Hamish Redux has pointed me to this excellent article. Please raise your glasses and toast The Thirsty Gargoyle, this New Year:
It’s rare that I lose my temper, but I got indignant a few weeks ago when a friend declared that the Catholic Church has nothing to offer today’s world. Normally I’d dismiss such nonsense with a shrug, but caught at an off moment I exploded.
‘You don’t think that being the world’s second-largest international development body and its second-largest aid organisation is a good thing? You don’t think this is useful? You’d like the world’s largest single healthcare provider to stop helping people? You’d rather that the quarter of all African hospitals the Church runs were shut? You’d rather that healthcare and education provided by the Church, which play a crucial role in Sub-Saharan African countries with largely Catholic populations having lower HIV and AIDS rates than other sub-Saharan countries, were stopped?’
None of this even touched on the truth of the Church’s teaching or the reality of the sacraments, but my friend’s an atheist and would never have accepted that. I continued to rant, culminating with a question that no decent person could ever answer in the negative: ‘You don’t think it’s good to help the poor, the sick, the disabled, the old, the young, and the dying?’
Rhetoric aside, it wasn’t one of my finer moments. To my friend’s credit, he didn’t answer with the clichéd calumnies that the Church only helps Catholics, or only helps people with a view to them becoming Catholics. These are common myths, and completely false; Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, 2006’s Deus Caritas Est, reminded us how our love must be unconditional, and specifically warned us against using charity as an evangelical Trojan Horse.
‘Love is free,’ he said, ‘it is not practised as a way of achieving other ends… Those who practise charity in the Church’s name will never seek to impose the Church’s faith upon others.’
The rest of the article can be read at the original website, and includes excellent statistical maps.