The notion that abortion and poverty should be – CAN be – on an equal footing

Over at The American Catholic there is an entry by my friend The Motley Monk which needs your close reading.

An auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, Most Rev. Robert McElroy, has argued – to the delight and support of Fishwrap and the Cuomo/Kmiec/Pelosi/Biden/all Kennedys – catholics that poverty and abortion should be on an equal footing as social issues which require our action.


Catholics must be interested in the poor and must defend the unborn.

But these two moral imperatives are not on equal footing.  Not all moral issues are on the same footing as abortion.

Mark my words: The liberal response to this fellow’s post will be a string of ad hominem attacks about you “hating the poor” or being “cold” or lacking “compassion” or being “against mercy”.  Watch.  It’ll happen.  That sort of explanation, while predictable, is nonetheless without any basis in reality.

We know that the killing of the unborn is wrong.  We are not to do it.  That is, we avoid doing it because it is evil.  It is a negative command, – THOU SHALT NOT – which makes it narrow and easy for us to see clearly.

On the other hand, to alleviate  the plight of the poor, we take positive actions.  That leads to choices about how best actively to help the poor.  Helping the poor in the best way for the poor brings us to make choices between strategies, moral contingent choices, about which we can disagree.  We have a panoply of options.  You and I can, for example, disagree that burning basket loads of money in inefficient government programs is the best way to help the poor.  We can strive to help the poor through other means.  Choose some, but choose some!

Furthermore, you don’t even get to be poor if you haven’t yet been born.  So, NO, defending the unborn and helping the poor are not on equal footing.

The Motley Monk, however, in his piece does a little more when looking at Bp. McElroy’s latest argument.

He goes back and looks at what now-Bp. McElroy wrote in the past about pro-abortion politicians and Communion, and how we mustn’t be too hard on them lest we appear to have a political agenda (i.e. appear to be Republicans), while, on the other hand, now we ought to be hard on politicians if they don’t do something about the poor (through government programs)…. Get me drift?

So, here is the first part of the piece.  You can read the rest over there.  My emphases and comments.   Some of the original formatting has been lost, but you’ll figure it out.

Poverty and abortion on an equal footing?

Published Thursday, October 24, 2013 A.D. | By The Motley Monk

Way back in 2005, [2005] then-Msgr. Robert W. McElroy wrote an article published in America[where else?] in which he argued that Catholic public officials who endorse the legalization of abortion should not be denied communion. The then-Monsignor’s fear? He wrote:

The imposition of eucharistic sanctions solely on candidates who support abortion legislation will inevitably transform the church in the United States, in the minds of many, into a partisan, Republican-oriented institution and thus sacrifice the role that the church has played almost alone in American society in advocating a moral agenda that transcends the political divide.  [So, let’s give pro-abortion catholics a pass, let them continue to commit scandal on a national level, lest we look like Republicans.  Got it.]

Msgr. McElroy must have had then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in mind when writing that gem.

McElroyThe Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy
Auxiliary Bishop
Archdiocese of San Francisco

Well, that was then and the-now Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, the Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy, is once again writing in AmericaThis time, he’s arguing that the Church in the United States “must elevate the issue of poverty to the very top of its political agenda, establishing poverty alongside abortion as the pre-eminent moral issues the U.S. Catholic community pursues at this moment in the nation’s history.” [Because, as you know, people dashing to embrace this message are going to give 50% of their effort to defending the unborn, along with building up the poor.  And there’s no danger at all of appearing partisan with this sort of rhetoric.  Nosireee.]

With Pope Francis serving as his inspiration, Bishop McElroy writes:

If the Catholic Church is truly to be a “church for the poor” in the United States, it must elevate the issue of poverty to the very top of its political agenda, establishing poverty alongside abortion as the pre-eminent moral issues the Catholic community pursues at this moment in our nation’s history. Both abortion and poverty countenance [?] the deaths of millions of children in a world where government action could end the slaughter. [Government action.  I am sure the Obama Administration, and Nancy Pelosi, also from SF, would find common ground with that.] Both abortion and poverty, each in its own way and to its own degree, constitute an assault on the very core of the dignity of the human person, instrumentalizing life as part of a throwaway culture. The cry of the unborn and the cry of the poor must be at the core of Catholic political conversation in the coming years because these realities dwarf other threats to human life and dignity that confront us today.  [I think the one dwarfs the other.]

