Catholic faith and morals: why I said “no” to World Vision

I was excited when I read the email. World Vision Canada wanted to know if I would be interested in reviewing a new book of family mealtime prayers.

The boost to my ego was super-charged. “Wow! They want me?” I was elated. And I would get a free book, too. What a deal!

World Vision Canada engages in many worthwhile projects and makes a significant difference in the lives of the children, families, and communities they help. I happily read through their website, marvelling at all their wonderful work and looking forward to being part of it.

But then that still, small voice that gently stirs the conscience caught my attention.

“Ask them about their policies on abortion and birth control,” the voice whispered.

I sent them an email with my concerns. To their credit, their reply was courteous, prompt, and transparent.

On the topic of abortion, this is what they said: “As a Christian organization, World Vision Canada believes life begins at conception and that abortion, the termination of a child’s life in the womb, is a denial of a child’s fundamental right to life. We oppose abortion.”

But when I asked about their past affiliation with the pro-abortion group Action Canada for Population Development (ACPD), they admitted that they were part of a coalition formed in advance of the G20 Summit held in Toronto in 2010. The purpose of the coalition was to put forward “a combined voice and vision for maternal and child health.” Besides ACPD and World Vision Canada, the coalition also included Unicef, Save the Children, Plan Canada, Care Canada, and RESULTS. Before the summit, ACPD removed itself from the group but I noted the fact that World Vision was willing to work with them.

As part of their work, World Vision “distribute[s] only those birth control methods that do not cause abortion. World Vision provides the most recent, scientifically accurate information about contraception to women and couples, so they can make their own informed decisions about timing and spacing pregnancies. World Vision recognizes that contraceptive methods such as condoms can help families choose the number and timing of their children as well as reduce the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

There it was. If I wrote the book review that would support the organization, I would be complicit in their contraceptive policies. Regardless of all their other wonderful work, the fact remained that part of their mandate contradicts Catholic moral teaching. Sadly, I turned down the book review.

In a 2009 book-length interview Light of the World, Pope Benedict XVI, in a widely quoted and wildly misunderstood statement said that the distribution of condoms “is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in the humanization of sexuality.” In his comments, the Pope re-iterated Catholic moral teaching on sexuality and artificial contraception, the teaching that dignifies sexuality and sexual love as sacred and open to new life.

When we strive to be authentically Catholic, we stand in opposition to so many things that the world accepts. Some of those things have many honourable aspects that are good for society but when we dig deeper, we see that they don’t fully embrace the complete, loving message of the Gospels. In that case, we can’t compromise morality or settle for anything less than Truth.

Not all of us will be asked to review a book; however, all of us face moral choices every day. Ordinary events in our lives call for us to make decisions based on sound Catholic moral teaching. Career opportunities, job descriptions, school assignments, courses of study, social relationships, friendships, even the purchases we make ought to have a foundation in what we believe.

Going against the tide of worldly opinion may bring condemnation, fewer opportunities, loss of friends, or loss of livelihood. It can be frightening to make the right choice because our decision may affect the people we love the most. It takes an abundance of grace freely given by God and openly received by a prayerful heart to make the unpopular resolutions that put God and the Catholic Faith first. But ultimately, it’s the right thing to do.

When that still, small voice stirs up your conscience, listen to it. Ask questions and do the research before making a commitment. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is non-negotiable. It isn’t up for compromise, debate or personal interpretation. We need to base our decisions, however difficult, in light of Catholic moral teaching.

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