Monday, December 6, 2004

MH - Catholics and the Salvation Army

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.


  1. C.M.d.N.,
    You're absolutely correct. I'd actually alluded to that in an earlier version of the post, but dropped it in final editing (I probably thought I was rambling too much!). But your point is one reason why the Hadleys limit our contributions to either orthodox Catholic groups or purely charitable organizations like Toys for Tots. An important contribution to my post - thanks for bringing it up!

  2. If I understand the sentiments expressed here, we Catholics are to restrict our charitable giving to "orthodox" Catholic groups.

    So no donations to food pantries run by the Lutherans or Episcopalians or B'Nai B'rith. And don't be caught dead slipping a C-note to the shelter for abused women that's run by the Unitarian Church; it couldn't possibly do a better job than Catholic Charities, right?

    Folks, do not automatically assume that Catholic charitable groups deserve your money first, last and always. Many of them do. Put your money where it will be spent wisely and do the most good, regardless of religious affiliation.


    Bravo, Anonymous, bravo. When Christ commanded us to help the poor, He didn't specify through which agency or means.

    Which brings me to another point:

    Mr. and Mrs. Hadley, you criticize the SL for saying that the ultimate decision about abortion rests with the woman and her doctor. Well, where else does it lie? With the state? How can that be, since nobody is forced to have or not to have an abortion in this country? With the church? Neither the SL, the Catholic Church nor any other denomination has the power to prevent a woman from having an abortion. The only other entity involved is the individual woman, where the ultimate moral responsibility lies. If a doctor recommends abortion, the woman is free to disregard that advice if she chooses. That is not "pro-choice" propaganda; that is a statement of fact.

    The fundamental problem is that Catholics like you are so infatuated with "pro-life" rhetoric that they can't see straight. They can't see that the "pro-life" position is to this Church what Ba'al was to the Canaanites: an idol.

    Take capital punishment, for example. For centuries, the Church has taught that the state has the legitimate right to execute such punishment. Now, a revisionist Pope proclaims through Evangelum Vitae that the state shouldn't execute such punishment if it doesn't have to. This contradicts both Scripture (Gen. 9:6) and Tradition (cf, Aquinas). The result is not only that this Pope uses EV as a rhetorical fig leaf for his own abolitionist sympathies but also that the faithful are utterly confused as to the legitimate Catholic position on capital punishment.

    And, no, I'm not a sedevacantist nor a member of SSPX.

    Please don't tell me that only God can take a life. If God is the ultimate Author of life and death, then He has the perogative to delineate the conditions under which life can be taken -- and He has done so; read the Mosaic Law. God has given to humanity the ability and the responsibility to execute justice on this planet.

    And please don't tell me that the Mosaic Law means nothing. Granted, Christ's sacrifice on the cross rendered the Law's provisions for atonement and redemption irrelevant. But the Law still holds value because it reveals God's mind concerning morality, ethics, good and evil -- even if most of its specific provisions cannot be implemented in modern society. God is not silent on the problem of good and evil. And Christ Himself said that not one jot nor tittle of the Law can be changed.

    Catholics are confusing innocent life with all human life (note the increasingly pacifist tendencies of the hierarchy and the "peace and justice" crowd). More tragically, they're starting to worship Life as God rather than the Author of Life as God. This is nothing but spiritual narcissism.

  4. I didn't know that among Catholics there was confusion that the SA was NOT pro-life. Their statement matches a lot of lukewarm Protestant statements which regret abortion but don't call it the grave sin which it is: the taking of an innocent human life.

    The statement is less pro-abortion than the standard "We're personally opposed but we can't advise otherwise"

    The SA statement actually "advises" women to carry the child to term, but it is silent on: the moral gravity of the act of abortion, the greater effects on society , and political advocacy to end or substanially reduce abortions.

  5. Hello friends,

    When I read the SA's position on abortion above, I was actually surprised at how LIKE the Catholic teaching it was versus unlike it. From my limited experience with the SA, which has been doing Mobile Loaves and Fishes and visiting a SA homeless shelter, they are doing very good work with people in need, most of whom are not Catholic nor perhaps even Christian, just like Mobile Loaves does. They clearly take a stand against abortion in their statement, which to me seems unequivocal. Now, it is not completely inline with the our Catholic belief on abortion, but it's a lot better than most others' statements.

    Their position on contraception, unsurprisingly, is similar to every Protestant's view that I know of (I used to be an Evangelical by the way). We know that this position is contrary to what God desires, but they do not. May God enlighten their hearts and minds with the fullness of the truth.

    So, can I put a dollar in the SA bucket this year? I am not sure. If the SA does consider itself a separate denomination in the Protestant "tradition", then that brings up a challenge for me since I do not usually give money to other denominations.

    Thanks for the interesting article!
    May Christ guide us closer to his heart this Advent, and the Holy Family assist us everyday.

  6. Seems to me that the statement is certainly equivocal:

    On one hand abortion is "opposed" but on the other hand,
    "decisions [to abort are] made".

