Thursday, March 31, 2011

George Weigel On Reforming Caritas

For Caritas gaining equal access to meds, not condoms is a very big problem.

George Weigel is back on the pages of and this time his target is Caritas and Leslie Anne Knight's failure to be Catholic enough as she and Caritas are way too under the sway of progressive thinking INGO's (international nongovernmental organizations)The following is an excerpt from the article and although full of attacks, Weigel never really does tell us what makes 'Catholic' concepts superior to INGO concepts--other than the fact they aren't INGO concepts.  It starts out with Weigel discussing the discontent in Caritas affiliated members over the impact of Knight's dismissal on their relationships with other providers.

.....If that's the case, it won't be because of anything the Vatican did. Rather, it will be because the INGO world is dominated by an unbending "progressive" orthodoxy on development and health-care questions that sits poorly with Catholic understandings of how people are empowered to break out of the cycle of poverty. INGO shibboleths are also in sharp conflict with Catholic understandings of the best way to fight the AIDS plague in Africa and other poverty-stricken parts of the world. There is very little public evidence that Caritas International, under Knight's leadership, challenged the rigidities in INGO thinking that are a real-world obstacle to empowering the poor and to driving down the incidence of HIV/AIDS. A case in point was her address to a "Catholic Networking Session" at the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

There, Knight asked, "Is there a uniquely Catholic approach to the global HIV pandemic? And if so, what is it?" Her first answer: "I fear that there may be people here in Vienna this week who would answer that it is one characterized by dogma, hypocrisy, moralizing, and condemnation." True enough, given the attitude toward the Church's sexual ethic prevalent in the INGO universe. But did Ms. Knight challenge this caricature? Not really. The best she could manage was to lament that Catholic AIDS workers (the largest group of non-governmental care-providers for people suffering from AIDS) "are still dogged by these criticisms."

Nor, in answering her own question, did Knight say what she might have said, which is this: "Yes, there is a uniquely Catholic approach to the global HIV pandemic. It is an approach that takes seriously the dignity of the human person, which includes the capacity of men and women to change patterns of behavior that put themselves, their families, and their communities at risk. It is an approach that takes the spiritual and moral dimensions of the AIDS crisis seriously. It is an approach that stresses abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage -- both of which have been shown by independent scholars to drive down the incidence of AIDS in vulnerable populations. It is an approach that refuses to accept the empirically unproven claims that poverty, stigma, and low levels of education drive AIDS epidemics. And it is an approach that refuses to burn incense at the altar of the false god latex, where the real votaries of rigid dogma are to be found among those for whom condoms are instruments of salvation." (I'd love to see Weigel accepting medical care from an HIV positive doctor not wearing latex gloves.  Funny how we can worship a the latex altar for our hands, but not other appendages.)

Knight, I hardly need add, said none of this. To the contrary: She put the authority of her position behind a reiteration of the poverty/stigma/low-educational-levels mythology. Which is to say, she reinforced the rigidities that are the true obstacles to the "development innovation and collaboration" for which she called....


Weigel then goes on and rejoices that the Vatican is bound and determined to increase the "Catholic identity" of Caritas.  I guess that means Caritas will no longer be attempting to help alleviate all those mythical poverty, stigma, low educational issues.  They will probably now concentrate on spreading Catholic notions of dignity and spirituality.  That should be a lot cheaper than actually trying to change much of the material reality of the countries in which Caritas operates, and I bet the Vatican will have no problem coming up with something else for all that unused budget.

I still think there's more to this removal of Knight beyond her supposed weak Catholic Identity flaw.  I'd be more inclined to buy that line if the impetus for her removal had come from any other place than Cardinal Bertone and the Office of Secretary of State.  I can't help but wonder if certain governments haven't complained to the Vatican about Caritas and their ideas about fixing the 'myths' of poverty and low educational issues, especially as those issues effect women. Or if there hasn't been some pressure placed on the Vatican by wealthy for profit multi nationals (WPMN's)who don't want Caritas affiliates empowering local populaces to question their right to exploit them. Those WPMN's would probably really appreciate Caritas being policed by the Vatican to insure Caritas is espousing Weigel's notions of neo con Catholic identity. 

Weigel seems to want us to believe that Caritas's Catholic identity is based strictly on maintaining the correct attitude towards condoms, as if that alone is all that counts.  Maybe it does for him, and maybe it does for a Vatican obsessed with Papal authority, but I'm much more inclined to think what matters to Caritas includes far more than condoms and includes those 'myths' of poverty, stigma, and low education and the effects those 'myths' have on the very real lives of over two billion of us.  They may even be inclined to think that neo cons like Weigel spend way too much time worshiping at the altar of unfettered capitalism.




  1. Colleen, it's the style of thought I'm most taken with. Weigel, Chaput, and George among others are seen as these highly intellectual thinkers. It seems that their unbending knowledge of their own rectitude with God bedazzles those who want Truth. It is this set-in-stone thinking that leaves me cold. It belittles a God so far beyond us. It pretends that there are no other legitimate ways to think/feel/love. It creates abuse patterns we've seen in the Church for at least 1600 years. The brain is forced to compartmentalize rather than integrate, leading to needless suffering rather than necessary compassion.

    Although I've lost all trust in the hierarchy, I still have hope for the church (better said, the people of God) in general. I just don't see how the enshrinement of this triumphalist thought pattern allows for any growth by anyone, whether you like it or not. My training says trust the Spirit to blow where she will, but I feel my hopes are tinged with despair.

  2. I haven't heard Weigel or his fellow Maciel supporters admit that they were wrong in supporting Maciel. This is one more reason why I think Weigel is wrong even though he believes he is right.

  3. George Weigel is a hateful propagandist. In this case I think he has blood on his hands. His fellow right wingers and heroes, Reagan and Thatcher, to their everlasting shame, held out against the rest of the world in supporting the racist regime and apartheid.

    Today South Africa, Botswana, and Lesotho have the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. Up to 50 times higher than other countries. Among adults 15-49 the infection rates are 18-26%. (Source:

    As early as 1989 researchers that black Africans there had a very different transmission pattern of the disease from the white population and that it was related to apartheid.

    The imprint of apartheid on HIV/AIDS in southern Africa.

    Orkin A, O'Meara D; International Conference on AIDS.
    Int Conf AIDS. 1989 Jun 4-9; 5: 1002 (abstract no. M.G.P.30).

    Weigel failed to oppose the breakdown of the South African family structure, the destruction of black African social fabric, and the corruption of sexual mores by enforcement of the homeland system. Millions were "relocated" for economic reasons, many to work in the mines. The homeland system split workers from their wives and families, encouraged the practice of concurrent and casual sexual relationships.

    Furthermore Weigel's opposition to latex condoms will cause deaths, many of them. Barrier methods are effective in preventing the spread of the disease when urogenital lesions exist from other types of infections like schistosomiasis. Even the pope acknowledges that, but Weigel is so conceited that he thinks he's more Catholic than the pope.


  4. Thanks so much, Colleen, for highlighting the political nature of "Reforming Caritas." Weigel writes for one purpose - the continued shift of the proceeds of all U.S. production into the pockets of those who pay him. He thinks he's being slick and obtuse, but he is as transparent as a window pane.

  5. "Weigel writes for one purpose - the continued shift of the proceeds of all U.S. production into the pockets of those who pay him."

    Betty, Colleen, could you extrapolate that one a bit more for me? Thanks.