Ex CAFOD Head of Caritas Int. says Vatican just a ‘particular brand’ of being Catholic

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.


20 comments to Ex CAFOD Head of Caritas Int. says Vatican just a ‘particular brand’ of being Catholic

  • Kevin

    Please read this article on CAFOD. http://www.christianorder.com/editorials/editorials_2005/editorials_jan05.html Catholics should really not be supporting it. There are so many other good Catholic aid organisations like the Little Way Association. Support them instead.

  • Karla

    If a Catholic organization is not sticking to the Catholic psoition of sexuality morality, being in clear focus, I do not think they should have the word Catholic assocated with their organization whatsoever.

    Hope Caritas can turn it around.

  • Karla

    There are no various brands of being a Catholic, you either are A Catholic or not. Being a Catholic means believing in the teachings of the Church on sexual morality, homosexuality, contraception, cohabitation, abortion.

  • Concerns about the Catholicity of CAFOD are well founded. At my blog Counter Cultural Father (http://ccfather.blogspot.com/) I document a number of the problems: click the CAFOD label to read about their redefinition of abstinence to mean the opposite, about their former director living with his ex-priest, activist and dissident boyfriend for years, (on a handsome salary paid by the faithful in the pew), their promotion of condoms, their appointment of Damian McBride to run their media operation (best known for his outrageous smear campaigns against opposing politicians while working for Gordon Brown, which caused his untimely departure from No 10)….

    I would recommend Catholics give to other charities, such as Aid to the Church in Need until CAFOD is reformed root and branch.

  • Kevin

    Well said Ben, but sadly the Bishops’ Conference fully support and promote CAFOD in spite of the problems, and so do dodgy national ‘Catholic’ organisations like the National Board of Catholic Women http://www.nbcw.org Most Catholics in the pew just don’t realise the problems with CAFOD and still donate to it. Keep up the good work of letting others know about the CAFOD problems on your blog. It’s always good to have resources to point people towards.

  • El Nino

    Well, well ,well.

    Amazing what you find out when you click onto links.

    So, CAFOD have been playing at liberals with Catholic money, eh?

    Now, next Sunday there will be a collection in aid of CAFOD (my parish is in the Diocese of Westminster). I will let everybody know that they think we are uninformed fools.

    This Sunday there will a collection for the Catholic Education Service. Yes, the same one that took the Cardinal Vaughan School to the secular authorities for being too Catholic. I shall give my donation to the Vaughan Parents’ Fund instead.

  • Mary Hume

    I am so grateful to you all for pointing this out. I had no idea that a Catholic charity had been promoting condoms, probably in some of the poorest parts of the world, and doubtless where many people are uneducated and unaware of just what an evil this is.

    With so little else to bring joy to their lives, the world’s poorest deserve what was once so common here in the west, lots of children! (I’ve actually been given condescending lectures by people when I tell them I have seven – and hopefully many more!)

    And as for a Catholic charity promoting homosexuality – that’s about as anti-Catholic as I can imagine.

    • Deacon Nick

      Good for you Mary being proud of being the mother of seven children. I hope God blesses you and your husband with many more. All children are a blessing from God.

      • undubby

        Blessed with more than seven children… imagine the environmental impact if everyone were blessed so much.. bring on the apocalypse…

  • Fair Play

    Fair dos. The Catholic Education Service is the Bishops’Conference organisation to support Catholic education. It is the Diocese of Westminster Education Service, responsible only to Archbishop Nichols, that is fighting with the Vaughan School parents.

    • El Nino

      Too late, I didn’t give anything!

      Perhaps the Archbishop should have made it clear in his letter that was read out, rather than just expecting us to stump up without explanation.

  • SPQRatae

    I’ve not given anything to CAFOD for years, for the sorts of reasons given above.
    As we approach Lent, if anyone is wondering which charities to support, I can recommend Aid to the Church in Need and the Catholic Truth Society.

  • Tim

    I was about to post something saying that whilst there is only one “official brnad” of Catholicism, dayto day “ordinary Catholics” do of course have a spectrum of views on issues that in many cases diverge from the Magisterium and that I couldn’t see the problem with a Charity for those people.

    However, a bit more research before commenting has revealed that CAFOD is an agency of the UK Catholic Bishop’s conference. I do not therefore think that it is unreasomnable at all to expect CAFOD to conform to official teachings. In fact it is no unreasonable for a catholic to support CAFOD on the basis that it is “offiical”. If in fact it is not then there has been deception.

    Why can’t the Bishops ensure conformity? Why can’t the Pope tell the Bishops to ensure this? Surely this is a simple thing to do. What is the point of having a magisterium if it doesn’t have the power to to bring CAFOD into line or cut it loose?

    • Deacon Nick

      Tim, you’re asking all the questions concerned Catholics in this country have been asking for a decade or so! You express very well the frustration that many Catholics feel about CAFOD! Many of us are making real sacrifices to live by the Church’s teaching and this Agency of the Bishops conference is actively undermining the moral teaching of the Church. I think the impotency of the national Bishops conferences on this issue is one of the reasons why the Holy See is trying to bring Caritas International back into conformity. Simply put, the pope and his advisers have given up on the Bishops Conferences getting their houses in order.

  • Edgar

    Is good to know the catholic charities will be all the way catholic. We are catholic or we are something else. There are no brands of being a Catholic.

  • Betty

    “there is the strong suspicion that CAFOD does not maintain the Church’s teaching of contraception and the use of condoms”

    Ah yes, a suspicion. Here to be taken as a fact, yes?

    No, actually.

    CAFOD provide help and relief all over the world to the poor and suffering. They do not distribute condoms, or fund any organisations who do. They educate people on the scientific facts and methods for HIV/AIDS prevention, and leave them with a choice, whilst providing Catholic teaching on the subject of artificial contraception. There policy is Catholic through and through, and it is followed. Are you really going to stop donating to CAFOD’s incredible cause under a misinformed ‘suspicion’?

    • Deacon Nick

      Betty, it is not a misinformed suspicion, but based on things heard from reliable sources. Actually, my wife and I give to CAFOD, but are very careful to stipulate what we want the money spending on, and we give to Mary’s Meals because we’re more confident that they abide by the Church’s teaching. You have to admit that CAFOD has a credibility problem with a significant section of the Catholic community in this country. Deacon Nick.

  • Betty

    Deacon Nick, please could you tell me what these ‘reliable sources’ are. I’m currently completing an MA in Global Development, and after studying the relationship between religion and development for months, it seems there is much work supporting the work of CAFOD and its compatibility with RC teaching. This ‘credibility’ problem has arisen only from exagerrated stories online and in the media.

    I just think it seems very bizarre that you are discouraging people from donating to the brilliant work of CAFOD under a ‘suspicion’. Even if such a suspicion is true, how can you refuse to help those who are relying on CAFOD to get them out of poverty? That isn’t very Catholic at all.

    • Deacon Nick

      Betty, sorry I’m not free to reveal my sources. The mistake you’re making is to think that there are no other development agencies that Catholics can support that do not have CAFOD’s credibility problem. CAFOD is not the only one doing this important work. Many Catholics are concerned that CAFOD, as an agency of the Bishops Conference, provides information about the use of condoms. One thing that would go some way to restore CAFOD’s credibility is their being open about whether or not CAFOD informs people about the immorality of using condoms? Does CAFOD promote chastity before marriage, and fidelity during marriage? If you can point me to a CAFOD document that confirms this, I’ll publish it on this website. Deacon Nick

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