Category Archives: Charity

Poverty through a Catholic Lens

“Poverty is a condition of the human person – one in which he or she is deprived of the practical creativity given by God and characterized by the inability to provide for oneself and contribute to the greater good due to a lack of resources and connections.” 

278681_10150702014335125_5390793_oThe problem of poverty is not a simple one, otherwise we would have solved it by now. Think tanks and media can often flood us with more facts than information. When we hear things like 15 million vacant homes in the US, we become primed toward easy but very unhelpful solutions like giving away vacant homes(especially before even asking questions about why they are vacant).

“Having a heart for the poor isn’t hard. Can we have a mind for the poor? Can you really relate to the poor on a one-to-one basis as equals as partners as colleagues?” excerpt from Poverty Cure videos provided below

Define Poverty: Many theorists have tried to define poverty, but in general they all address poverty as a lacking of normal means. This can be applied to the slums in Kenya where post-colonialist life left an exploited people even less connected with the world. The problem is no longer as much that they are exploited as that they are now even more disconnected from the developing world.

It can also be applied to remote villages in Haiti where the world’s best rum is produced but there are no roads to transport it to the market. Without a clear definition, researchers refer to statistics on how many people are living in an area on just $1 per day- but that does not appreciate the fullness of the problem.

Poverty is a condition of the human person – one in which he or she is deprived of the practical creativity given by God and characterized by the inability to provide for oneself and contribute to the greater good due to a lack of resources and connections. 

Catholic Lens: First and foremost, the Church reminds us that the human person is always due dignity and justice. One of the benefits of the Catholic Church as a multi-national organization is that it is more possible to appreciate the complexity and depth of Christian mission work, guided by the Holy Spirit, and how he inspires individuals of all walks of life to work toward bettering lives and bringing people to Christ. People from every demographic and wealth class are unified by this belief that Jesus Christ is the universal savior, thus necessitating a spirit of equality and greater appreciation of human dignity for those suffering in poverty.

A meeting of Catholic non-governmental organizations ahead of a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council in Geneva. -July 2011

A meeting of Catholic non-governmental organizations ahead of a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council in Geneva. July 2011

Once the paradigm shifts to a lens that shows impoverished people as equals, it becomes obvious that they are also the source of a solution. The Catholic Church clearly states that governments have a role in guaranteeing that the people are not taken advantage of, that corruption does not inhibit human drive, and that society works to make sure basic human needs are met. Continue reading

Feast of St. Nicholas

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Above is an altarpiece, completed circa 1510 and pictures St. Nicholas(left), whom we celebrate today. St. Nick is widely hailed as the inspiration for Santa Claus although his true identity was that of a 4th century Catholic bishop who preached Christianity and practiced model charity in what is present day Turkey. 502 years after the altarpiece’s completion, Catholic bishops still wear the same vestments.

Note that while St. Nicholas already had many traditions associated with his feast in the 1500’s, he is not depicted as the Santa Claus that we know today; rather, he is painted with the chasuble and bishop’s miter(hat) with crosier(staff). Below is the famous painting completed in 1668 by Dutch artist Jan Steen which depicts boys and girls checking to see what gifts St. Nick had delivered to their homes and stuffed in their shoes on the morning of December 6th. It is clear that the girl(painted as if she is a little adult) was on the “nice list” and the boy was not. stnick The most famous story of St. Nick is his gift of the dowry for three women. A poor father was unable to provide the funds for his three daughters to get married, which would likely mean they would have to turn to prostitution. So in his humility, St. Nicholas quietly and secretly delivered three small purses with enough money to cover the dowry.

St. Nicholas is a fantastic example of Christian charity and humility for all of us to follow.

A.M.D.G.

Pro-Life as a Human Right

Simply saying “No” to abortion is not enough, in fact that advocacy is incomplete and can even hinder the promotion of human rights as a whole.  Being pro-life continues even as far as making sure there are good schools and even good jobs with healthy working conditions to lessen the pressure on families.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote extensively about natural law which continues to influence the philosophy of human rights even today.

Our Catholic Identity One of the primary undertakings of the Catholic Church is the promotion of human rights. We do this through our Catholic Charities, Propagation of the Faith(coordination and promotion of Catholic missions), Caritas’ services for the poor, etc. The Catholic Church educates more people than any other institution in the world and is at the forefront of providing health services to the sick. Our advocacy for human rights in an inseparable part of our identity as Catholics.

