"Governing Charities" challenges received accounts of the welfare state by highlighting the complex web of relationships that characterize the delivery of social services. In tracing the connections between the Catholic Church in Toronto and provincial and municipal governments, Paula Maurutto takes issue with the view that the welfare state marks a modern, secular, and scientific progression from a pre-1920 'Golden Age' when churches dominated the voluntary sector. Maurutto details how welfare bureaucracies, as they began to expand during the 1930s and 1940s, did so by building stronger links with private voluntary agencies, not by disabling them. Far from being shunted aside, voluntary organizations such as Catholic charities became increasingly entrenched within the expanding welfare state.Standardized reports, state inspections, financial audits, and social work case records, to name only a few, were emblematic of the social scientific impulse that permeated the operations of Catholic charities and enabled them to more systematically police, discipline, and regulate the lives of relief recipients and those designated as moral and social 'deviants'.
Notably, they allowed church authorities and the state to exercise greater control and supervision over the internal operations and procedures of charities, in effect enabling these institutions to govern the daily affairs of the voluntary sector. Maurutto highlights the historical role of Catholic voluntary organizations in the policing of citizens, the regulation of juvenile delinquents, and the maintenance of national security. She advances a broader understanding of law enforcement and policing by examining the interplay between public and private institutions.