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Andrew Anonymous wrote:

Hi, guys —


  • Is Ransoming the Captives still a Corporal Work of Mercy?
  • If so, does paying bail for strangers in prison constitute ransoming captives?

I ask because there are various non-Catholic community bail funds in various cities where they pay the bail for prisoners awaiting trial (generally with low bail amounts). These are people legally presumed to be innocent.

These community bail funds seem to be run by SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) whose agenda in many key respects I disagree with, I just want to know about Catholics who contribute simply for the purpose of paying bail for those who can't afford it.


  { Is Ransoming the Captives a corporal work of Mercy? }

Mike replied:

Dear Andrew,

Ransoming the captives is not a corporal work of Mercy within the context of your question.

Visiting the imprisoned IS a corporal work of Mercy.

This is what the Catechism states:

2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. (cf. Isaiah 58:6-7; Hebrews 13:3)

  • The spiritual works are instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.
  • The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. (cf. Matthew 25:31-46)

Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God: (cf. Tobit 4:5-11; Sirach 17:22; Matthew 6:2-4)

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise. (Luke 3:11) But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. (Luke 11:41) If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16; cf. 1 John 3:17)

A google definition of Social justice warriors does not appear to be in line with faithful Catholics practice as it support ideas and views that are contrary to the Church's teachings.

Social justice warrior (commonly abbreviated SJW) is a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views, including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics.

From a Google definition of Social justice warrior

Dissenting Catholics would probably justify their work to priests and pastors by pointing to lower priority issues that the Church does support or allows for an individual's prudential judgment to be made.

  • What is a prudential judgment?

A judgment of the prudential order is the use of reason to evaluate temporal circumstances.
The Magisterium cannot judge every situation of each and every person at all times. So the Magisterium teaches basic principles of ethics, which are used with reason and one's knowledge of the particulars of a situation in order to decide the best course of action. [Catholic Answers Forum]

Those areas where the Magisterium does teach must be believed by faithful Catholics.

They fall into two main categories:

  1. doctrines, and
  2. dogmas, or solemn doctrines

    Every dogma is a doctrine but not all doctrines are dogmas.

Theological opinions on an array of issues are not doctrines and opinions can vary.

I hope this helps,


Andrew replied:


Thank you very much for the reply. I guess I'm wondering what happened since the early 20th century edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, when the Corporal Works of Mercy were listed as including ransoming the captives:

and whether this has been superseded, abolished, or what have you.


Mike replied:


First, the fact that the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia has a different set of works of mercy than the 1993 Catechism of the Catholic Church is irrelevant. The Church adapts proper works of mercy for each generation it is in. This does not mean Ransoming the Captives is not a corporal work of mercy. It just means that it is not a primary work of mercy for the generation for which the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written.

That said, I don't think you read the whole article. At the end it stated:

In the year 1198 the Trinitarians were founded by St. John of Matha and St. Felix of Valois, and just twenty years later St. Peter Nolasco and St. Raymond of Pennafort established the Order of Our Lady of Ransom. Both of these communities had as their chief scope the recovery of Christians who were held captive by the infidels. In the religious body which owes its origin to St. Peter Nolasco, the members took a fourth vow to surrender their own persons in place of those whom they were not otherwise able to redeem from slavery.

So the corporal work of Mercy: Ransoming the Captives, was a work of mercy back for a specific historical time when Christians were captive by Islamic infidels.

With the persecution of Christians today by racial Islamic [infidels/Muslims] in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, it can still be viewed as a corporal work of mercy. It's just not one of the primary ones the Church encourages the faithful to practice.

Where Christians are imprisoned unjustly by those hostile to the Christian faith, we should always strive to get their release.


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