Chaput Tells It Like It Is to Catholic Social Workers

CNA reports on remarks by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, stressing the need for Catholics in Catholic organizations to be Catholic.

It’s somewhat sad that this is even news, but for several reasons the speech is an important one.

Notably, he gave his presentation at the Catholic Social Workers National Convention, which was being held in Denver, and it is a great credit to them that he was chosen to speak.

Catholic social agencies are right to be concerned about their ability to live out their identity, because they have been targeted by for discrimination by certain governments because of those agencies’ decision to adhere to traditional Catholic teachings on marriage and sexuality.

The social work field itself is also a massive battleground in which secular schools and professional organizations are trying to exclude any Catholic or Christian who adheres to traditional moral teachings.  Social work and counseling as professions are on the brink of making it so that no Christian who needs help or counseling will be able to seek assistance from someone committed to Christian values, because a person or agency with such values won’t be allowed to get an education or license.

At the same time, some Catholic social service agencies have been criticized for having many employees who do not embrace and advance the agencies’ Catholic identity, but who sometimes believe and act counter to it.

The Archbishop stated it bluntly: “if our social work isn’t deeply, confidently and explicitly Catholic in its identity, then we should stop using the word ‘Catholic.’ It’s that simple.”

Ironically, while many attacks come upon Catholic institutions because they adhere to Church teaching, the best chance legally that Catholic institutions have to win those battles is for them to be thoroughly Catholic instead of marginally Catholic.

That doesn’t mean such an agency would only serve Catholics–on the contrary, its mission is to bring Jesus to the world. And it may or may not mean that every employee is Catholic, though one would expect most of them to be. What it does mean is that every employee, and the very heart and trajectory of the organization, must be unswervingly committed to advancing the Catholic mission of such an agency, namely, as Archbishop Chaput expressed it, that “Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ” and his body the Church.



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  • Joseph Sweeney

    Kevin, God Bless you on your commitment to help the poor and needy. I also am a Social Worker (BSW). I have read all the the social ebcyclicals published since Rerum Novarum, and yes indeed, there is a stressing on the right to private prtoperty and free enterprise. With all due respect to those who were talking about who is saved ans who is not, yes there may be indeed only a remnant of the faithful left on earth, but it is not our place to make any judgments. Jesus said, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
    For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?
    You hypocrite, 3 remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5). If someone who is one of those labelled above (an abortionist, liberal, atheist, etc). were starving and in need of bread and water, would you refuse it to them? Perhaps an act of kindness from a follower of Christ would plant a seed of conversion in that person’s soul. Remember, some of the greatest saints (Paul, Augustine, etc), were great sinners before they converted. Also, Norma McCorvey converted, did she not? God Bless you all.

    • Meg

      Well spoken. It’s the battle of every Christian to discover how to serve the Truth while operating in Love. Some understand service to Truth to mean that you reject sinners, because sinners represent the sins that we abhor within ourselves. The religious leaders of Christ’s day believed this, and it was for them that He reserved His harshest rebukes. Thus, just as Love can never be divorced from a devotion to Truth lest it devolve into mere sentimentality, it is impossible to speak the Truth if it is not spoken in Love. Truth without Love is nothing but accusation, and as soon as we accuse one another, we stand accused before the Lord of the Universe for the sins that remain hidden, perhaps even from ourselves, within our hearts.

  • Kevin

    I have nearly completed my MSW degree and I fully support Archbishop Chaput’s words, especially that the Church’s teaching on capitalism and capital punishment meses perfectly with social work principles.

  • Jerry Schmutte

    Yet Archbishop Chaput continues to support Catholic Campaign for Human Development which continues to give millions of dollars to groups which directly or indirectly oppose Church teaching.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    • Meg

      False. CCHD mistakenly funded *three* groups out of hundreds that opposed Church teaching. When it surfaced that those groups had misrepresented themselves, their funding was rescinded.

      • Jerry Schmutte

        Please read the document I attached to my post, follow the links, and then tell me my assertion is “false”.

