Catholic Charities Focuses on Life across the Human Spectrum
Filteau, Jerry, National Catholic Reporter
WASHINGTON * Catholic Charities' adoption services--currently the subject of disputes with several state governments--and its prenatal services have an obvious connection to the church's pro-life teaching. But the full range of the agency's work nationwide represents pro-life work as well, even if such programs are not usually thought of popularly as part of the political pro-life agenda, the head of Catholic Charities USA said in a recent interview.
To name just a few, such programs can include food pantries and soup kitchens; job training; family counseling; emergency financial assistance for heat, electricity and other needs; shelters for the homeless and battered women; and advocacy for the poor in legislatures and in government agencies.
"I think the work of Catholic Charities actually gives the pro-life teaching and stand of the church credibility, because it's what we say and what we show, by the programs and the actions that we do, that we in fact care not only that this child was conceived--we care that this child is going to have a healthy, productive life within a family that is caring and loving," said Fr. Larry Snyder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. "And so many of our programs actually work to buUd up those families and to strengthen them, so that in fact children are a real treasure.
"I think sometimes in the United States we say that, but you might be hard-pressed to see it in action," he added. "But I think that's one of the things that Catholic Charities and the church do.... We not only say that children are a treasure, but we try to assure that that is the case, through all kinds of programs that we offer."
"Adoption and prenatal services across the country" have long been a hallmark of Catholic Charities' activities, Snyder said. "Of course the number of adoptions has fallen dramatically in the last 20 years or so, but we still do adoptions," although they are no longer as big a part of the Catholic Charities mission.
He noted that Catholic Charities USA, a national office for some 1,700 Catholic Charities agencies across the country, recently launched a Web-based national adoption service, still in development, in which all Catholic Charities agencies are starting to come together to promote and facilitate adoption services.
The website (www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/page.aspx?pid=1670) offers information and guidance to prospective adoptive parents and to pregnant women who are considering the option of giving up their baby for adoption.
"It's kind of an exciting thing that takes us kind of to a new level in our adoption offerings," Snyder said.
In another clearly pro-life area, Snyder said 10 diocesan Catholic Charities around the country are among primary local handlers of the Women, Infants and Children program.
WIC is a federal program of grants--administered by each state but often operated in service centers around the state by faith-based or other nonprofits--to provide supplemental food, health care referrals and nutritional information to low-income women during pregnancy and after birth and to infants and children up to five years of age who are at nutritional risk.
Snyder cited Catholic Charities of the Chicago archdiocese, which operates 16 WIC centers across the archdiocese, as one of the largest programs in the country.
In most dioceses, where other nonprofit agencies or the local government are the primary WIC operators, Catholic Charities offices work in close collaboration with them, he said.
In another area of support for the unborn and infants, he said, "we certainly provide housing for women who are in a crisis pregnancy. A lot of that is done on a diocesan basis, but Catholic Charities does it community-wide as well."
On a broader level, "aside from the federal government, Catholic agencies across this country are the largest provider of housing" to those in need, he added. …