A couple weeks ago, progressive U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York proudly tweeted about raising more than $1 million for Covid-19 relief. “As federal response continues to be insufficient, our supporters have been stepping up to help families ourselves,” she writes in the short thread.

I’m proud to announce that ‪#TeamAOC has raised over *$1 million* in direct aid to people - all from small dollar, grassroots donations.

This direct aid has benefited over 40 diff efforts, from food distribution w @hungrymonknyc to helping immigrant families excluded from the CARES Act w/ @NYSYLC & ‪@VendorPower.

In a just society, none of this would be necessary. But we’ll do everything we can until we get there.

(All emphases supplied.)

Many others have offered thoughts about the relationship of charity and justice before, of course. Among them, in his 1931 papal encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius XI writes,

[T]he law of charity, “which is the bond of perfection,” must always take a leading role. How completely deceived, therefore, are those rash reformers who concern themselves with the enforcement of justice alone—and this, commutative justice—and in their pride reject the assistance of charity! Admittedly, no vicarious charity can substitute for justice which is due as an obligation and is wrongfully denied. (s. 137)

More recently, in 2005’s Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI writes,

Since the nineteenth century, an objection has been raised to the Church’s charitable activity, subsequently developed with particular insistence by Marxism: the poor, it is claimed, do not need charity but justice. Works of charity—almsgiving—are in effect a way for the rich to shirk their obligation to work for justice and a means of soothing their consciences, while preserving their own status and robbing the poor of their rights. Instead of contributing through individual works of charity to maintaining the status quo, we need to build a just social order in which all receive their share of the world’s goods and no longer have to depend on charity. There is admittedly some truth to this argument, but also much that is mistaken. It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods. . .

But, Benedict writes, “Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such.” (ss. 26, 28)