Arguing that “both abortion and poverty countenance the deaths of millions of children in a world where government action could end the slaughter,” Bishop McElroy asks his readers why, if the sanctity of the unborn human life is a doctrinal issue of the Church and, therefore, requires faithful Catholics to defend it in the public square, Catholics do not feel equally compelled to demand that their government fund social justice programs in the United States and abroad?

[The writer now does out homework for us…] To answer that question, a brief review of the reasons McElroy provided in 2005 regarding why political leaders who support abortion legislation should not be denied Holy Communion is necessary [not be denied… clear?]:

  • it would be perceived as coercive;
  • it would identify abortion as a specifically Catholic issue and play into the hands of those who accuse the pro-life movement of imposing religious tenets upon Americans;
  • it would make it appear that abortion defines the church’s social agenda; and,
  • it would “cast the church as a partisan actor in the American political system.” [Read: make us look like Republicans.  It sure wouldn’t make us look like Dems.]

That was then, but now when the issue is “poverty,” McElroy writes in his current piece:

Choices by citizens or public officials that systematically, and therefore unjustly, decrease governmental financial support for the poor clearly reject core Catholic teachings on poverty and economic justice. Policy decisions that reduce development assistance to the poorest countries reject core Catholic teachings. Tax policies that increase rather than decrease inequalities reject core Catholic teachings.

Bishop McElroy’s conclusion? The ”categorical nature of Catholic teaching on economic justice is clear and binding.”

Economic justice trumps justice for the unborn?

In The Motley Monk’s estimation, Bishop McElory is dead wrong for two reasons:

First: In the 2004 memorandum to the U.S. bishops titled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles“ then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote: [BTW… just because Francis is Pope now, that doesn’t make everything that Card. Ratzinger/Benedict XVI did wrong.]

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. […]

You can read the rest of the arguments over there. I hope you will.  Here below are links provided at the end of the entry.

To read Bishop McElroy’s recent article in America, click on the following link:

To read then-Msgr. McElroy’s article about not denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, click on the following link:

To read then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 memorandum, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:

Finally…. here is the danger that this line of argumentation runs into.

Aside from the fact that it will pit bishops against each other, publicly, one of the reasons why it is important to pay attention to this is that this sort of argumentation weakens the Church’s Magisterium.

If we are told that we are obliged morally to support specific government programs, and yet we know that these same programs are wasteful and ineffective, we will eventually conclude for ourselves that the Magisterium is just plain dumb and that we don’t have to listen to what the Church teaches.

The notion that abortion and poverty should be – CAN be – on an equal footing
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49 Responses to The notion that abortion and poverty should be – CAN be – on an equal footing

  1. Cavaliere says:

    The late Fr. Vincent McNabb, a true friend of the poor, gave a number of causes for and solutions for the poverty problem. Unfortunately I don’t think the majority of our Bishops are interested in doing what it will take, particularly those with a left leaning political bias. Because as Fr. McNabb pointed out so clearly the main cause of poverty has largely to do with morality. At the top of the list being artificial birth control (imagine that even in the early part of the 20th century recognizing that evil) right along with that would be divorce and/or fatherless households. Add to that the basic fact that the “city” is inherently incapable of being able to support the number of people living there in an adequate manner. So the idea of an artificial minimum wage is again not something to solve the poverty problem.There are a few other politically incorrect recommendations that he would have had to0 which I’m sure won’t be addressed by our shepherds. Perhaps it would serve them better if they first understood that “the poor you will have with you always” and work from there to alleviate the minimize the problem rather than creating task forces to eliminate poverty.

  2. Cavaliere says:

    It should be remembered that even the late Cardinal Bernardin was sensible enough to realize that abortion was a greater evil then poverty and that within his “seamless garment” that not all issues were of equal moral weight.

  3. Sticks and stones may break my bones, Fr. Z, but names will never hurt me.

    People seem to forget that “ad hominem” attacks continue to be listed under the title “Logical Fallacies”:

    If that’s all they’ve got, they don’t got much.

  4. anilwang says:

    Even if you did try to place abortion and poverty on equal footing, abortion would still be a priority.

    Planned Parenthood was specifically created to eliminate poverty by eliminate the poor and most PP sites are in poor neighbourhoods.

    A lot of foreign aid to poor countries is specifically tied to bullying them into acception abortion, and a majority of the money targetted for “maternal health care” in poor countries is targetted at contraception, abortion and promotion of sexualizing the poor and breaking down their family structure to be better clients of the abortion industry. In many cases, “maternal health care” dollars are diverted from actually taking care of mothers (pre and postnatally) and helping infants survive towards these PP goals.

