In one of my recent link round-ups, I linked to a set of stories which proclaimed the end of "Catholics" in Alliance for the Common "Good." My brief statement for that story was:
After this bit of bad news, some good news is in order: "Catholics" in Alliance for the Common Good is apparently out of business (for now?). I will add my voice to the others who have said, variously, "good riddance" and "Thanks be to God." Now, if only "Catholics" United, "Catholics" for Choice, and the "Catholic" Campaign for Human Development would follow suit...
My friend Mr Phil Carter then asked me why I don't like the Catholic Campaign for Human development; simply put, they have some ties to groups which promote things (such as contraception, abortion, Marxism, etc.) which go against Church teaching. As a follow-up question, he asked me if I had any charities which I would recommend instead of the CCHD. I gave a short reply, but said that this deserved its own post, so here is that post.
While I support giving to charities, just picking "any old charity" is not a good policy, even if the charity claims to be Catholic. Not all charitable organizations which claim to be Catholic act in accord with Catholic teaching to the fullest extent that they can (within the scope of their mission). Whether this is by malicious intent to undermine the Church's teachings or by mistake (e.g. an organization like the CCHD not doing its research before donating to other organizations, thereby accidentally giving money to groups who support abortion or contraception or gay "marriage", etc., groups which will even use that money to further that support).
I am not an expert in the ties of every charitable organization with ties to the Church, be those ties in name only or more significant. With that said, here are my thoughts on charities. I should note that these are not necessarily hard rules, but rather are some principles which may help some Catholics who want to give to help the poor without supporting abortion or contraception or a host of other social issues which go against Catholic moral teaching. We should be able to help the poor and destitute--including by making financial contributions to organizations which claim to do this--without having to compromise our moral principles.
My first recommendation is to consider "shopping" local if you want to help the poor in our own country. Donate to the local soup kitchen or food pantry: they will often do "food drives," so you can donate by participating in this way and know exactly what your money is going to support. Another alternative, for those living in the Austin Area (as well as some other cities in the southeast), is the Mobile Loaves and Fishes program; other ares may have an equivalent program to this, which takes the food to the hungry and poor people of the area. The principle also works with Saint Vincent de Paul: donating clothing (new or gently used) and other items.
The reason for "shopping local" with charities is three-fold. First, they help people within your own immediate community, some of whom you have almost certainly met, and who have likely asked you for aide. Second, the local charities are often volunteer-run, and as a result may have less overhead--your donations become more efficient. Third, the local charities rarely get distracted with issues outside of their immediate concern. Recall that for all their good work, both Catholic Charities and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society spent quite a bit of time lobbying for health-care reform, including urging people to call their congressmen to pass the controversial (abortion-funding, almost certainly contraception-funding) health-care bill.
My second recommendation is to consider funding very specific charities such as the Gabriel Project, or the local maternity home. In general, helping the poor should go hand-in-hand with being pro-life (and vice-versa). In the case of charities like these, you are helping poor women faced with a "crisis pregnancy," and you know that the organization in question will put your donations to good use locally. Crisis Pregnancy Centers can also be a good option. plus, you know that if any of these organizations does happen to spend some of your donation supporting a cause outside what you might consider their charitable mission (most don't), it is going to be pro-life.
A third recommendation is having your own "water-bottle" ministry (of sorts). Carry some bottles of fresh water (and maybe some granola bars, fruit, or some other "snack") in your car (or backpack). You can give these to the homeless and panhandlers who you encounter. It's not much, but they usually appreciate it; they appreciate it even more if you ask their names, since this means that you are recognizing their dignity as fellow men.
So far I have given suggestions only for working locally. What about working nationally, or (more importantly) internationally? I actually have a few recommendations for this. First and foremost is the Peter's Pence collection. Most (if not all) Catholic Churches in America take up a collection for this annually. The money is sent to the Vatican, and is generally used by the Pope (or his designee) for charitable work. In other words, you are sending money to help the Pope in his charitable works. Similarly, you could donate to your local church's charitable fund, or your local diocese's. These support the charities of your local bishop or parish.
Second, you could consider sponsoring a child (or a family) in a third-world country. You'd have to research your charity on this one, but I suspect that the odds are the money you send are going to support a real live person (or family) who is starving and/or needing the other basic necessities of human life. Condoms and/or sterilizations aren't among those necessities, and as far as I know they aren't treated as such by most charities in which you sponsor a family/child/other person. Not to mention, you can extend your sponsorship to be spiritual as well as material, both in prayers and kind correspondences.
Third, you could donate to the visiting missionaries which come every few weeks or months to any given American Church. I suppose, though, that since these are often representatives of foreign dioceses, this counts as much towards supporting the Church as it does towards charitable donations. You can also send aide to organizations like the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's organization)*. You could also consider donating to a particular branch of a larger national/international charity: for example, to the adoptions services of Catholic Charities.
If you want to work with a larger charity, Saint Vincent de Paul is the best I know of. The whole health-care-bill thing was well-intentioned, and likely a prudential blip on the map. They really do good work, both locally and internationally. If you don't mind the occasional rallying/lobbying for controversial political goals (like health care reform in spite of the abortion funding), then they are probably the best large charity. I've not heard of any condom-distribution scandals or the like**.
As a final principle, you can consider donating your time as well as your treasure, though to be fair there are some people--myself included--who are "time-poor," and they aren't necessarily the same people as those who are "materially" poor.
*However, it is worth researching these foreign charities before donating, just to be safe.
**With that said, the whole push by them and by Catholic Charities on the health-care front really hurts the reputation of both organizations. People--Catholic or otherwise--who donate money to charities do so in the hope that the charity will work directly with people in need, not by urging the passage of controversial legislation, however necessary a reform of the health care system was. Health care may be a basic right, but this doesn't mean that government needs to provide it, let alone in the form of a bill which provided for abortion funding.
Update: and of course, within a short time of writing this a scandal would have to erupt at the Vatican bank. I'm not sure whether or not this ties into the Peter's Pence collection, though.
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