Social Work with the Poor: The Temptation to Play God

Social Work with the Poor: The Temptation to Play God




By Kevin Burke, LSW

Early in my social work career I served as the director of a shelter for pregnant women and children in a poor neighborhood with all manner of family dysfunction and economic challenges.   Grounded in our faith and values, abortion was never an option for a young woman coming to us for assistance.

But I am a minority in my profession. Many of my colleagues see abortion as a necessary evil, especially for those in poor communities where single parent families, addictions, and violence are far too common. Most of my fellow social workers will vote this Election Day for political parties and candidates that they believe will advance the public good by making more  abortion services available to poor women.

Working in communities with great suffering, cycles of abuse and dysfunction can be overwhelming. There is a temptation over time to play God.  No one wants to feel powerless in the face of evil and injustice.  We naturally want to take control, help others assume control of their chaotic lives and break out of the cycles of abuse and poverty that can span generations. Empowering others to assume control and responsibility for their lives is of course a worthy goal of social work intervention.

Yet when taking control means ending the life of a unique member of the human family, we have crossed a chasm that in time drags us and those we serve into deeper sin, blindness and dysfunction.

Our poorest communities have not been blessed by their high rates of abortion.  It’s just the opposite; more abuse, addiction, family dysfunction and death.  Now some candidates in 2016 are telling us we need more public funding for groups like Planned Parenthood to fund contraception and abortion services for the poor.

In the last year alone 325,000 unborn boys and girls died in the womb of their mothers at Planned Parenthood facilities.

Social Work in the Vineyard

I have also spent many years as a social worker in Rachel’s Vineyard helping those who have participated in the death of an unborn child find reconciliation, peace and closure.

The memorial service on Sunday of the weekend program is both beautiful – and deeply painful. Once a parent or grandparent is given an opportunity to open their heart to the truth of their child’s unique life, they can experience the fullness of that loss.  In Rachel’s Vineyard they receive the precious gift of a spiritual relationship with their son or daughter now, and the hope of a reunion in the life to come.

There is peace and closure…yet there is still a heartache that remains. It is now a healthy and healing grief, but also a yearning for what could have been.

Election Day 2016 – It’s Time to Stop Playing God

When you vote on Election Day please reflect on the following; as a nation we need to find peaceful solutions to an unplanned pregnancy. There are no simple answers to the chaos, abuse, addictions and family dysfunction in our poorest communities.

But as a social worker with years of service with the poor and with those wounded by abortion, I can assure you that destroying our unborn children in the womb, and wounding their parents, will never bring peace and blessing to this nation.

Catholics and all Christians need to send a clear message to all political candidates and parties:

We need non-violent solutions to unplanned pregnancy and the challenges faced by poor communities.

Life and death are the Providence of the Creator. We have to stop playing God – or the Creator of Life will allow us to continue to experience the consequences of this most grave and original of sins.

Those consequences have been eating away at the fabric of our nation, our families and communities.

There is still time…but the hour is late.


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