    Besides these, the abortion industry is a primary player in the destruction of the family. Single parents parents make up a significant part of todays poor.

    So anyone who cares for the poor must, like Mother Teresa, emphatically oppose abortion so as to protect the poor from those agents of Satan that promote the Culture of Death.

  5. Muv says:

    Any chance please Fr. Z of a nice in depth post on the correct interpretation of the gospel of St. Luke Ch. 23 v. 28-31?

  6. It is instances such as this one involving Auxiliary Bishop McElroy that I begin to think that Holy Mother Church might well profit from following some lay examples. For example, before an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy is promoted to the next higher rate, he (or she) must pass an advancement exam, the successful passing of which demonstrates that the prospective promotee recognizes that certain questions have correct answers, as well as incorrect ones (the latter, at least in part, or conditionally incorrect). Might it not be a better Church if every member of the Episcopate knew such fundamental facts as Father Zuhlsdorf adduces in his discussion of the lack of equivalence of abortion and poverty. It is a rather simple and straightforward matter, as so readily demonstrated by the commenters above, who recognize that, in order to be poor, one must first escape being aborted. How is it that some among our chief shepherds can become so easily confused on this fundamental distinction, this absence of equivalence?

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  7. Jim R says:

    “If we are told that we are obliged morally to support specific government programs, and yet we know that these same programs are wasteful and ineffective, we will eventually conclude for ourselves that the Magisterium is just plain dumb and that we don’t have to listen to what the Church teaches.”

    Well, I can hear it now from the “pro-life” crowd: “Even Fr. Z says we don’t have to listen to what the Church teaches because some of the specific anti-abortion/pro-homosexuality government programs are wasteful or ineffective.” I fear you have made their point in spades, but then again no one has to listen to you or Holy Mother Church, I suppose….

  8. AvantiBev says:

    Bravo Cavaliere! I remember how Rick Santorum was pooh-poohed when he pointed out an economist’s statement that in the USA – at least before it was in the midst of fundamental transformation/deformation — one had only a 2 % chance of being poor at age 30 if you did 3 things: complete high school; do not get pregnant before marriage; do not marry before completion of high school. The Sexual Revolution brings us many evil fruits, two of which are abortion and financial/moral impoverishment.

  9. rahalpern says:

    “With Pope Francis serving as his inspiration, Bishop McElroy writes:”

    This bishop has not been listening to the Holy Father.

    Here is Francis:

    “The Church is not a shop, or a humanitarian agency, or an NGO, the Church’s mandate is to bring Christ and the gospel to everyone.”

    In his call for the Church to be a poor church and a church for the poor, Pope Francis means first that bishops should not be “holed up” in their chanceries, pushing paper, they should be out in the streets “bringing Christ,” preaching the Good News, rubbing shoulders with the poor, casting their shadows on the poor, feeding, praying, visiting, comforting washing feet, living the Gospel. Bishop McElroy’s idea of being church for the poor is to lobby politicians to spend other people’s money on dubious “solutions” to the problem of poverty.

    It was once the Church’s (and every Christian’s) mission to feed and clothe the hungry, the thirsty the naked, visit prisoners and the sick. As one of my acquaintance says, “Feeling compassion for people is NOT one of the works of mercy.” I would add that Jesus did not say, “when I was hungry, you voted for a government program. . .”

    The government, as I learned the hard way, may send you a check but no one brings it to you with a word of comfort or encouragement, or a sign of hope–in short the government doesn’t bring good news to anyone (unless your idea of good news is food stamps).

    The Church’s first priority has to be DOING the works of mercy, not telling other people to do them. Pope Francis knows St. Francis’ famous comment about preaching the gospel, “use words if necessary.

    The connection with abortion that the bishop insists on making is simply not germane. When Pope Francis talks about being a poor church for the poor, he isn’t talking about the political agenda of the US bishops conference. Bishop McElroy even writes that the Church’s opposition to poverty and abortion are both rooted in compassion–for the poor and the unborn. Huh? One feels compassion but neither opposition to abortion or opposition to the oppression and exploitation of others has anything to to do with feelings.

  10. av8er says:

    Martial Artist, I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said “Inspect what you expect”. I agree.

  11. benedetta says:

    The right to exist, to life, is the fundamental right upon which all others rest.

