As youth ministry workers, we are inundated with causes and charities trying to gain access to teens. From the parish picnic committee looking for teens to run kids’ games to the local food pantry asking our teens to run a Thanksgiving frozen turkey drive to the daily flyer in the mail from some national charitable organization…these charities are seeking to tap into the energy (and spending power) of teenagers.
Youth ministry workers are called to help teenagers develop a habit of giving generously now while teaching them about Catholic Social Teaching, tithing, and the real meaning of stewardship. Hopefully we can teach them the value of these habits so that stewardship becomes a way of life for them as they grow into adulthood. However, we need to be informed about the many charities out there seeking their donations.
Of course, I know better than to encourage my teens to support organizations that provide or encourage abortions. I would never support my teens’ participation in a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood - an organization performs approximately 3,000 abortions each day. Unfortunately, many charitable organizations’ philosophies on the dignity of life are not this transparent.
Recently, I was asked to have my youth group participate in a fundraiser for the March of Dimes. March of Dimes is an organization committed to lowering premature birth rates, prenatal diagnosis and education regarding birth defects, and advocating for health care for mothers and children. All of these aims seem to uphold the dignity of life, and ones my teens would be excited about supporting. Fortunately, one of my Core Members cautioned me to do a little more research before supporting the event. Looking into the organization further revealed that March of Dimes emphasis on pre-natal diagnosis purposefully guides parents to consider aborting babies with birth defects. March of Dimes’ internal documents indicate a prevention strategy to reduce the number of children born with birth defects, citing programs in various countries that use prenatal diagnosis in combination with abortion. These are noted as successes because they have reduced the incidence of children born with certain birth defects. Our teens participated in a fundraiser, but instead gave money to the Michael Fund (www.michaelfund.org) – an organization that funds research into premature birth and birth defects, to supports families affected by birth defects, and to serves as a defender of the rights of physically and mentally handicapped persons – born and pre-born.
I hope other youth ministers can learn from my near mistake and be sure to do research into any charitable organization before supporting it to your teens and/or parish. Here’s a list of other not-so-prolife charities to get you started:
- Instead of donating to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, consider The National Breast Cancer Foundation. Why? Komen has a policy allowing affiliates to offer financial support to abortion providing facilities. The organization also endorses of embryonic stem cell research.
- Instead of giving to UNICEF, consider Catholic Relief Services, a global humanitarian agency. Why? UNICEF has endorsed documents, and has participated in the drafting of documents, that call for the legalization of abortion. In 1996, the Vatican decided to defund UNICEF citing “The participation of UNICEF in the publication of a United Nations Manual advocating the distribution of abortifacient ‘post-coital contraceptives’ to refugee women in emergency situations” as its reason.
- Instead of giving to World Vision, consider ChildFund, a child sponsorship charity. Why? World Vision has “programs [that] support modern contraceptive methods as part of an integrated approach to effective family planning,” and Catholic social teaching prohibits the use, distribution, or advocation of such measures.
- Instead of giving to the Children’s Defense Fund, consider giving to Catholic Campaign for Human Development to combat domestic poverty. Why? The CDF claims to advocate for American children, particularly poor and minority children and those with disabilities. In reality the CDF stands in direct contradiction to everything the Catholic Church holds and teaches on major family life issues including fornication, contraception, abortion, and family life policies.
- Instead of giving to the United Way, consider Catholic Charities USA. Why? Each local United Way determines the participating groups that receive funding. In many communities, blatantly anti-life groups such as Planned Parenthood are receiving funds. While in other communities, the local United Way program does not support any anti-life organizations. Be sure to request a list of Agency Partners and Fund Recipients from your local United Way before supporting them. If your United Way funds anti-life groups, consider this worthwhile network of social service organizations through Catholic Charities USA or your local Catholic Charities chapter
Pro-life charity expert Paul Manikowski wrote, “Donations to charity are not compulsory. They are free acts, deliberate choices, for which we must accept moral responsibility- because, after all, we become the people we are, for better or for worse, through our morally significant free choices.”* This list is certainly not exhaustive of all the charities that do not uphold the dignity of all human life. We have a moral obligation to research all the charities we support, both personally and through our ministries, to make sure that the donations we solicit on their behalf support the dignity of all human life.
*(Manikowski, Paul V. “Funding Abortion the United Way,” Human Life Review, Fall 1993, p. 65.)