Rights vs. Civil Liberties “Rights” are fundamental conditions that innately belong to each person by merit of our participation in nature. It is possible to suppress  human rights, but suppression is a violation of nature and has no bearing on the rights we are entitled to as people. Sometimes we describe conditions that belong to each person because of social contract. Those are “civil liberties” and not necessarily “rights.”

The March for Life attracts several hundred thousand participants every January in Washington DC. The crowd is multicultural and increasingly younger, primarily fueled by a network of pro-life Catholics.

Life as a Human Right: The first human right is the right to life. Without full  protection for this, the rights to education and labor are seriously compromised. It is so fundamental that it includes protection for the most vulnerable among us(embryos, those sentenced to death, the ill, and elderly). Being truly pro-life continues even as far as making sure there are good schools and even good jobs with healthy working conditions to lessen the pressure on families.

What about social stigma? In a word, it is wrong. Acting or speaking in a way that may embarrass a mom or a woman post-abortion gravely hinders the efficacy and public opinion of the pro-life movement. We have a responsibility to do our best to speak charitably and be acutely aware of how sensitive the circumstances are for  the women we are advocating for.

But there are many reasons why moms may feel pressured to undergo the procedure!  That is why being pro-life continues well past advocacy for pregnant moms. Some of the driving forces of unplanned pregnancies include poverty and lack of access to a good education.

The advocacy reaches far… Are there quality schools in my neighborhood? Are there available jobs with healthy working conditions? Are workers being paid a just wage? Note that a majority of children with Down Syndrome do not make it to term by parental choice. Are there health care options available to less fortunate families?

Human Rights and advocacy: it’s inseparable from our identity as Catholics.

A.M.D.G.

Welcome to the Year of Faith

The obelisk dominated by a cross represents a time of early Christianity when the Roman Empire was the leading power in civilization. Now, we are in very different times and the Church responds to that with charitable guidance and a renewed celebration of the same faith.

Welcome to the Year of Faith! Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, a council that sought to respond to the modern world by demonstrating that the faith and the Word of God is for every human.

The obelisk dominated by a cross in front of the Cathedral Giovanni Laterano, the most important location in the Catholic Church because it is the Pope’s Cathedral, represents a time of early Christianity when the Roman Empire was the leading power in civilization. Now, we are in very different times and the Church responds to that with charitable guidance and a renewed celebration of the same faith

The Church in the modern world is instructed to take careful care of its flock, with particular care for everyone as an individual. The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes, Latin for Joy and Hope, reminds us of the importance of our exhaustive duties of charity as Christians and lays out our duties. Here are some of the document’s highlights:

Science is good Remember that the Catholic Church, despite some scars in the scientific community, developed the higher education system and even the Big Bang Theory. “Man judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind.” The Church teaches that legitimate science is done in accord with nature and can be used to advance society for the comfort of man, and not for selfish intentions. Our inclinations towards advancement indicate that we are always looking for a higher truth, which ultimately leads us to God.

Good economic policies are tempered by a desire to appreciate human dignity The Church recognizes that we’re at a point of development in the world that history has never seen before. In complimenting the complexity of the human mind, the Church advocates the principle of subsidiarity which means that decisions should be made at the most local level they can competently be decided at. Furthermore, Gaudium et Spes lauds economic freedom, but warns there is a responsibility to ensure growth is done responsibility and with the principle of charity.

Christian charity is not “superfluous” Charity is not a word that merely describes an action or an organization. It literally means “love.” Christians are called to serve others, and to freely give to those in need; however, we are not called to give just our pocket change. We are actually supposed to give in sacrifice which in turn is a beautiful way of taking a small share in Christ’s victory over the poverty of death.

Politics is noble The Church is “at once a sign and a safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person.” The Church and the State are separate, but that does not mean the Church is absent from advocacy. In fact, the document calls politics a “noble art” in which competent individuals should use their political skills to advocate with charity and “without regard for their own interests”

A.M.D.G.

James the Just on Passions and Conflict

As a student of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, St. James’ epistle in the 2nd reading at Mass holds a deep meaning and could even serve as the preface to every technical book ever written on the topic. James the Just, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, inspired people with perfect words of charity. According to tradition, he even prayed for his murderers as they were stoning him to death. When we hear about the constant turmoil in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, the words of St. James give consolation and advice as well as a reminder to pray for peace. There is no need for an analysis, I am simply going to re-post the 2nd reading from the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

This 12th century Chiesa di San Giacamo in Bellagio, Italy appears to depict the scene where St. James the Just was bludgeoned to death in the mosaic above the altar.