    It sounds like he just wants to make a “Catholic” case for attacking Catholic politicians of the party with which he disagrees. I suppose just as subtle threats to withhold communion from the Pelosi and company hasn’t really deterred Catholic politicians from throwing their support behind big abortion, threatening to brand a tea partier or a politician who questions how our country can feasibly and responsibly support certain programs (like the cell phone giveaway?) is pretty much coercion as well and not likely to do anything to bring about a change in approach.

    However, a much better strategy commensurate with this Bishop’s line of thought would be to encourage a greater prolife presence in the Democratic party. This would help to educate others and raise awareness about the fact that rights to financial support (? kind of an odd American way of putting it) are established through the right to life. The Democratic party’s moral compass is out of whack when it won’t countenance saving lives and is obsessed with the expansion of abortion yet at the same time tries to portray itself as the party that will take responsibility for the poorest. There is a credibility problem there that needs to be addressed.

    Really, no one is poorer than the unborn child in the womb. If the vulnerability to slaughter through pressure by rich elites isn’t a poverty I don’t know what is. “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish” Mother Teresa.

    The other thing that I think is really problematic is that PP and big abortion have pushed this notion for decades, starting with Sanger and continuing on, that somehow poor women “need” or “must have” abortion. It’s such a horrible elitist attitude one doesn’t know where to start to address that one. But likely, changing the “face” of the poor for the big money that supports politicians who are as Catholics very often rubbing elbows with Bishops and the like, would go a long way to humanizing what has become a demonic scourge upon a supposedly civilized society.

    But just as people have become desensitized toward abortion, they are also desensitized to the poor in our midst, and voting up or down and getting all gung ho for this politician or that one isn’t going to accomplish any real change on that score. Do we vote Dem and apply a salve to our consciences as to this or does it not even occur. I wonder. I really can’t imagine that one could feel secure that one “Did it to Him” by voting one way on election day and bringing a can or two to a soup kitchen now and again. Is it really so easy?

  12. Rich says:

    Wow. Never mind the fact that numerous innocent human lives are being taken on a daily basis. But, God forbid that the Church comes to be perceived by some people as a partisan actor in the American political system.

  13. Arele says:

    Thank you, Fr Z! Without this kind of analysis, and the support your blog provides, I think I would go abso-flippin’ nuts!

  14. Lin says:

    The TRUTH, motley monk, the TRUTH. How can this be taken as an attack?!? Real Catholics believe that life trumps social justice every time. As was previously stated, “the poor you will have with you always”.

  15. theophilus says:

    “The masses were generally interested only in wonders and in security. When He multiplied the loaves and fishes, He startled their eyes. When He filled their stomachs he satisfied their sense of social justice. That was the kind of king they wanted, a bread king. “What else can religion do for man, anyway except give him social security;” they seemed to ask. The masses tried to force Him to become a king. That is what Satan wanted, too! Fill gullets, turn stones into bread, and promise prosperity—this is the end of living for most mortals. Bur Our Lord would have no kingship based on the economics of plenty. To make Him King was His Fathers business, not theirs: His Kingship would be of hearts and souls, not digestive tracts. So the Gospel tells us He fled into the mountains Himself alone, to escape their tinsel crown and tin sword. How close the masses were to salvation. They wanted life; He wanted to give life. The difference was in their interpretation of life. Is it the business of Christ to win followers by elaborate social programs? This is one form of life. Or is it the business of Christ to be willing to lose all the stomach-minded at the cost of reaching the few with faith, to whom will be given the Bread of Life and the Wine that germinates virgins? From that day on, Christ never won the masses; within twenty months they would shout, “Crucify!” as Pilate would say, ‘Behold your King.’ ”
    — Abp. Fulton Sheen

  16. Arele says:

    Wow! What an amazing quote from Abp. Fulton Sheen. Thanks, theophilus.
    This inspires me to study more Fulton Sheen. It’s like chiropractic for the zeitgeist of the masses at this time – including Catholics.

    Again, thank God for Fr. Z’s blog! And for the commenters here as well. I find I have to read here daily for my sanity.

  17. markomalley says:

    McElroy continues on with his blathering in an interview that was unfortunately published by La Stampa’s Vatican Insider:

  18. Unwilling says:

    Timeo hominem unius libri (vel lectorem paucorum).
    Well quoted, theophilus!
    Quoniam quidem multi conati sunt ordinare narrationem!
    And someone cited Dom Chautard, recently.
    The dizzying flow of new books… but better?
    We easily miss the stops where the good stuff is.