  7. Sorry for posting anon again, I don't feel like registering right now.

    Is there statement equivocal? I disagree that it is, as it seems to me they are just admitting the sad fact that women do choose to have abortion, and that, much like Project Rachel, the SA will help them and not abandon them. They are not saying, "It's okay for you to have an abortion" but rather, "People still have abortions we realize". Even with all our prayers and God's answering grace, probably 3000 women today in the U.S. alone will make the decision to have their unborn child murdered. So we have to deal with this sinful reality and do our best to help them, as I would bet you agree. The SA seems to take a similar position.

    May our loving, Immaculate Mother help all women thinking about aborting their precious children, on this day especially and all days!

    Devin Rose

  8. JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS....Whether people chose to give to the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities or any other agency is their business. What I'm noticing on this thread, however, is a rather arrogant attitude that places pride in denominational brand loyalty and Catholic "theological correctness" above Christ's commands.

    Do you think that the people who need to patronize the Salvation Army's services care one whit about that church's views on abortion or contraception? If I were homeless and hungry, I doubt if I would. I doubt if any of you would if you were in the same position.

    Which do you think pleases God more? Helping those who need help or criticizing those who provide such help and encouraging the withholding of donations to such providers because they're not "theologically correct" in Catholic terms -- even when those providers aren't, nor have any intention to be, Catholic?For whom do you think God has more compassion? A pregnant woman who has an abortion because she might be scared and intimidated, not knowing where to turn or what to do? Or those "theologically correct" Catholics who use "pro-life" rhetoric not to protect the unborn and the pregnant, but as a stick to beat those who don't think like them?

    On other threads in other blogs, I've posted that Catholics should spend more time developing and supporting agencies that allow unmarried, pregnant women to have their babies safely in a secure environment while planning their futures and less time supporting political and judicial solutions that are unlikely to come to pass. In every case, I've been shouted down. This proves to me that, for many Catholics, the "pro-life" movement is nothing but a power grab that sacrifices both the unborn and the pregnant on the dual altars of esoteric theology and political expediency.

  9. Gee everybody, can't we all just get along? :)

    Joseph, Joseph, Joseph. I'm only going to say this once. I expect civil and charitable discussion on this blog, and I am not going to tolerate any uncivility. We may all have different ideas of what "uncivility" is, but as a former Supreme Court justice once said, "I know it when I see it." And since this is my blog, I'll be the judge. I believe you're coming very close to the line. Don't cross it.

    But I will say this. 1) Yes, yes, the SA does do good work. And there are a lot of Catholic groups that don't.
    There are also a lot of bad Catholic liturgies, while the SSPX Masses are very devout. But the SSPX is in schism, and while I'm most sympathetic to their viewpoint, that doesn't make them right. And so it is with Catholics and the SA. Let's improve our own house; then we won't have to worry about what others do.

    2) JPII's statement on the death penalty is not binding on Catholics. Strongly suggested, but it's not official teaching. I favor the death penalty - as a matter of fact, I don't think it's applied nearly often enough. As a way of forcing someone to come to terms with their lives and possibly repent, it's most effective.

    3) Of course the Mosaic law is in effect. Otherwise there'd only be the New Testament in the Bible.

    4) Naturally the woman is responsible for the decision in an abortion (unless she's forced into it, makes an uninformed decision, etc.) But remember, God did give us free will. One who chooses an abortion is still responsible for what they do. Nobody else can make the decision, but if the Church doesn't try to influence that decision, then she is abrogating the mission given by Jesus to teach.

    5) The comment about a power grab - comes very close to being, as our liberal friends would say, judgmental. I know some for whom it is accurate, but for many others, it is a slander. Our priests at St. Agnes in St. Paul (home of the Latin orchestral Mass) are good, decent men, and I think you do them an injustice with such a comment.

    Thanks again for the comments so far, everyone. Please keep it civil. And maybe someone would please comment on my post about Frosty the Snowman? :)


  10. Boy, this one's really getting rough. I think MH is getting a little strict.
    I don't think anyone is suggesting that a charitable act must be contained within one's own belief system. Of course Jesus wants us all to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. All this post was meant to do was to make people check out the charitable organizations to which they contribute their time or money.
    If you wish to contribute still, do so, but don't be disparaging to those who wish to make their contributions to organizations that might be more in line with how they view things. There are many other organizations - both Catholic and non-Catholic - who are deserving of our days and dollars.

  11. Joseph,
    Not to misunderstand - we may not agree on everything (although I think we just might agree on more than it seems), I really value your comments and I'm glad you're joining in. I think we can have a very fruitful discussion on this and, hopefully, many other topics!

  12. JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS...Thank you very much for your comments and for your friendly invitation to continue commenting on your blog. It's a refreshing attitude, one quite different from many Catholic blogs on which I've posted. And, as per your request, I will do my best to ratchet down the rhetorical intensity.

  13. I, of course, a newcomer to this blog, but the author does not agree


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