How sad that certain voices have chosen to pass judgment on the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Times like this call for compassion, not judgment.
The tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti calls us to respond according to Gospel values. Here are some specifically Catholic concepts that pertain to the current situation in Haiti and that can help us when discussing the event and how we can respond.
- Catholic Social Teaching – This body of teaching by the pope, bishops, and other church leaders addresses the most fundamental questions of human coexistence: Who are we? What do we owe one another? How should we live together? How can we establish peace and freedom for all? The tragedy in Haiti challenges us to come to respond to all of these questions in a way that is in harmony with the Gospel. These are the basic tenets of Catholic Social Teaching and how they apply in the current situation.
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person – All life is sacred, and all people must be treated with dignity. Our efforts to help the people of Haiti is in response to our recognition of their human dignity
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
Haiti is part of the world community and as such, the health of the world community is intimately intertwined with the health of the community of Haiti
- Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic Church teaches that every person has a right to life as well as a right to those things required for human decency. As Catholics, we are responsible for seeing to it that the people of Haiti have what is required for human decency.
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
As Catholics, we are called to pay special attention to the needs of poor people. Haiti is already a highly impoverished nation. The earthquake has only exacerbated matters, calling us to address the needs of people who are now extremely vulnerable.
- The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Catholics believe that the economy is meant to serve people, not the other way around. The economy of Haiti is devastated. We are called to assist them in reviving an economy that can truly serve the needs of all.
Because God is our Father, we are all brothers and sisters with the responsibility to care for one another. This spirit of solidarity unites us with the people of Haiti, reminding us that we live in an interdependent world. We share a special solidarity with the people of Haiti, 80% of whom are Catholic – fellow members of the One Body of Christ
- Care for God’s Creation
God is the creator of all people and all things, and he wants us to enjoy his creation. Our response to the tragedy in Haiti includes an opportunity to restore the beauty of this island and makes its resources available to all.
- Prayer – The Catholic response to the tragedy in Haiti is not complete without prayer. We are called to unite our minds and hearts with one another and with God, knowing that, in prayer, we come to recognize God’s loving and healing presence in our lives
- Suffering – As Catholics, we do NOT believe that God sent this earthquake to punish the people of Haiti for their sins. We believe that evil entered into the world as a result of human sinfulness but that God does not will for his people to suffer. Rather, God is present with us, especially at times of suffering, offering his comfort and healing grace. We also believe that suffering can be redemptive and we unite our suffering to that of Christ’s, knowing and trusting that, out of this moment of suffering in Haiti, new life will spring forth.
- Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy – The tragedy in Haiti presents us with an opportunity to put our faith into action. For Catholics, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are concrete actions that reveal God’s loving mercy in human ways. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, burying the dead, giving alms to the poor, consoling the doubtful, comforting those who mourn – these are all ways that we can share with others the mercy that God has shared with us.
- Stewardship – We are all called to offer our time, talent, and treasure for the good of the community. Everything we have is a gift of God which we have been entrusted with. The people of Haiti are our brothers and sisters and we are called to share the abundance of God’s creation with them at this time in which they are being deprived of it.
- Death is not the end – we grieve for the loss of life in Haiti, however, we also trust the souls of all the faithful departed to the mercy of God, knowing that death is not the end. We can and should pray for all those who have died in Haiti, asking that God’s perpetual light may shine upon them.
- Catholic Resources – There are many agencies that can and are responding to the tragedy in Haiti, some of them specifically Catholic. Here’s a sampling:
Please note, as well, that Catholic Relief Services has a link for Resources for Catholic Educators and Youth Ministers to help young people join in solidarity with those suffering in Haiti. It includes prayer services and lesson plans for middle and high school.