  19. Alaina says:

    There have been so many arguments to try and justify the social and legislative acceptance of abortion: feminism, religious oppression, familial oppression, and now the poor should feel oppressed because abortion is taking the spotlight. If something has to be justified in so different ways, with countless attempts, then it can’t be justified. It is wrong. It is taking an innocent life.

    Evil has often managed to do it’s “best” work by making loud proclamations to champion the poor. The masses need to learn from history and truly champion “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”

  20. smittyjr63 says:

    Another story for the liberals to have a field day with. You know what the Church really needs to do? Ignore the mass media – tune it completely out.

  21. CharlesG says:

    Poverty is a problem, to be sure, and it will always be with us, as the Lord said, but what to do about it is a matter on which people may have very different prudential views. Left wing welfare statism pushed by the Left and Democrats are not necessarily the only or the best way. The State does not have all the answers — look at the state socialism in China before Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, or in the old Soviet Union. Everybody was equally poor, except for a corrupt bureaucratic nomenklatura, and there were few incentives to work productively. A prosperous private sector and economy also helps the poor, by giving them jobs and incomes. So does private charity, which liberals are notoriously stingy at, wanting big government solutions all the time. I just wish the unthinking politically correct liberal establishment and their easily led low information voters followers would at least admit that a prosperous economy helps the poor.

  22. Rich says:

    I find it disingenuous that some would suggest that other social justice issues may be on equal footing as abortion. Most of the time this comparison is made, such speak as if the other issues are more pressing than abortion. It makes me wonder whether they really mean what they are saying that the two may be equal.

  23. DanW says:

    @The Motley Monk 1:53
    I am a little confused, where are the “ad hominem” attacks?

  24. DanW says:

    I get it now after reading Ft. Zs coments

  25. majuscule says:

    I don’t know if this is related or not but readers might find it of interest.

    The Archdiocese of San Francisco, where Bishop McElroy is auxiliary, used to post frequently on Twitter and Facebook. It was probably done through their communications office.

    To me it was rather comforting to have uplifting messages, links to daily readings, information about saints etc. scrolling by occasionally throughout the day. In the middle of June there was a tweet and a FB post about the vote coming up on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act with the idea of contacting legislators. Someone pointed out that a member of the House and of the SF Archdiocese, Nancy Pelosi, had called abortion “sacred ground”.

    SF Archdiocese (the person tweeting for it rather) responded that her comments in no way represented the views of the Catholic Church.

    Tweets and FB posts didn’t stop immediately but there hasn’t been a peep since late August or early September.

    I hope someone didn’t lose their job…

  26. Pnkn says:

    I’m glad for the Vatican Insider interview. Maybe someone will direct the pope’s attention to the words of this priest who proposes that doctrinal documents of the Church contain falsehoods:

    “Secondly, the Church in the United States must reject the argument that issues of poverty are merely complex questions of prudential judgment on which people of good will can disagree. This falsehood, widely reflected in Catholic political conversation, analytical commentaries, and even subtly in some official Church policy documents, has the effect of neutralizing the moral claim of the issue of poverty on many Catholics in the United States.”

    and to the contradiction to Pope Francis’ comments on the right to life as the number one priority in protecting human rights:

    “On the level of moral perspective, Pope Francis’ teachings on the rights of the poor challenge the Church in the United States to recognize in priority, energy and support the equal pathways that structural sin and intrinsic evil constitute in the Church’s moral mission in the political order. ”

    I wonder of McElroy read the pope’s speech to Catholic medical professionals ?
    “The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is fundamental — the condition of all the others”
    – Pope Francis quoting Ratzinger:(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on procured abortion, 18 November 1974, n. 11).
    “11. The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is fundamental – the condition of all the others. Hence it must be protected above all others. ”

    “There is no single category of sin or evil, social good or virtue, that is the filter for discerning the priorities of the church in the public order.”
    This sounds to me like relativism and a denial of Church teachings and doctrine…..but then again, I’m just a sheep, trying to follow a papal shepherd (or two, or three…).

