Monday, May 30, 2011
One of the problems is that Caritas is a federation of Catholic organisations, such as our own Cafod, that elects its General Secretary and even its Cardinal President. The Holy See can veto their nomination, as it did with Lesley-Ann Knight, but it cannot appoint them, such vetoes tend to show the distance between the Holy See and Caritas' member organisations and so are only used in extremis.
The very nature of such elections indicates a problem. Christ did not set up a democracy when he founded the Church, demorcracy tends to consensus, and the lowest common denominator, hence the Holy See, and the Holy Father, can only only implore, counsel and admonish.
Any real reform has to come from local Churches and local bishops, simply because they control the purse strings, Caritas International is dependant on what comes in through contributions in the collection plate. Whether bishops are up for such a reform only time will tell.
The problem remains that Caritas is stuck in the Nu-Church thinking of the 1970's, Julian Filochowski's influence in England and Wales lives on, as do vestiges of Marxist Liberation theology both in those who organise aid and in those who ask for it.
Without Cafod bashing, it strikes me that if "the Church is missionary by its very nature" the local Church's Caritas groups are in the Church but not of the Church, there is no strong Catholic identity. They often partner secular groups, especially in combatting emergencies, that are strongly ambivalent to Catholic doctrine and therefore to the Church, . Although as Cardinal Murphy O'Connor assured us that the Pontifical Coincil for Health Care was "comfortable" with Cafod's ABC policy, such a policy is always ambiguous, lacks clarity and is open to misinterpretation.
In the 70s such ambiguity was very much part of Church life, the future, it seemed, was politically left leaning: tending towards the local Church, with its own brand of local Catholicism, at least as understood by the professional Catholics who are employed on rather large salaries to run such local organisations, these organisations have their own culture and tend to form their own "magic circles".
The publlic face of Caritas International meeting was dominated by the Holy Sees intervention but I suspect behind the scenes in Rome's trattorias there were serious concerns. Father Timothy Radcliffe might not have been the keynote speaker but he was dropped by the Vatican not by Caritas International.
It is not just the the political and theology left wing thinking of Caritas' leadership that needs addressing but also their involvement with Government. House sharing and long friendships with government ministers tends to lead one to suspect there is a closer alliance with political power than with the Gospel and the Magisterium.
In the age of new martyrs and anti-Christian persecution in the developing world and antipathy in the West Caritas International has a choice of either walking in step with the Church of today or walking away from it. Let us pray that the bishops of the world support the Holy See in drawing Caritas deeper into the mainstream Catholicism.
As others have pointed out the problems with Caritas can be seen in other Catholic organisation such as those dealing with Catholic education!
Posted by Fr Ray Blake