      • Whitney

        Roxanne Martino was appointed to the Notre Dame board of trustees, even though she had donated large sums of money to Emily’s List, which in turn supports radical pro-abort organizations. She claimed her donations were not out of line with Catholic teaching because she had failed to do due diligence, but we all know this is not an acceptable excuse. Why should it be an excuse for Archbishop Chaput? He donated to CCHD which in turn promoted the homosexual agenda. It is ironic that he announced that social groups can only call themselves Catholic if they are 100% Catholic in their actions, when he himself has fallen short of that goal. He should be removed from his post as bishop, defrocked, and possibly excommunicated if his definition of “explicitly Catholic social ministry” involves ministering to those who would destroy marriage and the family. It’s that simple.

        • Shaggy

          There’s a huge difference between an organization whose sole mission is to get pro-abortion politians elected, and an organization that supports a multitude of charitable organizations, most of which sincerely follow Jesus’ call to help the needy. It’s not reasonable to give to a group whose stated mission is in direct violation to Catholic teaching, but it is very reasonable to be unaware of a handful of organizations taking money from a blanket charity that violate Church teaching.

          One might try to correct a Catholic giving money to the Komen Foundation because they support Planned Parenthood, but we could understand the good intentions. On the other hand, we would be more critical of someone giving directly to Planned Parenthood.

  • Bill

    Catholicism has become terribly misunderstood. Did Christ tell His disciples to open schools, hospitals, welfare agencies, etc. carte blanche? No, specific persons or orders were given this task by Divine Design at specific times in history. Christ told us that Satan is the prince of this world. It falls apart when the Catholic teacher, nurse, doctor faces trhe “hard case”. In order to assist, they are tempted to water down Church teaching to ease the client’s plight. They enter a slippery slope from which there is no return. The Second Vatican Council was called and gained resonance because it catered to millions of marginal (emotionally, mentally, etc.) people who could not live by Catholic (i.e., Christ’s) standards. The secret: many (most?) people are not saved. The response of Vat. II and the thought of JP II was to suggest that everyone is saved. That is why he was so popular.

    • Meg

      I will not argue that Vatican II has been misrepresented by individuals to conform to their personal beliefs. Very few people have actually read the Vatican II documents, including supporters and criticizers. The documents themselves are quite beautiful. Also, while the Church does not require that Vatican II be considered infallible (to my knowledge), it does require “a submission of intellect and will”, if not supernatural faith. Vatican II was a Council of the Church, and to mock it is in bad taste, and not very Catholic.

      Regarding salvation: Christ told us to go and make disciples of all nations. It’s not over til it’s over. And no one knows who is saved. The only criteria Jesus ever offers can be found in Matthew Chapter 25, “For I was hungry…” and “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” and in the story of the humbled, repentant thief on the cross. That means we should always be nonjudgmental, repentant, and compassionate/rational towards views that seek to serve the poor, even if we disagree with their method (and learning more about their methods and reasoning).

    • Whitney

      Thank you, Bill. “Many (most?) people are not saved.” The truth can be harsh but it is still the truth. Jesus ministered to sinners, but ministered only to those who had accepted Him or were seeking Him. So too we must only minister to those who are actively seeking a life with Christ. Those who have flat out rejected Him through their actions – abortionists, liberals, homosexuals, feminists, and atheists, to name a few – must get to the back of the line (if allowed in line at all) as far as Catholic social work is concerned. They have rejected God’s love, and those who have not are the priorities. Why should we waste time and resources on lost causes?

      • Ann

        Huh??? The Gospel has many examples of Jesus ministering to Samaritans, Gentiles, even Roman soldiers. He came for sinners, not the saved. The Good Shepherd leaves the 99 and goes out and pursues the 100th lost sheep.

        Because they are not truly lost until they are dead… and even then, that decision in is the hands of God, not ours. While not many may be saved, the most dangerous attitude to take is for us to start condemning everyone to hell carte’ blanche. “As you measure out others, so shall it be measured out to you.”

        Haven’t you ever heard of conversion? If we do not engage with sinners, we will have ceased to be salt and light.

  • Meg

    Some words from Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est:

    “37. It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God’s plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work.”

