A common complaint that Catholics receive is that the Church is too obsessed with issues like abortion. Particularly around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, people will ask why the Church doesn’t focus on other issues like poverty, homelessness, and racism.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) does affirm that, “At this particular time, abortion has become the fundamental human rights issue for all men and women of good will. … For us abortion is of overriding concern because it negates two of our most fundamental moral imperatives: respect for innocent life, and preferential concern for the weak and defenseless.”
But because of this, many pro-choice people charge that Catholics only care about a baby when it is in the womb, but then do nothing to help that baby flourish once he or she is born. And while it is true that Catholics consider abortion the pre-eminent issue of our time (and thousands of Catholics marched in pro-life demonstrations in past weeks), it is demonstrably false to say that the Catholic Church is pro-birth rather than pro-life.
In the document Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, the USCCB outlines why abortion is the most important pro-life issue of our time, but also affirms the need for a consistent life ethic, saying, “Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas.”
And Catholics do advocate for the weak and the marginalized in all these areas, while also working to end abortion. In many communities, Catholic Charities is one of the largest providers of affordable housing, adoption and foster care support, immigration and refugee services, senior care, affordable mental health counseling, and criminal justice ministries. Around the globe, Catholic Relief Services is one of the most respected organizations when it comes to disaster relief, relieving food insecurity, assisting refugees, and providing healthcare access.
So how can you respond when people accuse the Church of being obsessed with abortion? You can take a note from Patrick Madrid. A listener named Alex recently called in to The Patrick Madrid Show and asked, “What do you think about the distribution of resources in the Church? What I see is a lot of politicking around anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-gay and trans rights. How do you feel about the distribution of effort among those things … versus other initiatives in the Church, like charity, helping to promote peace, and that sort of thing. I feel like there’s an imbalance there.”
Patrick responded, “I don’t have any quantifiable data in front of me, but you sound like a very thoughtful person. So I’m sure you know that the single largest, most comprehensive organization when it comes to charitable works is the Catholic Church, globally speaking. And the unbelievable amount of money and human man hours that goes into feeding the hungry, clothing people who need clothing, homes for unwed mothers, free medical clinics, free food, soup kitchens, orphanages, hospitals for indigent people. The list goes on and on.”
“So yeah, I guess you’re probably right,” Patrick told Alex. “There is more, vastly more, of those charitable works that are going on all around the world by the Catholic Church, than there is any talking about, say, one day out of the year doing a pro-life march in Washington, DC. It really isn’t balanced. You’re right about that. There is so much more being done in terms of charitable works, than there is on things like demonstrating against abortion. So I guess that is really a big imbalance. You’re right about that.”
Perhaps it is because the pro-life movement involves a great amount of grassroots support from Catholics. Or perhaps it is because the Catholic Church is one of the few institutions that views abortion as the fundamental human rights violation of our time. Regardless of the reason, many people like Alex believe that most of the Church’s resources are going toward the politics of abortion. And the best response is to show them the truth.
Patrick said, “I think what you wanted to do is to suggest that there is some disparity, or an imbalance, in that people are too caught up in the pro-life movement, but not nearly as busy in trying to help people who are poor, or refugees, or other things. But it’s exactly the opposite in actual fact.”
Listen to the full conversation below: