Beware the Red Kettle: The Salvation Army and Abortion

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on Catholic Stand, December 12, 2014. We are republishing here for your holiday consideration, since the message is still quite relevant today.]

It’s Advent and our thoughts naturally turn toward less fortunate souls, longing for basic niceties, and the call for selfless giving. Christ-like love, almsgiving, and prayer are staples of this anticipatory time which brings in the new Church year. The scripture readings at Mass remind us of those in need and our moral obligation toward them. What a sad statement about current times, then, that we are forced to look a gift horse in the mouth.

No, not the gifts we receive, but the gifts we give.

As the giving season continues, as well as the rest of the year, we are often hard-pressed to find a charity compatible with our moral values. The mainstay options of Girl Scouts, UNICEF, and the ALS Association have already been exposed as being bedfellows with unsavory sorts – like Planned Parenthood.

Although there are worthy, ethical alternatives, you won’t find them pushed by banks, schools, businesses, or even churches. You won’t encounter them as you fulfill Christmas wish lists at the local mall. But as Catholics, we are not called to be of the world – we are just temporary inhabitants in the world, on our way to Eternal Life. With this in mind, a Catholic is best served by a bit of research and discernment.

Does the Red Kettle Promote Our Values?

Ring-a-ling-a-ling — the bell beckons passers-by to drop their change into the red kettle of the Salvation Army (SA).Yet even charity isn’t as simple as it seems. What ethical problems surface when the SA is scrutinized? Shouldn’t we be concerned about the destination of our good deeds?

When it comes to large organizations, it isn’t enough to blindly give. As Catholics (or any Christians, for that matter), we have a moral obligation to hold charities accountable. Since there are many options, we are capable of making a difference by giving to good, morally sound organizations. In a past year, I wrote an in-depth piece outlining and providing sources to some very disturbing facts about the Salvation Army. Here, I offer an reiteration of what my research found.

What’s the Salvation Army’s Stance on Abortion?

On the surface, the beginning of the SA Positional Statement is morally sound. There is acknowledgment that all people are created in the image of God, and therefore have unique and intrinsic value.  They further state that human life is sacred, and that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. The Salvation Army also accepts that life beings at the moment of fertilization. So far, so good.

Later, in same section, there are shocking contradictions. The Salvation Army notes that termination can occur when “carrying the pregnancy further seriously threatens the life of the mother” or diagnostic procedures identify a fetal abnormality causing only a “very brief post-natal period”. Further, rape and incest also represent “special case[s] for the consideration of termination”. These exceptions portray a troubling contradiction to the professed “sanctity, unique dignity and respect” due to the “image of God” found in our unborn brethren.

Salvation Army and Planned Parenthood: What’s the Connection?

In order to determine collusion between the Salvation Army and Planned Parenthood, we must look at material cooperation as well as monetary support. While SA may not directly contribute to PP, there is evidence that they do partner with one another. Research by Life Decisions International has found this to be the case, and has placed the Salvation Army on their Dishonorable Mention list. Further, American Life League has also found a troubling connection between the two. Simply considering “all the good they do” is not enough to excuse or set aside this compromise of pro-life principles.

How About Contraception?

As we further peruse the SA website we can also find stated support of contraception in their international positional statement:

“A serious commitment to the protection and care of the unborn calls us to a commitment to the prevention of unwanted pregnancy through means such as access to reliable birth control ….”

Yikes, yet another position not in sync with Holy Mother Church! Don’t they know that oral and many other contraceptives (such as the IUD) are also abortifacients?

What Does the Salvation Army Teach About the Sacraments?

Here we find even more, compelling incompatibility. Founder William Booth completely rejected the Sacraments. Although for some years he continued to follow the Protestant tradition of two Sacraments – Baptism and the “Lord’s Supper” — he held they were purely symbolic, until finally he dispensed with them altogether. In practice, many adult recruits had never been baptized, nor was it required. In the end, Booth had come to the conclusion that not only were the Sacraments not vital, they were mistakes. Therefore, in his “Foundation Deed”, he abolished the Sacraments completely. This is definitely not a good match for Catholic charity.

Aren’t There Better, Moral Alternatives?

So how should we resolve our moral Advent/Christmas almsgiving conundrum? Do the good works performed by the SA outweigh their acceptance of abortion exceptions, support of contraception, and heretodox views?

In a word, no. After all, the options for charitable giving are vast. We are easily able to find a more ethical and life-affirming recipient for our alms. Rather than giving to a sect that has little moral common ground with Holy Mother Church, perhaps our focus should go to more suitable recipients.

Luke’s Gospel tells us, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” (Luke 3:11) Surely, our pastors know of local families who are in need. Perhaps a young woman in your area finds herself pregnant during this season. Pregnancy Support Centers can always use help as well.

Using the comprehensive list provided by American Life League, we can also look for charitable opportunities, among organizations, that are ethically compatible with the teachings of Holy Mother Church. Among these: Food for the Poor, Habitat for Humanity, MaterCare International, and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Why not give a gift to some such person or group? How about you … do you have any ideas? Please share your suggestions with us!

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69 thoughts on “Beware the Red Kettle: The Salvation Army and Abortion”

  1. As a Catholic, each year I wonder about the Salvation Army (SA) Bell Ringers. I wonder: do the volunteer ringers, who come from many local churches – including Catholics, and the donators know they are essentially supporting a “demomination”? This article clarifies what I had a gut feeling about: while the SA likely does much good, the volunteers and charitable givers do not have a clue that the money supports a specific “church” or body of belief. Would these people be so ready to give support if the kettles were under the name of Catholic Relief Services or Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian charities? Not likely. Yet, they support blindly. And, most unfortunately, our Catholic church leaders do not instruct us in this matter.
    I thank the author for her clarity on this and hope the message will reach our local Catholic pastors and bishops.

    1. Thank you for your succinct comment. It demonstrates your thorough understanding of the issue. Your point about the blind support is spot on. I’ve often wondered if printing out this information would be helpful to the bell ringers’ enlightenment.

      Add to this the fact that they are in support of abortion in some cases, and you have more than enough evidence against dropping donations into the red kettle. My personal favorite charity is Cross Catholic Outreach. Their overhead is low and they help to poor help themselves – which maintains their dignity.

  2. Cross Catholic Outreach is a “safe” place to donate. I also try to give to Mary Jo Copeland’s “Sharing & Caring Hands” in Minneapolis around Christmastime.

    Thanks for the article. God bless!

    1. Yes! Cross Catholic Outreach is my favorite charity. Not only do they have low overhead, but they also enable the poor to maintain their dignity by setting them up to help themselves. The kids still remember the year we purchased a goat for a needy family, so that they could make a small income.

  3. Both Life Decisions International, in their documentation available for purchase, and American Life League have researched this information. There are links to both organizations in the article.

  4. There’s a wonderful local organization here in Minnesota that does fantastic pro-life work throughout the country promoting life. Pro Life Across American is responsible for all of the very positive educational billboards seen as you travel. Their address is PO Box 18669, Minneapolis, MN 55418-0669.

    Another that does work that has an international scope is Human Life Alliance. Their main focus is producing educational material that’s in use throughout the world. And again they’re in Minnesota. Their address is 1614-93rd Lane NE, Minneapolis, MN 55449.

    And then there is always some pregnancy resource center in most communities that is always in need of financial help as well as infant and maternal needs.

    Thank you for the insight on Salvation Army. I didn’t know this and very seldom have walked by without sticking a small cash donation in their kettle. I just got a mail solicitation and am sending it back with pro-life info in it, and telling them that I’m sorry, but I can no longer donate to them.

    1. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions. Our diocesan Gospel of Life Committee puts the billboards up at many parishes. Through generous donations we continue this effort. Our. KCs erect the structures.

      I’m pleased that you found the information useful and that you shared your reasoning with the SA. Don’t be surprised if they deny – even though their own policy is found online, in their own words.

    1. Both Life Decisions International, in their documentation available for purchase, and American Life League have researched this information. There are links to both organizations in the article.

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