Lesley-Anne Knight, the General Secretary of Caritas International – the confederation of Catholic Aid Agencies that includes CAFOD, has given an interview that justifies the Holy See’s decision to refuse her appointment to the post for a second term.
In her interview with John Allen Ms Knight confirms the Holy See’s concerns about her ability to foster a truly Catholic identity for Caritas International. She dismisses the Vatican as just representing a ‘particular brand’ of being Catholic that doesn’t fit her way of being Catholic:
John Allen: ‘Caritas is committed to trying to repair its relationship with the Vatican?
Ms Knight: Totally. It may be that my personal way of being church, or someone else’s, doesn’t fit a particular brand at the moment. That doesn’t mean you walk away. It means you say, ‘Here I am. I’m Catholic. This is where I belong, and I’m not going anywhere.’ That’s what Caritas now will do, as long as I can lead it. We’ll say, we’re here, how can we help you? How can we be of service? How can we make you proud of us?’
It’s obvious that Ms Knight holds a relativist position regarding Catholic identity that undermines the meaning of ‘Catholic’ as in universal:
‘If you’re Caritas-Japan, what does Catholic identity in Japan mean? It may not be the same as for Caritas in Spain. That’s the richness, but at the same time the vulnerability, of the Caritas confederation.’
The interview with Ms Knight also include the thinly veiled threat that members of Caritas International may withdraw from affiliation with the Catholic Church in protest against the Vatican’s decision not to re-appoint her:
‘I am concerned that some of our member organizations might become disillusioned with the confederation, might want to distance themselves from Caritas. That could seriously damage our confederation. We have already had indications from some members that they will withhold payment of their membership fees pending some reassurance about the future direction of the confederation at the general assembly.’
Protect the Pope comment: The Vatican’s concern about Caritas International not grounding its work in a properly Catholic identity and ethos, reflects a growing concern among faithful Catholics in this country about the Catholicity of our own national development agency, CAFOD. For example, there is the strong suspicion that CAFOD does not maintain the Church’s teaching of contraception and the use of condoms.
A couple of years ago I had to contact CAFOD to point out that they were breaking the moral teaching of the Church by having a link from their website to another website that promoted homosexuality among young people. This site even promoted in graphic detail homosexual genital acts and talked about it in terms of being a special moment when one lost one’s virginity! Eventually, and reluctantly, CAFOD removed the link to this website, but protested that they had a duty to provide all types of information for young people.
This is just one example of the dissent and immorality that shows that the Vatican is right to have serious concerns about how truly Catholic our development agencies are? It’s not a question, as Ms knight puts it, of the Holy See wanting Caritas International to be inward looking or just giving aid to Catholics, it’s about Caritas and CAFOD serving the poor and fighting injustice from the position of Catholic sexual and social morality as safe-guarded and expounded by the Magisterium. It can never be a matter of Ms Knight deciding to act from her understanding of ‘being Church’ as she puts it. That’s the cause of this whole problem.
My family used to be supporters of CAFOD and made a significant monthly donation to them for years. However, we no longer trust them and their claim to represent the Catholic community of England and Wales. The trouble with CAFOD and Caritas International is that they appear to think that they know better than the Magisterium of the Church.
CAFOD really meant a great deal to us but we feel betrayed by their actions. This has left us very sad, but we have found other faithful Catholic charities who we can support such as Aid to the Church in Need.