    This admonishment is needed. However, I have two big questions for Archbishop Chaput:

    First, what words does he have reserved for those who depart from the robust Social Tradition of the Church, from Rerum Novarum through dozens of documents to the latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, which these social workers are trying mightily to live out? Has he gone to a Pro-Life benefit and cornered those Pro-Life-only-in-the-case-of-abortion advocates and accused them of being un-Catholic? Told them that unless they’re not going to be picky about which teachings they follow and which they don’t they might as well shed the term Catholic? No. Why? Well, because it’s terribly rude, alienating, and a little bit Pharisaic.

    Secondly, these words do not sound as though they were spoken charitably. As Pope Benedict firmly asserted, Caritas (Charity) must always accompany Veritas (Truth). Just as “love” is not love without Truth to guide it, Truth is not Truth without Love to guide it.

    I’m praying for those who have committed their lives to what they understand to be Christ’s teaching, but who will stray from the Church because of these comments.

    • Ann

      Meg –

      While your post is a little unclear about exactly the “pro-life only in the case of abortion” advocates, I’m guessing you mean people who do not reject either capital punishment or war on a carte blanche basis.

      The Catholic Church’s position on abortion is much clearer than her teaching on the death penalty and just war. A quick google search yielded a two-part book examing the roots of, and current thinking, regarding the death penalty alone. It is not automatically “un-Catholic” to support the death penalty, or to believe that nations have a right–an obligation, even–to conduct a ‘just war’.

      What I can’t understand is why most Catholic liberals will decry the increasingly rare execution of someone who has at least received due process in our courts, and join the crowd keeping vigil outside the prison… when thousands of innocents die every day, and they don’t hardly say a word, or show up at the local abortion mill, or join a pro-life rally.

      While I have my doubts about whether our death penalties or wars meet the tests of Catholic teaching for justice… I have no doubts at all about the need to defend the innocents in the womb.

      • Meg

        Ann, thanks for your charitable response! You are right that I was referring to other areas where the state legalizes ending human life, including the death penalty and unjust wars. I understand that those issues are more complex than ending unborn life, since are more factors at play… I’ll give a rundown in a moment on Church teaching on these things (I don’t mean to sound pretentious, though – it’s hard to tell over the internet). In the meantime, I wanted to say that you are RIGHT that it’s ridiculous to protest the Death Penalty without protesting Abortion – makes no sense. The fact that we’re using language like “Liberal Catholic” and “Conservative Catholic” speaks to a growing division in the Church, when we should really all be unifying as One Church under every aspect of Church teaching. // So a rundown of those issues – I’m a grad student in Catholic Moral Tradition: RE: Death Penalty: The history of the Church’s response to the death penalty was initially in favor of it, but only in cases where that was the only way to protect society (i.e. there were no prisons to hold them). Using the death penalty has never been a matter of “justice” for Catholic moral teaching, but a matter of protecting society. Since we live in a society where there is a safe place to keep criminals, the death penalty is obsolete, according to Catholic teaching. The universal Magisterium has not made a clear declaration on this, because there are many countries that do NOT have safe prisons, but the United States Bishops have been pretty clear about it: “Therefore, each person’s life and dignity must be respected, whether that person is an innocent unborn child in a mother’s womb, whether that person worked in the World Trade Center or a market in Baghdad, or even whether that person is a convicted criminal on death row,” (Faithful Citizenship). // RE: Wars – The Church has adopted St. Aquinas’ Just War Theory for centuries, which lists 4 requirements for a Just War: 1.) The damage against the nation must be lasting, grave, and certain; 2.) it’s a last resort, 3.) must have serious prospects of success, and 4.)the war must not produce evils greater than the evil eliminated (Catechism 2309). Pope John Paul II was very outspoken against the War in Iraq, even sending his personal emissary to George W. Bush to dissuade him from going. The Vatican has also spoken harshly of unmanned bombers, which the US continues to use in all three wars. Church teaching on war has been shifting in the direction of declaring that there is no such thing as a just war any more, but it has not been spoken yet. // That’s as best a summary as I can give at 1:30 AM :)



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