People all over the world -and now we know in this country, too- frame their lives by the daily task of walking to meet their basic needs. They walk to get water. They walk to work. They walk to get food. They walk to gather for worship. They walk to get health care.
To show solidarity with these people, and to help them, CROP Walks were developed. We walk because they walk. For more than 35 years, Crop Walkers have walked and raised money so that Church World Services can provide food, wells, sustainable agriculture, disaster relief, and leadership training around the world.
Moreover, Church World Services is an exemplary model of how assistance ought to be provided. Money is raised in local communities through locally-run CROP Walks. 25% of the money raised in that community stays in that community. Moreover, sponsors can indicate if they want their money to be channeled through a particular agency. So if I give the neighborhood child $15 to support her walking, I can ask that my money be sent to Catholic Chariries or the American Friends Service Committee... or wherever I like from a long list of participating agencies.
All of this makes sense, right? So far so good. But Catholics aren't supposed to participate in CROP Walks. As Dave Barry says, I am not making this stuff up.
Church World Services spends a tiny portion of the raised money in Africa on condoms to prevent HIV and AIDS. So, to protect our morally fragile souls and intellectually challenged brains, we are discouraged from becoming entangled with "organizations that support activities contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church."
Never mind that this makes no intellectual sense. Even if I agreed -which I don't, but work with me here- that condoms ought not be provided, I could designate my donation to an agency that doesn't do that. Never mind that it makes no theological sense. Is a priest really going to look me in the eye and argue that, say, a married person with AIDS should spread the disease to his wife rather than prevent a pregnancy? Oh, make my day, big boy! Do you really want to argue that spreading a fatal disease is better than preventing pregnancy -especially when the infant conceived would very likely ALSO have a fatal disease. Hello??? Pro-life issues????
Here's the thing. I don't share, but have always admired the Catholic church's pro-life position. It's at least intellectually rigorous and avoids the craziness of much of the anti-abortion movement's pro-fetal-life-only attitudes. But this time they've made the same mistake that the popular culture makes -supporting the idea of a pregnancy (not even a real pregnancy yet) over the lives of living, breathing humans right here in front of us. Even within the Church's own moral framework, the argument doesn't hold up. And, by the way, it's perfectly possible for orthodox Catholics to step outside the moral framework of the Catholic Church and to make their own moral decisions.
Which, of course, is what I've done. If you want to sponsor me on this year's walk, let me know the next time you see me! Now where do you suppose I can get a "Catholics for CROP" t-shirt, so that the Bishop knows what I'm doing? ;)