Tag Archives: gospel

Hope in the developing world

Fr. Thomas Euteneuer says transformation happens by living the Gospel . . .

In his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi, the Holy Father articulates the true nature of Christian mission: to change hearts and minds in order to change society. The Gospel message is not simply a comforting story intended to put us at ease, but a consuming fire that can transform and purify our souls and the soul of our nation. In order for this transformation to take place, however, the Gospel must be truly lived.

Unfortunately, the purveyors of the culture of death also know how to actively transform society. They know that policies and documents, laws and conventions all mean something more than just words. These are the instruments whereby they bring about their desired transformation in society and the world.

A recent high-profile example of this is the rescinding of the Mexico City Policy by President Obama who, only three days after his inauguration, released millions of dollars of funding for organizations whose primary purpose is to promote abortion around the world. The Mexico City Policy was first instituted by President Reagan and upheld by both Bushes (though rescinded by President Clinton) as a restriction on funding groups that promote abortion. Obama reversed this policy, and now the American taxpayer is once again paying to undermine the sovereign pro-life laws of poor pro-life nations.

In February, I saw the effects of such meddling firsthand during a trip to southern Africa. Swaziland is one of the poorest but most pro-life countries in the world, and their population almost universally rejects the whole idea of abortion. You should see all of the children and the hope in their eyes! Like all children, they are the embodiment of hope for their nation. Yet this is a truism that seems to have been forgotten in most “developed” countries that have embraced the ideology now sold under the name “reproductive health.” The dearth of children in our supposedly advanced Western culture speaks more eloquently about our dwindling hope than any survey could.

Yet, during my week-long stay among the beautiful Swazi people I saw how Western money fuels the country’s Planned Parenthood affiliate, the ironically named Family Life Association for Swaziland. They have loads of Western financing to promote the culture of death in a land in which these are foreign concepts — financing that we, as American taxpayers, are now contributing to.

In one meeting I asked a group of Swazi youth leaders: Do the terms “reproductive health” or “gender equity” have any equivalents in the Siswati tongue (the country’s official language)? Where exactly did these words come from and why are they found in the constitution and national policy of Swaziland? Furthermore, why does Swaziland have an official population (reduction) policy when the population is already being ravaged by the highest HIV-AIDS infection rate in the world? No one could answer these questions, but they did begin to realize that these are non-native intrusions into their culture and politics from well-financed and powerful groups.

That is the way of population politics, and what is true of a small country in southern Africa is true in every part of the developing world. American dollars are already dedicated to population control at all levels — from the teaching of hedonistic sex education in the schools to abortion advocacy and population reduction quotas. The reversal of the Mexico City Policy is designed to fill the coffers of those international organizations that advocate the intrusion of the culture of death everywhere.

In keeping with the consistent teachings of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI has been adamant in challenging us to actively resist the culture of death — and not just to talk about it. Our faith is “performative” in the most real sense, whether we are missionaries to the developing world or “ambassadors” to our co-workers and society.

Of course we can affect to some degree the changes we want to see by voting and by supporting organizations that try to stop this assault on the people in the developing world. But the deepest level and most universal means of addressing this problem is always prayer. Our hope is not in the knowledge of this world but in Christ’s infinite mercy. Only our Lord and his Church can ever fully marshal the spiritual strength to make a difference against the culture of death. Prayer still moves mountains!

We can all pray and support various initiatives to fight the culture of death, even if the evils are given endorsement by the powers of this world. We do this with the conviction that evil is never more powerful than the innate gift and force of life. Faith and hope, virtues that allow the Gospel to become performative in our lives, provide our grounding for living the Gospel of Life — and ensure that life will be victorious.

Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer is president of Human Life International, the world’s largest pro-life organization with affiliates in 75 countries.

Down and out in America

Legates offer the poor a hand up in tough economic times

Robert Chisholm knows that helping the poor is part of his responsibility as a Catholic, but it’s not something he does out of a sense of duty.

“To me, lending my time, talent and treasure to an initiative of this type is really very natural,” said Chisholm, chairman of the board of Community Partnership for Homeless in Miami, Fla. “It is part of Church teaching, but I don’t give it a second thought. I just do it.”

The call to serve

Chisholm, an architect and member of the Miami Chapter, is one of several Legates involved in helping the poor and homeless — a population in the forefront of America’s consciousness during the current recession.

In Asbury Park, N.J., Joe Marmora serves as executive director of Interfaith Neighbors, which provides rent subsidies, meals-onwheels, food and heating assistance to the poor. In Tampa, Fla., Jeff Darrey works with Trinity Café, which serves a free restaurant-quality meal to some 200 people each weekday.

