Social Work and the Church

The Salvation Army is a church that runs a gamut of social services - for the prisons, drug addicts, teens, disabled, elderly, etc. There is no denying the good that these services provide. There is also no denying the evangelism that takes place through these good works.
The Catholic Church also runs a range of social services (and I do not deny the good work that they do too), but these are run by the religious, and appear limited in reach and variety.
The Catholic Church does not pay for full-time social workers to contribute to society and the church, and many Catholics who want to work as social workers find no place within the church. It is therefore ironic that so many Catholics are now working in the Salvation Army, rather than in the Catholic services that surely require help.

This interesting factoid came up recently, and I would like to ask for people in the know to elaborate. Many years ago, a priest by the name of Vincent -something, I forget- was investigated by the government and deported because of communist activities. This was a famous case, but people of my generation do not seem to know of it. I remember having heard about this case before because somebody commented that the Catholic church and Archibishop Emeritus lost a lot of its bite after the government arm-twisting in this case.

According to my choir master, the reason why the church does not fund full-time social workers may be linked to this bit of history. Apparently the church did hire full time social workers in the past, and this Fr. Vincent -something- was heading the group. After the clampdown, all funding for lay social workers was stopped, and seems to have remained that way till now.

Today, the church may be gearing up again to fund lay social workers. I hope to find out if there is any truth in this link, but I want to add that after more than 15 years, there really should be no more reason for the church to hold back in this regard. Let's encourage the church to look towards full time social workers, teachers, youth workers, organisers and the like. It is the only way forward.


Daniel said...

Vincent Cheng. He wasn't a priest, but a layperson. He and his companions were convicted for spreading Marxism using the church as a platform. Sentenced to prison for ten years from 1987, which was when we were still kids, so we don't remember. Many still do not speak of it, and some express a forgive-and-forget attitude towards the event.

I'm not sure whether it is linked to the lack of social worker support in the church today.

I believe that this is more of a societal problem, where social work in Singapore itself isn't seen as that high a priority, and since the Church in Singapore are Singaporeans, things naturally follow in the same strain.

Still, there are a good number of social workers in the Catholic Church who will work for the measly amount they get, simply because they love the work more than the monetary benefits they earn.

And of course religious work in social causes because they have no need for pay.

ChrisYeo said...

A link about Vincent Cheng:

It states clearly that he was a social worker for the Catholic Church.

ChrisYeo said...

Daniel says that "there are a good number of social workers in the Catholic Church". Would somebody be willing to clarify? My impression is that there are no laypersons that are directly employed by the church to render social services. Instead it relies on well meaning individuals who volunteer to do charitable things, while the rest is done by only a few religious.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to make a strong point as a youth worker and a graduate social work student in contact with a great number of social workers.

I disagree with the point that social work is not important to Singaporeans and therefore, is unimportant to the Singapore Catholic Church. I work in the Salvation Army and come into contact with a lot of Singaporean youth/social workers in my organisation. They're Singaporeans too but how does this acccount for their larger presence there?

My point is that the excuse that Social work is not a high priority in Singapore does not hold water in the argument for paid social workers in the Catholic Church because there are many workers in the Singaporean Salvation Army church and other protestant churches as well.

It is my belief that it is due to other reasons that there is a lack of visible social workers in the Catholic church. We should not allow ourselves to use the Singaporean culture as an excuse to account for this lack.

from Loretta