It is shopping season again, Black Friday looms in the near future. With the return of cheesy Christmas music played on saxaphones in mall lobbies also brings the return of the Salvation Army “Red Kettle Campaign.”
Make no mistake, The Salvation Army does do a lot of charitable work. They run soup kitchens, assist with homelessness, operate thrift stores, work with addiction treatment and a number of good things for society. With so many good activities by the Salvation Army why shouldn’t we donate to them? Aren’t they a charitable organization the deserves support? Don’t the good things outweigh the bad? These are legitimate questions and should not be dismissed.
In order to more effectively answer these questions, and others, it is important to set a foundation on Catholic teaching regarding our cooperation with “evil.” This is not simply a way to distract from the original questions but rather to show how such decisions are rarely arrived at by a simple application of Church teaching and the light of reason.
First, the definition of evil is easiest to grasp regarding human activity as any act contrary to God’s will. (It is important to be sure to recognize we are talking about evil acts and not evil people. All persons are created in the likeness and image of God and are intrinsically good. Regardless of act, they retain their intrinsic goodness.)
As Catholics we believe that we can, in fact, know God’s will, at least partially, through the revelation of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. These two fonts of our faith help us to evaluate everyday activities as moral or immoral, good or evil. Some teachings are clearly stated in Sacred Scripture. For example “You shall not murder” comes from the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, in Deuteronomy and Exodus. Other teachings are less obvious if we only use Sacred Scripture, particularly with modern science and technology that was not present in ancient times. A good example of this would be embryonic stem cell research. Though there are Sacred Scriptures that can help us evaluate the morality of embryonic stem cell research there is not a single quote that can be culled from the Bible that speaks directly about “embryonic stem cell research.” As Catholics we are then left with the application and integration of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition is not just “what we have always done.” Rather, it is the collection of teachings lived and passed down from the very beginning of the Church through Apostolic succession, guided by the Holy Spirit and the life of the Faithful.
It is the authority of the Church that we most often rely upon to help us know the morality of a particular act, however we must also rely on the light of reason, the presence of the natural law inscribed on the hearts of each person by the Creator to know the morality, the good or evil of a particular act. This is clearly seen through the almost universal belief that murder is evil regardless of religion, culture, socio-economic status, etc.
When it comes to the dignity of the human person, the respect for human life, the Church is very clear and has been established from both fonts, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. This teaching is succinctly summarized in the document Gaudium Et Spes from the Second Vatican Council which states:
“Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator.”
Simply put, the Catholic Church respects the dignity of all life from “womb to tomb.” These teachings are non-negotiable for Catholics. These teachings are not solely to product of divine revelation but it is easy to see how anyone of any faith, or no faith, could come to a rational conclusion that these standards for morality regarding life could be universally accepted, even though they are not in reality accepted by all in society.
This brings us to the topic of the “red kettles” and The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is not an organization that combats poverty, it is a religious community. This point must be recognized first and foremost. This “church” refuses to oppose abortion. It says that abortion is a private personal decision. This is contrary to the Catholic Teaching on life. The Salvation Army supports artificial contraceptive programs and supports population control programs. These programs are in direct conflict with Catholic teaching; they not only promote and provide contraception to persons in developing nations but have actually participated in FORCED sterilization.
After considering the Church’s teachings on life, which includes artificial contraception because of the assault on the dignity of the person that such activities include, and the specific instances in which the Salvation Army contradicts Catholic teaching, it is important to understand how to evaluate the morality of human acts.
This is found in the Catholic Catechism in Part Three, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 4, 1749-1761. The morality of an act must rely on the object chosen, the end intended, and the consequences that follow, all three must be good. The intent is not the only aspect of a human act. With regard to donating to organizations the intent is usually always good. This is the case with the Salvation Army. The final qualification of a morally good act, the consequences that follow the act, is the point of the act that we must evaluate with regards to donating to the Salvation Army. When one donates to organizations like the Salvation Army the intent is good, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, etc. But the consequences of the donation go far beyond these noble and morally sound activities. The consequences of giving money to the Salvation Army allow that organization the ability to support other activities that are objectionable due to their intrinsically disordered nature and direct attacks on the dignity of the human person.
