What the charity of the Middle Ages has to teach Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg
The charity of the Middle Ages was misleadingly dismissed as haphazard and self-serving after the Reformation. But the most recent research shows that this was not the case. Extensive charitable provision to care for the poor and needy was in place in 1421 when Henry V and Pope Martin granted a licence for the establishment in Manchester of the collegiate church of St Mary, St Denys and St George which went on to become Manchester Cathedral. More than that, this medieval charity had characteristics which have been lost in much philanthropy today.
Paul Vallely, an honorary ecumenical canon of Manchester Cathedral, and author of the highly-acclaimed ‘Philanthropy – from Aristotle to Zuckerberg’, will give the first in a series of lectures to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the foundation of the cathedral. In his illustrated talk he will set out the extent and nature of medieval charity – and why it came to be traduced by propagandists after the Reformation. At the core of a thousand years of the charity of Christendom, from the 4th to the 14th centuries, was a vision of society from which Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and today’s other Big Givers would do well to learn.
About the speaker
Paul Vallely is a writer and consultant on religion, international development, and business ethics.
He is the author of the internationally-acclaimed best-selling biography Pope Francis - Untying the Knots. and its sequel Pope Francis - The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism. His latest book - Philanthropy - from Aristotle to Zuckerberg - from which this lecture gets its name, was published on the 17 September 2020.
He is Visiting Professor in Public Ethics and Media at the University of Chester and Senior Honorary Fellow at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester. He has worked in newspapers, broadcasting, with aid agencies, government and church organisations for more than two decades. He has produced award-winning reports from more than 30 countries in the developing world.
He was seconded to Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa and was co-author of its final report. He worked with Bob Geldof, deciding how to spend the money raised by Live Aid, advising at Live 8 and lobbying the negotiators and heads of government at the Gleneagles G8 summit with Geldof and Bono. He has also chaired the Catholic Institute for International Relations (now Progressio) and advised Christian Aid and Cafod.
Ethics & Enterprise
He has been chair of Traidcraft, the fair trade organization which markets Third World goods in the UK and pays fair prices to their producers. He advises Waitrose supermarkets as a member of its board of Corporate Social Responsibility.
He has been an adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury and an editorial adviser to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales. He is an expert in Catholic Social Teaching - 100 years of attempts to find a third way between unregulated capitalism and state-directed socialism - which offers insights for new thinking in the 21st century.
Writing and editing
He is a former executive editor of the Independent on Sunday and leader-writer on The Independent. He edited the Sunday Times News Review. He is now a consultant on policy and communications and writes for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Sunday Times, and the Church Times where he has a weekly column on political, social, and cultural issues. He is a director of The Tablet.
He has written a number of books the latest of which is Pope Francis - The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism. Others include Pope Francis - Untying the Knots and Bad Samaritans: First World Ethics and Third World Debtand Promised Lands, a study of land reform in the Philippines, Brazil and Eritrea. He is the editor of The New Politics: Catholic Social Teaching for the 21st century and A Place of Redemption: a Christian approach to punishment and prison.
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Event image: detail of a miniature from a 15th century manuscript entitled ‘Le Livre des faits de Monseigneur Saint Louis’, in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris - Photo by Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images.