  27. philstudent13 says:

    @bendetta While I think it certainly would be great if one could develop a stronger pro-life presence in the Democratic party, I think at this point it just isn’t feasible, if only because of the way the 2-party system works, where one party taking a strong position on some issue just naturally leads the other party to take an equally strong opposite position. This is unfortunate, however, because the moral judgments one makes about the party’s positions on the issues which are matters of church teaching can too often get transferred to those the positions that aren’t, and thus instead of having a rational debate about things such as economic or foreign policy, the argument descends into ad hominem accusations about the other side, i.e “Republicans just don’t care about the poor,” and things like that. Rather than actually trying to reasonably figure out which economic policy is the most effective at helping the poor and the best for the country, people on both sides can too easily fall into the trap of thinking that, since they believe their party is right on the moral issues, its other positions must also be inherently morally superior, and thus the other side can be decried in moral terms on these issues. I don’t know if a political system with a greater multiplicity of parties would work any better, but there would at least be a greater room for finding a party that closely fit one’s positions. I think the fact that the only two viable options in American politics are between either moral positions and conservative economics vs. immoral positions and liberal economics is a problem, because it has basically left economically liberal Catholics in a position where, at least when it comes down to voting, they must choose between Church teaching and their own economic views, which, while of course following the Church is the right answer, is ultimately a choice they should not have to make.

  28. TimG says:

    Taking a cue from Fr Z, I decided to drill in a bit on Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy. According to the link provided to Wikipedia, he was secretary to Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco. Hmmm. Obviously this person probably had a lot of influence on Bp McElroy during his formative clergy years, a quick Google search of retired Abp Quinn results in the very first hit to a lengthy article on Fishwrap about needing major reform of the papacy (aka decentralization of papal authority) which Fr. Z wrote about in March of this year.

    The Church needs a major housecleaning…

  29. philstudent13 says:

    I’m currently at a certain California Jesuit university whose recent issues have been well-documented over on the Cardinal Newman Society sidebar on this blog, and I think it shows the bankruptcy of the whole “abortion and poverty are equal” notion, because the equality only seems to apply when taking about abortion. It is seen as perfectly fine to talk about poverty without mentioning abortion, but if anyone ever talks about abortion, it is always included only as one item in a list of other things such as poverty. In the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass for example, one intention is always for “the unborn, the poor, and the marginalized.” While of course those groups should be prayed for, the way that it is always phrased and the context of the way these issues are talked about elsewhere in the university, it certainly leaves the impression that abortion is bad, but not as bad as poverty. All of this would of course, only serve to confuse Catholic students about the Church’s position. Luckily, however, our university president recently said that the school would not be “shackled by the pall of orthodoxy,” which is basically a direct statement that one should not mistake what you hear from the university for actual Catholic teaching.

  30. av8er says:

    Judas Iscariot is the patron saint of social justice. -another gem from Achbishop Sheen.
    In Sheen’s “the life of Christ” he makes the brilliant observation that Judas’ first spoken words in the gospels were when he chastised the breaking of the expensive jar of perfume to annoint Christ when the money could have been made from its sale and given to the poor. The consequent rebuke by Christ followed with the “you will always have the poor..”
    We, the average pew sitter not you guys who already know this, have to remember that the Catholic church has done more for the poor than any other organization in the history of the human race. But to equate the blight of the poor with the evil of abortion is borderline scandelous.
    The breakdown of the traditional family has exploded the ranks of the poor in modern day America. Rick Santorum has been saying this for years and the numbers back him up. Throwing money at the problem is not the answer. Proclaiming Catholic truth and convincing the masses of that truth will ultimately better serve the poor in this country and the rest of the world.

  31. Elizium23 says:

    benedetta, that quote was a significant paraphrase or a personal interpretation and not Mother Teresa’s authentic words. See the great official resource, Quotes Falsely Attributed to Mother Teresa.

  32. RobW says:

    Elizium…where did you come up with that website? I can find websites that say bigfoot is real. A website devoted to what she didn’t say and false prophecies?? Im not buying it. Mother Teresa was CLEAR on abortion and there are many of her quotes to prove that.

  33. RobW says:

    Ok…the site is legit but how does someone know what a person didn’t say? Were they with her 24/7 her whole life?

  34. Bea says:

    Poverty is a social issue.
    Abortion is a moral issue.

    What else needs to be said?
    One can go to hell if unrepentant of advocating, cooperating, performing or having an abortion:

    If one is poor there is nothing to repent of. Lament, maybe, suffer for Christ, offer it up. the suffering of the poor may be their entry into heaven,
    Matthew 19:24
    “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
    For the poor it may be a blessing in disguise, for the rich, the poor may be their opportunity to learn compassion. “The poor you will always have with you.” and in God’s Infinite Wisdom, He gives both an opportunity for salvation.

