Thursday, 15 March 2012

Charity and conscience

I have recently had two interesting phone calls with a charity I used to support; one a week or two ago and one just this evening. They were, as you might have guessed having probably received such calls yourselves, wanting me to support them again in one of their new outreach programmes. My answer to both has been, "no, thank you." the first time I said this my reasons for not being able to fund them in any way was met with shock and the young lady hung up on me in total disbelief. Today the lady was more balanced, listened and the conversation ended politely.

So why did I say "no" then? It wasn't for financial reasons or anything like that. No, I refused to support their work in any way because it presents too great a conflict of conscience. For some this would be intriguing; how could supporting a charity, an organisation set up to help others, be a conflict of conscience? Surely charity (as in love for neighbour not just donating money) is a Christian virtue? Whilst I wholeheartedly support charitable bodies in general my problem lies in where my money would go, what my money would fund with this particular one.

So, you may now ask, what is this charity and what is it that I can't allow my money to fund? Well over a year ago (more like fifteen months) I watched an appeal on television for people to sponsor a child in a poor or developing country through Plan UK. They in particular mentioned their work to protect girls from forced marriages, rape and other maltreatment and to provide them with an education which they might otherwise be denied. Moved by the conditions children in so many countries were living in I quickly signed up without properly looking into who I was supporting. After a couple of months I discovered that as a part of their educational work with children, and in particular girls, they teach them about contraception, provide contraception and offer access to "safe" abortions. Although the girl I was sponsoring was under ten and unlikely to come across this herself at that age I truthfully could not bear the thought of money I had donated being used to end the life of an unborn child or provide education on contraception. I couldn't stomach supporting someone who openly encouraged this even in areas where the population have moral, religious and cultural beliefs that tell them this is wrong. So I promptly ended the direct debit. Plan UK made no secret about offering these things to the children they work with, in fact it's made clear on their website, I evidently did not check them thoroughly enough (or at all) before disclosing my bank details.

This raises a big question, doesn't it? Should we support an organisation who, for the most part, do wonderful things but, at the same time, encourage abortion and the use of contraception. One thing many would ask is, "doesn't the good they do outweigh the bad?" The very clear answer to this is a firm and definite no. As the Catechism clearly states in paragraph 1755 "A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself." (Also see paragraphs 1756, 1758, 1759 and 1789.) No matter how much good they may do the act of killing one innocent child distorts and destroys all of this as it is a total violation of God's gift of life an His love for us. We cannot say we love our neighbour in one way yet allow the destruction of our unborn neighbour at the same time. This evil action literally corrupts the whole act.

What is sad is that it is very difficult to support an effort such as sponsoring a child without running into this, without discovering what our money might have paid for. It is the kind of thing that we need to be sure of before supporting anyone (I have learned my lesson from this) and ensure we keep on top of a particular charity's change in policy. I'm not saying don't donate to charities, far from it, what I am saying is that we have a responsibility as Christians to ensure that our money, all of our money, goes to help our neighbour, is used to nourish and support them, to help them grow but never to attack life, whether through contraception or abortion. We need to be able to place our hand in our heart and say our conscience is clear. Otherwise we have been party to it.

Although this happened before I was even baptised this still bothers me today, not least because Plan UK keep ringing me. So I have decided to spiritually adopt a child in danger of abortion as a type of penance, as a way of trying to help someone else, a way to love my neighbour. Perhaps if you too have discovered this about an organisation you used to support you would like to join me. All it takes is saying one prayer (maybe the Hail Holy Queen or Memorare) for this intention each day and it will make a huge difference.


  1. Yes, this is a really hard situation. We never give to Comic Relief for the same reasons you outline but it's hard to see on TV all the good projects you could be helping to fund... in fact the marvellous charity I used to work for before becoming a full-time carer for Aila benefited from a big Comic Relief grant.

    Luckily there are often other charities one can support without the same ethical dilemmas. We make a donation to Cafod at Comic Relief time (and btw sponsor a child via "Everychild" which I don't have any reason to believe is involved in the type of education and healthcare you mention).

    This isn't always the case, though. I posted a while back about our dilemma with the excellent charity which provides all sorts of good services for patients with conditions like my daughter, including potentially life-transforming medical research, but belongs to an umbrella organisation that supports embryonic stem cell research and selective embryo implantation. I emailed the charity in question to ask further about their policies in this area but sadly received no reply.

    Perhaps they were too cautious to answer, thinking that I might be going to use their response in some sort of propaganda or smear campaign??? It's a suspicious and hostile world we live in, where our methods of debating on areas of difference are often so nasty that we can't even have an honest debate in the first place...

    The idea of spiritual adoption is a wonderful one.

  2. Great information on sponsor a child with a charity donation and you will feel a certain warm feeling of satisfaction when you will see that a child which had no hope is now grown-up and happy thanks to your help.

    1. Thanks for this info about The Children's Society which looks as though it does tons of good work. I notice some of your work includes providing "sexual health advice". As a pro-life group we would be interested to know what that covers.