Social action takes priority over charity


May I make some clarifications in the 7/14/11 article concerning Catholic Charities? The article states “The social action department and its umbrella Catholic Charities…”

Actually, the opposite is true. Catholic Charities is under the umbrella of the Social Action Department in the Diocese of Davenport.

One could get the impression that, now that Catholic Charities has been re-started, we can again begin to serve the people of the diocese. Ironically, after the merger of Catholic Charities with Family and Children Services some 40 years ago to form Family Resources (which now serves families in two states and several counties), far more direct services were instituted in the diocese through its Social Action Department than ever existed under Catholic Charities.

Group homes for adolescents were started in several counties. The Immigration Office, now under Catholic Charities, was started by the Social Action Department. Immigration was a part of the Area Board for Migrants, which operated in both Illinois and Iowa. Legal Aid and Senior Services were started in more than one county. Catholic Worker Houses were facilitated to serve the hungry and homeless. Project Renewal for children in poor neighborhoods was started in Davenport along with several neighborhood centers.


The big difference was that the Social Action Department was not trying to build an empire, but rather had a different approach: to research (in several counties), plan, develop and spin off programs to respond to the needs found in the research, mostly done by volunteers. 

The Two Feet of Social Action approach views charity as one foot, helping individuals meet present needs, while justice is the other foot, seeking systemic change.

Catholic Charities remains under the Social Action Department because justice — institutional change to address the causes of poverty and injustice — remains the top priority.   

Msgr. Marvin Mottet


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