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Operation Christmas Child
Question from Leon Unland on 11/20/2004:

We are wondering if it is morally OK for us to be helping to organize and fill shoe boxes for the Franklin Graham charity "Operation Christmas Child." It seems to be a very worthwhile charity but our concern is that some of these shoe boxes go to poor children and families that are Catholic and will be drawn from the true Church to the deficient persuasion of the Protestent religions and oh what a tragedy that would be if they are unable to find their way back. It seems that it is very likely that this organization is trying to evangelise those people that receive the shoe boxes and in so doing as is the custom to minimize the the truth of the one Church that Christ established. In helping with the shoe boxes are we infact assisting in this mission?

Please advise ... although this year's drive is complete we want to be able to respond accordingly for next year. I have submitted this question twice to the moral law forum beginning in early October and have not received a reply so I am hoping you can help.

Answer by Catholic Answers on 11/22/2004:


In scouting the website of Operation Christmas Child, I came across this description of their purpose:

"Operation Christmas Child brings joy and hope to children in desperate situations around the world through gift-filled shoe boxes and the Good News of God’s love. This program of Samaritan’s Purse provides an opportunity for people of all ages to be involved in a simple, hands-on missions project while focusing on the true meaning of Christmas -- Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift. Along with shoe box gifts, millions of children are given Gospel booklets in their own language. In 2003, we collected over 6.6 million shoe box gifts worldwide and distributed them to children in some 95 countries."

It does appear that there is a missionary angle to the project. On the one hand, that is good: In the Christian perspective, care for material needs is only a good start; we must also be concerned for the soul. That this is not purely a humanitarian effort but a Christian humanitarian effort is praiseworthy. The problem though is exactly as you noted: It is possible that Protestants are targeting Catholic children (who are already Christians) to the Protestant understanding of the gospel.

If there are no Catholic alternatives to this effort, it is fine to participate in the project by filling shoeboxes. The project does do valuable work in providing for needy children. However, if there are Catholic alternatives available, those efforts should be given first consideration for your time and charitable efforts. One possible alternative for missionary works here in the United States is Catholic Extension. Also, every Lent Catholic Relief Services sponsors Operation Rice Bowl, another worthy Catholic mission effort.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers


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