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Is It OK to Support Shriners Hospitals?

Question:

What is the Church's stance on giving money to the Shriners Hospitals for Children?

Answer:

The Catholic Church has not formally pronounced on financially supporting Shriners hospitals, although we can apply Catholic principles to the question, given that the Shriners are a philanthropic endeavor of the Masons.

As the Masons note well on their official website, all Shriners are Masons, and Shriners hospitals are one of their big service projects.

The Church has repeatedly pronounced that Catholics may not become Shriners or otherwise members of Masonic societies, under pain of excommunication. Freemasonry is at odds with Catholicism in key ways, and one of Masonry’s prime adjectives, particularly as it has existed in certain European countries, has been to destroy the Catholic Church. See our presentation on Freemasonry.

In that light, we can apply Catholic principles to giving financial support to a Shriners hospital. One should never give to Masonic endeavor because it advances the mission of Masonry per se. Support for any Masonic endeavor to advance the fundamental mission of Masonry would be formal cooperation in an intrinsic moral evil (see CCC 1868), which would be, objectively, a mortal sin (see CCC 1857–1863). It would be similar to voting for a pro-abortion politician precisely because he favors the legalized killing of unborn children (see CCC 2272). This is why formally joining the Masons is an excommunicable offense.

A Catholic might counter that he’d give financially to a Shriners hospital only to support the Masons’ care of disabled children, and that any support of the Shriners otherwise would be an unintended side-effect. Here one should consider the Church’s teaching on the principle of double effect. We can never choose evil that good may come from it (CCC 1756).

In addition, as an application on the principle of double effect, one should consider whether such financial support is necessary to treat seriously disabled children in a given geographical area. If there are good Catholic hospitals that provide such care, then you should direct your funds there because, in doing so, you can expect that the care the children receive is sound medically and spiritually, and you’ll also be supporting the Church’s mission in general. However, if a Shriners hospital is the only means of serving seriously disabled children care in the area, then it can be a good thing for a Catholic to give money specifically to support the Shriners’ care of seriously disabled children.

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