  35. sisu says:

    If one wants to know which is worse – considered this scenario.
    In country A , the ruler provides no government food assistance, and also murders noone.
    In country B, the ruler murders 56 million people, but provides government funded food assistance.
    Who will be remembered in history as the “evil-est”?

    (trying to avoid Godwin’s law :) )
    – Sisu

  36. Mojoron says:

    The word poverty is and has been thrown around by politicians and religious to describe a social problem often caused by the government itself. The money spent on poverty and those who think they are in poverty are in the hundreds billions of dollars annually and just like spending money on schools, there is never enough money to do the job. People waste a lot of time and effort trying to erase the negative aspects of humanity but rarely spend much time in trying to find a solution to the problems. Catholic In Name Only, like our favorite politicians, only cry for the poor because it is expedient for their longevity in office and rarely support poverty programs because they believe it could end poverty with their vote. I remember when Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas told Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to not present herself for communion when she was hobknobbing with the last trimester abortionists from Wichita. She never went to communion after that, at least in Kansas. Our CINO’s listen to the church and will react negatively when they are chastised in public for their actions in supporting abortion, likewise funding of poverty is their only method of continuing their bountiful employment as politicians and they will be willing to stop taking communion in order to maintain their job security.

  37. pjsandstrom says:

    Do you think, Fr Z, that Bishop McElroy, Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, is getting ‘restive’ under the authority of Archbishop Cordileone? Does this article have some relevance to the fact that the USCCB is meeting soon in November?

  38. Gretchen says:

    It is glaringly obvious: the bishop’s conscience seems to have been formed by a political ideology that trumps the Church’s teaching. The ideology is socialist/communist in nature and has been at work within the Church for awhile now, twisting and subverting the truth, and allowing confusion to reign. There is a small satisfaction in being able to parse the bishop’s words and pick apart the error from the truth, but in the end, what he has baked is a s&*t cake, and millions of American Catholics have been happily swallowing such stuff for decades.

  39. The Masked Chicken says:


    There is something in linguistics called, “The Substitution Test,” to see if two things are equivalent. Clearly, if abortion and poverty are to be equally pre-eminent, then they would have to be equivalent in eminence.

    Okay, let’s test that, just to show how insane this talk really is. Let’s go to the source and use Christ’s words (you know, your Eminence, your boss):

    [Mark 14: 7] “7”For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.”

    Equivalent substitution?

    7″For you always have the aborted with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.

    Jesus said there would always be poverty. It is a condition of life, in general.
    Jesus never said there would always be abortion. It is a condition of non-life, in general.

    Basically, the stupidity of this is that the bishop does get the fact that, to be poor, you must first be alive!!

    The Chicken

  40. LarryW2LJ says:

    I have never understood and will never understand, how any Catholic worth his/her salt can be complacent on the issue of abortion. The facts regarding this are so crystal clear as to be akin to something being laser etched in titanium steel. It is truly the work of The Enemy that anyone would consider abortion acceptable under ANY circumstance. The weight of the issue trumps any other – murder (and that is exactly what it is) is never acceptable.

    As far as solving poverty goes, it used to seem strange to me that our Government is increasingly binding the hands of the largest humanitarian organization of the world, the Catholic Church. As an organization, “we” deliver more services to the public than any other “private” organization. This fact gets ignored in the false issue over “separation of Church and State”. I often thought the Government was cutting its nose to spite its face by increasing restrictions and regulations on the Church where it came to the point that the Church had to withdraw from providing social services (i.e. adoption agencies, for example) rather than violate its conscience. But then I realized, that in the end, the Government could not possibly care less about letting the Catholic Church help in providing humanitarian aid and solving poverty. The Government’s end game is about control, pure and simple. It used to not be that way, but it has for the last 60 years or so.

    If the Government was truly concerned about solving the poverty issue, they would untie the hands of the Catholic Church and other “faith based organizations” and say, “Have at it!” No, instead, it’s all about control as witnessed by all the associated red tape and regulation.

  41. Joseph-Mary says:

    How has throwing scads of money at ‘the poor’ worked so far? Has it eliminated it? No! Has it reduced it? No. Has it yielded many fatherless ‘families’? Yes. Has it produced generations of welfare dependent people? Yes? Has the so called “peace and justice” initiatives of progressives brought ANY peace or justice? NO! And do we really want God’s justice? That will not be pretty.

