This question is about an idea/decision I use in my conworld. There are also plenty of other questions on that world such as this one on steam engines or that one on military forces.

The setting is that of a world with a technological level around the Interwar Period and a societal level around that of the Victorian Era.
Though answers to this question are encouraged to go back to the Renaissance

All good and well, this question is about the decision of a region/country-spanning clerical organization to accept the burden of providing and maintaining medical- and welfare facilities & services.

They are one of the oldest institutions in the region/country and thus have in their possession a great many estates and lands which provide them with ample money.

They are exempted from tax-paying duty to the governments they exist under and their institutions are neutral-ground where theirs is the only jurisdiction.
They do not receive any monetary compensation or other benefits from the government(s).

They maintain their own universities where doctors and other medical staff are taught and trained.1

They have to provide medical services for military casualties in form of providing room and services in places with military academies, as well as maintaining sickbays in the field and at barracks.

Q: What reasons are there for such an organization to take over these burdens/tasks?

The mentioned burdens/tasks have likely not been taken over all at once but have probably grown and cumulated over time.
The question is looking for answers that provide valid reasons/explanations on how this has started as well as why it has continued

1These often overlap with clerical schools, but that does not really have any influence on this point.

Addendum: The church itself is a rather huge polytheistic confluence of older simpler polytheistic and monotheistic religions of different areas and tribes.

They started off as the spiritual part of herdsmen and nomads of the Green Wides. Due to the nature of the people of these areas, the original churchmen started creating fix settlements where the wandering groups would find shelter, could exchange wares and bury their dead without fearing bandit raids or similar.

Over time the wandering groups would strife further north, west, south & east and thus get in touch with other groups and religions, which they understood to integrate into their own pantheon in order to mingle with these others.2

2Others that soon became part of their growing culture & society.

This section has been copied from the predecessor/inverted question found here

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    $\begingroup$ Why did the Roman Catholic Church sponsor the hospitaliers? Their legacy is still alive today as hospitals. I might add that Christianity became a power in the Roman Empire largely because dieting times of epidemic the Christians, who considered themselves dead already, stuck around and cared for the I'll while the general population ran for the hills. $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Mar 24, 2018 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ Well the answer is simple. Their religion said so. Help the others is a interpretation of one of the commandments and a standard pillar of any functioning society. if any religion wants to attract the masses it will be a centerpiece of that religion. $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2018 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ Downvote for lack of awareness of all the religions that have been "burdening themselves" with sick care since the Ancient Greek period. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Mar 24, 2018 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn knowing that something is or has been done, and understanding why this is or has been done are two different pairs of shoes in my understanding. This question is about the latter, the why. $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Mar 25, 2018 at 6:56
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T "Why does the catholic church run hospitals?" is a perfectly valid Google search, with multiple excellent answers (including Wikipedia). $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Mar 25, 2018 at 8:13

5 Answers 5


Because it grants them a lot of control, power, and buys the people's goodwill.

First of all, having their institutions be neutral ground, where only their own authority is recognized, is a huge political advantage. They might offer sanctuary to any number of rich nobles, politicians, or merchants who have run afoul of the law, and bleed them dry for the privilege of living their lives out of reach of the authorities.

Second, if they train and provide all the doctors, and medical facilities, they have the power to selectively deprive certain undesirable elements of healthcare, or maybe even insure that their enemies (political, for example) meet unfortunate ends when they do eventually require medical treatment. After all, all the doctors would be Church loyalists, indoctrinated throughout their entire education and career. For those to whom they do provide healthcare, they'd be heroes, worthy of great donations, and loyalty.

Furthermore, if they also provide education for "civilians", it means that they have a golden opportunity to indoctrinate teenagers at a stage in their lives when they are very open to such manipulation.

Last but not least, what military force would dare take a stand against the Church's strength when all their soldiers have been treated by their priests at one point or another?

What you're describing is not a "burden", it's an almost perfect control mechanism. The only thing left for them to do is start up a militant order of monks to protect the "sanctity of their sacred grounds". At that point the Church will be more powerful than the government.

  • $\begingroup$ In a polytheistic setup, it would no be too unlikely that at least one of the mob would espouse caring for the sick and afflicted for one reason or another. $\endgroup$
    – nijineko
    Dec 20, 2016 at 20:46

Because their religion says they must

Which bits of religious texts actually catch on culturally and stick varies quite considerably, but the requirement to offer succor to the sick and wounded stuck in this case and became the driving force behind their culture.


What churches do take care of people?

The Catholic Church, taken as a whole, is the largest non-governmental health care organization in the world. According to the Church itself, it operates 117,000 health care facilities around the world, 65% in developing countries, representing 26% of all world-wide health care facilities.

In the United States, as a representative of advanced economies, the Catholic Health Association operates 639 hospitals in all 50 states, and cares for about 1 of every 6 hospitalized patients.

Why does the church take care of people?

Because it is a commandment of Jesus, specifically in the Gospel of Matthew. The relevant passages are

Rather, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give. (Matthew 6:8-10)


for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me. (Matthew 25:35-36)

The obligation to care for the sick was organized at an early date, while Christianity was still a persecuted minority religion, and may have been a factor in the religion's rise in popularity. The Church's dedication to healing remained throughout the Middle Ages. Charlemagne declared that all cathedrals and abbeys should have a hospital attached, and the first universities grew from the fusion of cathedral theological seminaries and medical schools.


If the religion demands care for the sick and poor, that could potentially make it popular. This was probably a factor with the spread of Christianity. If the religion maintains a dedication to helping the sick and the poor, especially through millenia where there are no other options for health care, it will likely remain popular. This too happened with Christianity, specifically the Western Catholic version.

At that point, it is just tradition that keeps medical care going. Even as health care advances into modernity, the Catholic church remains a major health care provider, partly just from inertia. Health care had been a major goal of the religion since the beginning, and so it remains so today.


They Believe In Helping People

You said that this religion began with a lot of outposts providing refuge to people in trouble areas. Judging from this, it would seem likely that a tenet of their religion would be helping those in need. If their religion exists in a place that is often involved in a war, perhaps the leaders came to the conclusion that the best way to help is through medicine.

That would explain why their clerical schools would move towards becoming medical schools, and help explain why. And since their religion is focused on medicine, taking off a lot of strain on the government for medical facilities, that would explain why the government gives them such free reign.

It Puts Them In A Position Of Power

As AndreiROM pointed out, it would put the church in a position of power. A lot of people would be dependent on their care, and should they see fit to abuse that privilege, well, there would not be a lot that could be done.


There are a lot of reasons they might take over this responsibility. The tenants of their faith are the obvious one, but I'll delve into a deeper area:

The Government has threatened to revoke their privilege and their land unless they provide for the sick and the military casualties.

You can have this be an entire interplay in the background of your story, of the Church providing these services, perhaps the minimum viable for the soldiers and better for the people it actually cares about. You can even have the doctors performing experiments on the soldiers or using them for research.


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