A reading from the Letter of St. James 

Beloved:

Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions
that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

The word of the Lord

A.M.D.G.

Voter Guide Part I: As Catholics, we have the biggest burden

A family member of a new Congressman awaits the swearing-in ceremony from her loved one’s still empty office. January 3, 2010

Sometimes being Catholic feels like having the weight of the whole world on your shoulders. It’s the burden of truth as revealed to us by Christ, and once we hear the beautiful word of God, there is no turning back. “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” – James 1:25

Stop trying to legislate morality! Sometimes that is what anti-Christian politicians say. Well the answer is that it is not possible for morality to be legislated. Morality is the measure of the “most good” that can be done in any particular situation. But if we have the chance to vote morally, how could we not want to vote for the most good?

Reason, don’t rationalize The decision of whom to vote for should not be taken lightly. Our Catholic obligations require us to use reason(intellect), but not to rationalize a choice so that our conscience matches our emotions. To absolve ourselves from these responsibilities, we often like to shutter away from a particular lens and pretend that means we are being objective. “I am voting based on her fiscal record and not her social positions because I do not want to subject others to my views.” 

What issues should we look at?

First and foremost, we have to look to the protection of human rights. Rights are fundamental normal conditions that are guaranteed to every human being by merit of being a part of nature – conditions in which no other man has the right to interfere or take away. We believe that nature was created by God; therefore, all rights ultimately derive from God.

  1. Right to Life. Without this right, no other right can exist. The right to labor is meaningless if another man can justifiably take away your life. As Catholics, we believe this is a non-negotiable issue. To vote for a candidate who supports: abortion, euthanasia, forced employer purchasing of contraception, or stem cell research is a serious private, but firm declaration that rejects the natural rights set by God. To consciously vote for someone (still) supporting those positions is a serious sin and requires absolution to be reunited with God’s grace. Remember that we are called to look at a politician’s stance and much less into his or her personal life. In the case that a pro-choice candidate has made a serious public declaration that he or she is now pro-life, within reason, it may be appropriate to accept the declaration as truth. There are many experiences, maturities, conversions that may lead to this change of heart.   **What if both candidates are pro-choice? What if both candidates are pro-life? Then continue to the next issue.
  2. Next, the Church looks to protect the sanctity of its Sacraments and society. Sacraments are outward signs that God has given us to signify a share in His life. One of these is marriage. Marriage is never a fight over “rights.” Sometimes the word “right” is used to signify something that we want, but that does not make it a “right.” Men and women can perform the natural functions of living independently, meaning they don’t need a relationship with one another in order to walk, think, or digest food. However, in nature, men and women are dependent upon one another in order to produce children. Marriage is a natural and sacramental institution that belongs to one man and one woman. This is unpopular and challenging for many Catholics. In no way does this position condone taunting or uncharitable behavior that would denigrate the dignity of any human being. This is also a non-negotiable issue(Priests For Life).
  3. The remaining issues that remain close to the hear of the Catholic Church focus on social justice. These are sometimes philosophically murky. These can be issues of education policy, illegal immigration, or health care. The ultimate goal of the church is to seek a greater common good. Voters and politicians have an unyielding responsibility to fiercely advocate for the dignity, protection, and advancement of our neighbors and constituents.

A.M.D.G.

Link

Washington Post opinion article on Chick-Fil-A fallout and Christian charity

Read this opinion piece published by the Washington Post: With Chick-fil-A fight, progressive mayors get their ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ moment

1-in-6 hospital patients are cared for by Catholic institutions and almost 2.3 million students in the US are instructed in a Catholic school each year. What would be the consequences if these institutions were no longer welcome?

Several progressive mayors in the United States are saying that Chick-Fil-A franchises are no longer welcome in their cities because of the corporations public opposition to homosexual marriage. This Washington Post opinion piece is correct when it says this is bad for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the poor. The Catholic Church also openly opposes same-sex marriages but it is also the largest supporter of immigrants and disenfranchised people in poverty in the United States. Does that mean their aide for the poor may someday be unwelcome too?

A.M.D.G.