    The greatest injustice in the world is the murder of the innocent, not to mention murdering the souls involved. It is the devil’s deal. Kill the physical person and kill souls.

    WHY don’t more of our shepherds care for souls?

  42. AngelGuarded says:

    I don’t understand why our bishops try so hard to make disciples of our government. Are we not judged individually? Our Lord Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, not to judge the political actions of a government. It bothers me that Catholic leadership spends so much time, money, energy, and treasure on pressing the government to do the right thing when it should be helping individuals do the right thing, building us up by providing proper Catechesis (among other things) to make us better followers of Christ. When individuals do the right thing by the unborn and by the poor, the issues will improve if not resolve. If Nancy and Joe’s bishops corrected them and educated them and the Holy Spirit caused a conversion of their hearts so they saw abortion as the horrible sin it is, THAT would help our government change that law. If Nancy, Joe, and all Catholics were to increase their personal acts of mercy, we would not need to push the government for these programs for the poor. This is something that stymies me. I am not saying we should have nothing to do with petitioning our government, far from it. But the focus on pushing the government on immigration and programs for the poor when we are still allowing millions of babies to be murdered does not seem to me to be building up of the Body of Christ. Father Z, thank you for your blog and your tireless work to help us. And thank you for the opportunity to post.

  43. thefeds says:

    I would find it difficult to believe that Bishop McElroy would be in agreement with his Archbishop on this matter. Anyone want to bet his publications will decrease in the future?

  44. Cathy says:

    Pope Francis did not say we were to simply be a “Church for the poor”. He said we are to be a “poor Church for the poor”. A poor Church for the poor, what is that? Is it a Church that relies on insurance companies, risk assessments or government programs? Is it a Church that relies on Jesus Christ? I can’t help but to remember that Jesus Christ arrived on the shores of America long before the establishment of these United States through the North American Martyrs. These men were not lovers of luxury – the modern definition of wealth, they were lovers of Jesus Christ, True wealth.
    As Cardinal and Bishop, Francis did not look to government to “help” the poor. He went and lived among them. He lifted them by being one of them. How I wish in our country that we could separate ourselves from the government in order to help them. Is it possibly legal to do this? I am amazed that denying the Holy Eucharist from pro-abortion politicians is somehow political, but denying members of the military the right to the sacraments during a shutdown over the funding of Obamacare is not.
    I will pray for this bishop, he seems to be wise as a serpent and as innocent as a fox.

  45. MikeM says:

    I don’t like talking about it as if there’s some sort of comparison to be made. It’s like walking into a hospital and telling one dying person that they have it better than the dying guy in the room over. Maybe, but what’s the point?

    Both abortion and the suffering due to poverty are horrifying. Abortion is terrible, and so is the fact that there are over a million homeless kids in this country.

    But, I don’t know how to stop poverty. I firmly believe (and will show the evidence to anyone who will listen) that our welfare programs are depressing wage rates and holding more people in poverty. Poverty isn’t something that people deliberately cause. We can’t just ban poverty. Liberals seem to think that there’s an easy fix, but there’s not. That’s what makes the two issues so different. You can’t be a pro-poverty Catholic anymore than you can be a Catholic who supports “abortion rights.” But, there’s no pro-poverty lobby in the US.

  46. Faith says:

    For Cavaliere et al ‘ s consideration:

  47. SebastianHvD says:

    Outlawing abortion lets the government prevent a very evil act: A doctor from performing an abortion, or a mother from having one. The government can actually prevent people – by force – from falling into mortal sin. Using force in such a matter is a good thing.

    On the other hand, taxing citizens and giving that money to the poor actually substitutes a morally good act (giving alms to the poor) with an act that is morally indifferent at best: Forcing citizens to give their money to the poor. It deprives the rich of an occasion to offer their wealth as a sacrifice (at least this wealth, which has been taken from them by taxation), and causes the poor to feel entitled instead of grateful.

    I really believe that the transformation of our society from one were everybody felt personally responsible for his neighbor into a soulless, mechanical “welfare state” has deprived all of us from many occasions of personal sanctification, not to speak of the waste that public welfare always entails when compared with personal acts of good.
    Using force in such a matter is a… rather bad thing.

  48. DanW, unless Fr. Z changed something, I do not understand where the ad hominems are. The “they” that this “Motley Monk” refers to is unclear. Could this comment come from an imposter trying to stir up trouble??