Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Campaign for Human Development: the only response to poverty?

politics | Sep 04, 2015 | By Stephanie Block

How many kinds of moral and material poverty we face today as a result of denying God and putting so many idols in his place!  - Pope Francis in a Twitter comment, June 12, 2013.
In the light of Catholic Relief Services anti-American “Parish Partnering” program [see “Evangelizing for the world, not the Word: the secularized Catholic Relief Services”], the question arises: “Does a Catholic who wishes to help the poor have any other options?”  Are there programs available to us that provide poverty relief without compromising Catholic teaching and/or fomenting a socialist ideology?
Why, yes, there are. 
The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a think tank founded by Father Robert Sirico, who serves on the Institute’s board as its president.  The Institute’s goal is to integrate “Judeo-Christian Truths with Free Market Principles.”  Rather than cherry-picking from the Church’s vast body of thought about the nature of man and his relationship to society, the Institute attempts a holistic response to the issue of poverty.  It understands that the most effective social structures will, in the long run, be those that consistently respect the human person as a free, moral being. 
One of its programs is PovertyCure.  PovertyCure’s nearly 400 partner organizations share the common aspirations of serious entrepreneurial assistance with a serious Christian perspective.
Many of the groups are not Catholic.  
Jobs for Life, for instance, was started by a United Church of Christ pastor in North Carolina and reaches out to the homeless, chronically unemployed, and formerly incarcerated, teaching “life” skills along with employment skills.  According to CEO David Spickard, that means instilling “values and attitudes that make a person whole.”  He’s talking about Christian values, not national workforce development values.  There are no government funds supporting Jobs for Life.
The organization teaches local churches to build a network of volunteers who use “biblically-based training and mentoring relationships” to help others “find dignity and purpose through meaningful work.”  It’s a simple and effective approach that has seen about 80% of its “graduates” thriving in their new employment.
Hope International is “a network of micro-finance institutions and savings and credit associations operating in 17 countries around the world.” It’s nondenominational but clearly operating from a Christian ethic, as attested to by its mission statement.  Like Jobs for Life, Hope International does “not accept government funds, directly or indirectly.” 
It’s interesting to compare the theological assumptions of Hope International to those one hears or reads among the “faith-based” Alinskyian organizing networks.  The Christian groups work with everybody and serve everybody without compromising their fundamental theological positions.  Alinskyian groups promote novel theological positions designed to be “inclusive.” 
Michael Matheson Miller, a Research Fellow at the Action Institute articulates the distinction in a Catholic Forum video: “Instead of engaging in Christian charity,” he says, “we have adopted a humanitarian model and humanitarianism is really a hollowed out, secular vision of Christian love.  Charity is “caritas” – it’s agape – it’s Christian love.  Charity is to seek the good of the other… humanitarianism, on the other hand, has a limited horizon….  It kind of stops at giving material good ….[it] doesn’t think about the eternal destiny.”    



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Spero News columnist Stephanie Block edits the New Mexico-based Los Pequeños newspaper and is the author of the four-volume Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing Among Religious Bodies, which is available at Amazon.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.

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