The question one might ask, and is in fact a responsible question to ask, “so what? Don’t the good things they do outweigh the wrong?” The answer is simply “NO.”
But it would be unfair to leave it at that, it would also be lazy on my part to do so. I would like to answer that first question with this one to start. “If you have a choice between donating to an organization that feeds the hungry worldwide, assists the homeless, helps with human trafficking programs, helps with developing nations’ disease prevention, supports mental health programming, works with drug and alcohol addiction programs, assists with access to healthcare, assists refugees in relocation programs, helps provide potable water to those without, micro-financing, disaster relief, and literacy programs with one that does all of these things but also supports artificial contraception and population control programs and refuses to oppose abortion which should a Catholic choose?” The truth is that the Catholic Church and Her various agencies, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, to name a just few, do all of the things that the Salvation Army does but are in complete communion with Holy Mother Church and do not condone or participate in direct attacks on human dignity. Furthermore. roughly 95% (give or take the year) of all donations that go to Catholic organizations go to direct services and not overhead.
As said before, good intentions are not enough to make an act moral and good. One cannot do evil in order to do good. The Salvation Army, for all of the good it does, also promotes, condones, and participates in acts of evil with the donations they receive. This is not to say that the people who are a part of the Salvation Army are evil, by no means is this what I am concluding. But it would be a lie to claim that all of their activities are morally acceptable for Catholics to support with their funds. Think of it this way. For every dollar given a particular percentage of that dollar goes to support activities that contradict Church teaching. It is easy for someone to say “I give a dollar and I don’t want it to go to those programs so I make sure that it goes directly to the programs I want.” This is not exactly easy to do since all funds eventually end up in one large pot (or red kettle, if you will). If the budget of their food programs is completely met by specified donations like the one just mentioned that leaves other funds to support activities contrary to our beliefs. This is why some bishops have directed their flocks to discontinue support of Susan G. Komen because of that foundation’s support of embryonic stem cell research and its support to Planned Parenthood. The list of non-profits that intend good but do evil is shockingly long. Michael J. Fox foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and many more support varying activities that contradict Church Teaching.
Good intentions are not good enough for an act to be morally acceptable according to Catholic teaching. If one wishes to be in communion with the poor by donating their time or money it would seem to be morally illicit (prohibited or unacceptable) to donate to the Red Kettle Campaign of the Salvation Army. Fear not! One can still support the poor and vulnerable through other organizations that UNIVERSALLY respect human dignity.
For alternatives to donating consider: International Poverty relief donate to Catholic Relief Services ; Local Poverty relief and social services donate to Catholic Charities ; Working for Institutional Change to aid the poor donate to Catholic Campaign for Human Development ; Cancer research, orphan disease research, heart disease research, etc. John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute (uses adult stem cells only)
Resources that provide evidence to show that The Salvation Army and its Divergence from the Catholic Faith
The War Against Population: The economics and ideology of world population. Written by Jaqueline Kasun, published by Ignatius Press. Page 234.
Americans United for Life. Dishonorable mention list of non-profits.
Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion and the Federal Government by Donald T. Critchlow, page 46.
Population Research Institute: War on Population in Kenya
Life Decisions International (see page 8)
Salvation Army policies on abortion, contraception, sterilization, artificial conception methods
According to one Salvation Army group the average percentage that actually goes to services from the red kettle campaign is 82-83% this leaves approx.. $.17 to $.18 of every dollar to go elsewhere.
Relevant Radio Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N26x3bbp_ZI&feature=player_embedded
This entry was posted in Current Events and tagged black friday, catholic charities, catholic relief services, catholic social teaching, donating, human dignity, poverty, pro life, red kettle, salvation army, shopping, thanksgiving.