A lot has been written about the decision of Target Corporation to ban the Salvation Army from ringing bells in front of their stores. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this, so I won’t go into the details. In an upcoming post I want to address the concept of public/private property and whether the public interest overrides (or at least mitigates) private ownership when it comes to allowing groups like the Salvation Army on the property. More on that later.
But right now I want to focus on the question of whether or not Catholics should contribute to the Salvation Army. According to Catholic Newsnet, the American Life League, and ETWN the Salvation Army is not a pro-life organization.
The Salvation Army's own website carries the following statement. While it certainly does not condone abortion, it ultimately defers the decision to the woman, her family, and "pastoral, medical, and other council." An excerpt:
The Salvation Army deplores society's ready acceptance of abortion, which reflects insufficient concern for vulnerable persons, including the unborn. (Psalms 82:3-4)
The Salvation Army holds to the Christian ideals of chastity before marriage and fidelity within the marriage relationship and, consistent with these ideals, supports measures to prevent crisis pregnancies. It is opposed to abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection or for any reason of mere convenience to avoid the responsibility for conception. Therefore, when an unwanted pregnancy occurs, The Salvation Army advises that the situation be accepted and that the pregnancy be carried to term, and offers supportive help and assistance with planning.
The Salvation Army recognizes tragic and perplexing circumstances that require difficult decisions regarding a pregnancy. Such decisions should be made only after prayerful and thoughtful consideration, with appropriate involvement of the woman's family and pastoral, medical and other counsel. A woman in these circumstances needs acceptance, love and compassion.
When an abortion has taken place, The Salvation Army will continue to show love and compassion and to offer its services and fellowship to those involved.
Forgive me, but does this sound something like the "personally opposed, but..." politician?
Here is the organization's statement on birth control. For Catholics, this statement should be even more clear-cut. Excerpt:
The Salvation Army supports the desire of many married couples to limit the number of children in their family and believes that there are morally acceptable, contraceptive solutions available to achieve this end.
The Salvation Army encourages the use of birth control methods that are contraceptive (i.e. that prevent conception) versus the use of methods that are abortifacient (i.e. that prevent implantation after fertilization). The Salvation Army is opposed to abortion as a means of birth control.
The Salvation Army does not oppose sterilization as a means of contraception. However, because it is generally irreversible in nature, such a procedure should be undertaken only after full consideration is given to spiritual, moral and practical ramifications.
I bring this up because I think there’s a lot of confusion about this. For example, Brian Saint-Paul, the editor of Crisis magazine, recently sent out an e-newsletter criticizing Target for their decision and expressing support for the Salvation Army and the work they do. Surprised, I emailed him with the information on SA’s abortion stand. I received a very gracious and considerate response from him, stating that he was going to update his earlier e-letter. When this becomes available, I'll post it on the site.
My point here isn’t to pick on Brian or any of the other Catholics who financially support the Salvation Army. Nor is it to toot my own horn – after all, I’m only reaping the benefit of someone else’s research. Rather, it’s the lack of communication on this issue. Catholics need to know the positions taken by organizations to which they lend financial support, especially religiously based ones (and remember, the Salvation Army isn’t just a religious charity, it’s actually a church). And the public needs to know this as well. There’s no doubt that the Salvation Army does a lot of fine charitable work. I was once a bell-ringer for them myself, many years ago before I knew about their policy. And that’s why you have to ask yourself the question – doesn’t their policy play right into the hands of the pro-abortion lobby’s argument that abortion is a charitable, indeed a merciful, thing to do, in the case of "tragic and perplexing circumstances"? Is this really the message we want to convey?
If the Salvation Army is no longer in support of abortion or birth control, they need to state this publicly, along with the supporting evidence, because the statements to which I've linked come right off their website.
And in the meantime, Catholics need to know what groups like the Salvation Army really stand for. This blog, and other blogs like it, is one way to accomplish it.