Presenter Information

Edward R. Udovic C.M., Ph.D.


A 1656 royal decree outlawed begging and private almsgiving in Paris and forcibly confined persons who were poor in various institutions of the General Hospital. These measures were later mandated throughout France until 1715. The poor were treated as enemies of the state because of their numbers and the violence, crime, and social unrest that accompanied poverty. This was a radical shift in society’s perspective. During the Age of Faith, poverty was a sign of election since Christ chose to be poor. The poor had a right to seek charity and the rich were obligated to give it. In the Age of Reason, poverty was evidence of moral failure that was to be “corrected” in institutions. Though slow to respond at first, the Church revived its Christocentric theology of charity and became a powerful ally to poor persons. The efforts of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac led this response. The Vincentian charism developed to serve the most abandoned and marginalized of the poor. The Vincentian discernment process is discussed, as is the legacy of charity. The diverse forms and causes of poverty in France are explained in detail.