All three men have responded generously to the Lord’s call to help the destitute, implicit in both the Gospel and Catholic social teaching. In the 2001 document Living the Gospel of Life, the U.S. bishops said, “Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized” in areas such as poverty, hunger, employment and housing.

Many people — including Catholics — have come to expect the government to solve these problems. However, individuals can be more effective at bringing solutions to poverty, said Joseph Varacalli, director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Nassau Community College.

“The Catholic response to those in a state of poverty must not be merely in terms of government and bureaucratic programs — which can be cold, abstract and even, in certain cases, counterproductive — but also in terms of individual charitable efforts, the latter with its more necessarily human face,” he said.

Indeed, Legatus members who work with homeless and other poverty-stricken people say treating them with dignity is a hallmark of their programs. “We approach people with a lot of respect, a lot of love and providing hope,” Chisholm said. In fact, Chisholm puts his architectural skills to good use by designing CPH buildings so they more closely resemble houses rather than institutional buildings.

“Sometimes people of the streets who are in such dire straits just need somebody to treat them with love, kindness and dignity,” added Darrey, cofounder of Trinity Café and CEO of Marketing Associates/USA, Inc. “That’s what we provide at Trinity Café. Over and over again we see the difference it makes in people’s lives and the softness on people’s faces when they leave compared to when they come in.”

A hand up

However, homeless advocates know that it’s not enough just to be caring and provide people with food or a place to sleep.

Programs like the Community Partnership seek to help the poor make changes in their lives that will keep them off the streets. From its inception in 1995, Chisholm said, CPH wanted to offer a continuum of care and real hope.

Finding the root cause of someone’s homelessness, hunger or poverty can be challenging, he said. “Many people are unable to cope with life. We offer all the help in the world, but we also teach them that there are responsibilities and consequences to everything you do in life. If they want to be helped, we help get them back on their feet with a lot of love and respect, but also a lot of discipline.”

Since Community Partnership’s beginnings, about 61% of residents in its two homeless assistance centers have made the move toward selfsufficiency, meaning they were able to leave the facility, get a job and function in society.

“We certainly don’t believe in anyone having a free ride in life,” Chisholm said. “We want people to be valuable, contributing members of society within their capabilities, be able to provide for themselves or their family and lead a responsible life within the minimum parameters.”

Chisholm said the average stay in one of the partnership’s centers is 45 days. In addition to food and temporary shelter, the centers offer case management, health and child care and job training. CPH is funded by a 1% sales tax on food and beverages sold at certain restaurants in Miami-Dade County and donations from charitable foundations, corporations and individuals.

Priority issues

Those who work with the poor and homeless regularly encounter skepticism about whether those they help are truly needy. Marmora, who was working in real estate when he helped start Interfaith Neighbors in Asbury Park more than 20 years ago, said he often hears from well-to-do friends that the poor are lazy and simply don’t want to work.

“We minister to the working poor,” he said. “They’re just families that live on the edge. They are unskilled, make minimum wages and can’t afford the high rents they have to pay. So they struggle whenever they get too far behind, and we kind of lift them up and keep the family together.”

Although Catholics are called to feed the hungry and house the homeless, Church teaching makes it clear that such work is not to be at the expense of more serious issues like abortion.

In Living the Gospel of Life, the bishops write that if the human person is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” or the “living house of God,” then issues such as racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and healthcare form the crossbeams and walls of the structure while attacks on innocent human life — such as abortion and euthanasia — strike at the foundation. “Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand,” the document says.

In a similar vein, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput warns against looking at Catholic social doctrine as the Church’s sole mission in his new book Render Unto Caesar. “The Catholic faith is much more than just another public philosophy or useful set of social programs. The Church is not an association of social workers. She is a community of believers and disciples. In fact, the Church’s social service has no meaning outside her Christcentered faith.”

Trinity Café’s Jeff Darrey says all the social issues work together and deserve his attention. For example, if he serves a meal to a hungry woman and learns she is in a crisis pregnancy, he would refer her to a pregnancy center for help in carrying her child to term. Five years ago, he and his wife Sharon supported an 18- month-long billboard campaign directing abortion-minded women to a pregnancy center.

“It’s not an issue of either/or,” Darrey said. “This is what we’re called to do. This is the whole purpose. This is why I care.”

Judy Roberts is a freelance writer based in Graytown, Ohio.

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Corporal Works of Mercy

Feed the hungry

Give drink to the thirsty

Clothe the naked

Shelter the homeless

Visit the sick

Visit those in prison

Bury the dead