so that the uncompromising enforcement of the law may not bring forth an utmost injury, that is a serious sin.
5. What you are doing together with that lady is not an employment contract, although it may have the looks of it, but a work of charity.
And it’s such a genuine act of charity that you’d even be willing to give up the money.
It’s perfectly understandable that, in the face of this act of charity, the lady feels obliged to express her gratitude. She would take offence, as you say, if you told her that you don’t want anything in return.
6. As you can see, there are some things that are perceived only by the heart.
Between people there are not only relationships based on justice, but also on closeness, on solidarity. And we could say, on Christian charity.
This is all very different from working illegally, from covering up, or abetting acts of injustice.
I wish you all the best in this time in which, although in the presence of the coronavirus, we are not deprived of the presence of the Lord, “who makes all things work for good for those who love” (Rom 8:28).
I remember you in prayer and I bless you.