Stopping The Political Manipulation Of The Poor

Pope Benedict XVI stepped out with a radical, controversial initiative yesterday—the pope issued a directive saying that Catholic charitable institutions have to be…well, you know…Catholic. As in the Gospel mandate to feed the poor and clothe the hungry isn’t supposed to be used a pretext for shoving abortion, contraception and anti-Catholic teachings down the throats of those who need help.

It’s a sign of the times when saying Catholic institutions should be Catholic is even newsworthy, much less controversial, although judging from the media reaction the controversy seems less than it might have been ten or fifteen years ago. I suppose we should always take progress.

The clothing of those in need shouldn't be tied up with forcing them to abandon their faith.

But the efforts of political and social activists to manipulate the needs of the poor to their own ends is not new. When the Irish immigrants landed in Boston in the aftermath of the Potato Famine, it was the conservative Brahmin class (the social, economic and intellectual elites of Boston) that sought to use charitable efforts to wean the Irish away from Catholicism.

Today, the same tactic comes from the Left. During the 1990s we saw then-First Lady Hillary Clinton travel to South America to tell the Catholic peoples on that continent they needed to get with the program on birth control.

The United Nations and the population control movement has tried similar pressure, with the carrot of economic help always being dangled as a temptation. Now the efforts to aid those in need are being tied up with not just abortion and birth control, but gay rights—ironic, given that the homosexual population tends to be wealthier than the norm.

Father Shenan Boquet at Human Life International accurately summarized what’s going on

“More and more the message to the poor and suffering from the secular development industry is ‘we’ll help you, but you need to stop having children now and leave your traditions behind.’”

There’s no stopping the secular left-wing from employing this tactic, of manipulating people’s economic distress to gain support for a political and social agenda, just as there was no stopping the conservative Brahmins in 19th-century Boston. But the latter was not allowed to do it with the name of the Catholic Church as cover–because the shepherds of the Church stood firm. Their 21st-century counterparts now have to do the same.  The pope’s edict won’t magically change things overnight, but it’s a good start.

Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of



  • janet_baker76

    The only way to accomplish the end of the manipulation of the poor is to give them a third party, one dedicated to Christ the King, one that puts the ten commandments into the constitution, one that returns to the sustainable health care system in place a short five hundred years before the disaster of the reformation, one that runs on the proud platform of the Catholic religious state, which did have some regulation of the use of private property but also firmly protected the concept and reality of private property, one way of which done was to discourage through taxation the concentration of wealth into monopolies. Ownership was deliberately kept broadly distributed. And we could again, if we will only kick secularism to the curb.

  • abadilla

    I have not read the papal document yet because I’m trying to finish reading “Killing Lincoln,” but as soon as I can, I will read the papal document since I understand, it is online. However, your words caught my attention, “Today, the same tactic comes from the Left. During the 1990s we saw then-First Lady Hillary Clinton travel to South America to tell the Catholic peoples on that continent they needed to get with the program on birth control.” As a Catholic and as a Hispanic I can tell you I deeply resent what this government has done in Latin America by their support of abortion and contraceptives in a continent where the vast majority of Latin Americans are still Roman Catholic. When the Dems openly supported abortion and Sandra Fluke was featured as a speaker at the Democratic Convention, the Left proclaimed loud and clear they support both, abortion and contraceptives, and what irks me is the fact that many Catholics continue to confuse Leftist politics with Catholic social teaching.

  • David Hart

    The lack of specifics in this polemic is appalling. Secretary Clinton’s views are taken out of context and mischaracterized. Father Boquet’s views are part of a much larger narrative. You’ve done an injustice to both.

    When you write about “the left” you are conflating politics with public policy as it affects poor people. Moreover, a segment of the poor is thus so as a direct result of public policy. You have also failed to address the unfortunate fact that a segment of our society (the Ayn Rand set) is convinced that there is virtue in not helping others.

    • Joe M

      David Hart. You have failed to make clear why the specifics you are interested in are necessary for Dan to make a valid point.

      If your claim is that Clinton had a different message than what was characterized, the burden is on you to clarify what he message really was. Can you not do so?

      What was Father Boquet’s other statements from the narrative that change the meaning as Dan presented it here?

      What policies a group supports is generally how we define who is on the left or right. What is your confusion about Dan’s use of the term “left” here?



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