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ORDER OF CHARITY
The order to be observed in loving one's neighbor. It is determined by the neighbor's need and relationship. The need of one's neighbor may be spiritual or temporal, and both may be extreme, grave, or ordinary. In extreme spiritual necessity, we must assist the neighbor even at the risk of our life. In extreme temporal necessity, the neighbor should be helped even at great inconvenience, but not necessarily at the risk of one's own life, unless one's own life, unless one's position or the good of society demands assistance to the threatened party. In grave spiritual or temporal need, one's neighbor should be helped as far as possible; while position, justice, or piety may even oblige a person to help another. In ordinary spiritual or temporal need, there is no obligation to help the neighbor, certainly not in every case.
Relationship, as ground for assisting another, is to be calculated in terms of kinship on various levels. since blood relationship is the basis for all others, relatives, at least in the first degree, should be given first preference. The classic order to be followed in husband or wife, children, parents, bothers and sisters, other relations, benefactors, friends, and acquaintances. In extreme need, one's parents are to be favored because they are the source of one's being.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.