Many Catholics—including the sisters represented by the LCWR—believe helping the poor is the true mission of the Church, but as this superb article from Catholic World Report reminds us, it is only part of the mission of the Church and the true mission is to spread the gospel.

An excerpt.

Put simply, if the purpose of the Church is to care for the poor, then it means, logically, that the Church is a human institution oriented to temporal goals and purposes. This, it goes without saying, is what many people—including some Catholics—would prefer the Church to be. And those temporal goals, it follows, should be socially conscious and politically-correct, otherwise they are of no earthly value. Which is why, for instance, New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristoff lauds nuns who chain themselves to nuclear facilities, hand out condoms to prostitutes, and say homosexual “love” is just as good and beautiful as the love between a husband and wife. Kristoff laments that the mean old men in the Vatican have been carrying on “the Great Nunquisition,” but holds out hope (of the wordly sort) for the current pontiff: “Pope Francis, so far, has continued the crackdown, but he seems more enlightened than his predecessors and maybe he’ll understand that battling nuns is hopeless.”…

Again, the ultimate goal of the Church is the eternal salvation of men—not just the poor, but everyone. If we think that caring for the poor is the ultimate end of the Church, we shortchange and sharply skew the nature and mission of the Church, which is concerned with both the temporal and eternal needs of men. The connection between those two needs was explored and expressed often Francis’ immediate (and unenlightened, ahem!) predecessor, Benedict XVI, especially in his third and final encyclical, Caritatis in veritate:

The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. … When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have. Like all commitment to justice, it has a place within the testimony of divine charity that paves the way for eternity through temporal action. Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family. In an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations, in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God. (par 7)

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