Saturday, December 1, 2012

Benedict Releases A New Motu Proprio And Catholic Identity Supercedes Christian Charity

Caritas will be having to change this logo.  It will have to say Caritas is Catholic.

John Allen posted an NCR article about the just released motu proprio from Benedict XVI on Catholic identity in charitable efforts.  This papal letter was written at the behest of the Vatican watchdog for Caritas Internationales, the dicastery known as Cor Unum. Like the LCWR, the Vatican came down on Caritas Internationales for laxness on it's Catholic identity.  This letter, if applied to Catholic efforts in the US, could spell the destruction of some of our bigger charitable efforts that rely on government grants.

New rules aim to beef up Catholic identity of church charities

 Rome - John Allen - National Catholic Reporter - 12/1/2012

A mounting campaign by church authorities to foster a stronger sense of traditional Catholic identity reached deeper into the realm of Catholic charitable activity today, with new papal rules directing bishops to exercise greater vigilance and control.

Among other things, the new rules appear to tighten the scope for Catholic charities to collaborate with groups with whom they may share specific interests, but which also take positions that conflict with Catholic teaching.  In effect, the rules appear to be a response to perceptions voiced over the years that some church-run charities are more similar to secular NGOs and humanitarian groups than to distinctly Catholic operations.  (Catholic identity in this context now supercedes Christian identity.  It's not enough to practice Christian charity, it must be Catholic charity.)

Specifically, Pope Benedict XVI’s legal document, technically known as a motu proprio, stipulates that:

1) A charitable group may call itself “Catholic” only with the written consent of church authorities. If a particular outfit is deemed to be no longer “in conformity with the church’s teaching,” the bishop should make that known and take steps to prevent it from using the title “Catholic.” (This states a bishop's first duty is to the institution itself,  and not to the mission Jesus commanded of His disciples.)

2) Personnel must “share, or at least respect” the Catholic identity of church-affiliated charitable organizations, and must also “give an example of Christian life” beyond their professional competence.
A Catholic charity may not take money “from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to the church’s teaching.” (I suspect this really means employees must be Catholic enough not to openly challenge the teachings on the all important pelvic issues.  Nor should they demand birth control in their health insurance.)

3) To avoid leading people “into error or misunderstanding,” bishops are to ensure that parishes and dioceses don’t publicize initiatives “which, while presenting themselves as charitable, propose choices or methods at odds with the church’s teaching.” (Apparently Catholics are considered too freaking stupid or too spiritually immature to handle any conflicts between charitable efforts and Church teaching.)

The title of the new papal edict is De Caritate ministranda, “On the service of charity,” and it was published today on the Vatican web site. Benedict wrote that he issued the document upon the recommendation of Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, who heads the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican’s main oversight agency for charitable activities.

The new regulations come roughly a year after the Vatican moved to tighten its control over the leading global federation for Catholic charities, the Rome-based Caritas Internationalis. The organization’s secretary general at the time, Zimbabwe-born laywoman Lesley-Anne Knight, was denied Vatican permission to stand for a second term, and the organization’s statutes were revised to provide greater oversight by Vatican authorities, especially Cor Unum.

Among other things, the Vatican appeared to want Caritas, and Catholic charities generally, to have a more specifically “missionary” orientation, meaning promoting the faith alongside meeting basic humanitarian needs.
One veteran of the Catholic charities scene summed things up this way at the time in a background comment to NCR: “When it comes to charity work, there’s a continuum from secular humanism on one end to aggressive proselytism breeding ‘rice Christians’ on the other. Nobody’s saying Caritas ought to be at either extreme, but it’s clear the Vatican is pushing us further in the direction of promoting the church while we provide humanitarian and emergency assistance.”

In today’s document, Benedict XVI insisted that “The service of charity is a constitutive element of the church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being.” (Unfortunately sure looks to me like charitable efforts have now been reduced to an advertising campaign for Catholicism.  Why else this obsession with 'identity markers'.


I'm beginning to detect a definite campaign by Rome to make sure no one confuses social justice Catholicism with the 'real' Catholicism of strict obedience to Rome.  Hence Catholic identity has taken place of primacy over Christian mission.  I'm actually not sure if the whole idea isn't to stamp out Christian from Roman Catholic and to further the purposeful conflation of Church with God, pope with God, priest with Jesus, Holy Spirit locked up in Vatican City dragged out only when god the pope allows it.

In the hands of bishops like Phoenix's Olmstead, this letter is a license to wreak havoc amongst Catholic hospitals, charities, schools, and other efforts by making the bishop the sole dictatorial power over all things Catholic.  I can think of many other bishops who will wield this letter as a bludgeon to further their control in their dioceses and to shut down any alternative voice.

I wonder, given the actual wording of this letter, how many Catholic NGO's will be allowed to take any government grants, especially under this President, who has been vilified by our orthodox Catholic identity bishops as some form of the anti Christ.  If I were working for a Catholic NGO in the State of Wisconsin, I'd really be concerned about my job. Or I'd be seriously agitating for dropping the word Catholic from the name of the organization I worked for in order to keep my job and it's mission funded.  

For me, there is no question I would sacrifice "Catholic identity" for the sake of the mission.  The fact this letter is essentially forcing such a choice says reams about the current direction of Rome. Rome controls all the directions, all directions must come from Rome, and lead back to Rome. All Rome all the time, which makes me wonder why the emphasis isn't on ROMAN as the identity marker rather than Catholic.  It certainly isn't about Christian or Jesus or mission to the poor, or if it is, it's only a very distant second.

I suspect the real reason for all of this is precisely to make more 'rice Catholics' in the developing world to compete with 'rice Moslems'.  Sort of following in the footsteps of Hammas by using social justice missions to convert followers.  Which then makes this motu proprio a geo political tool most useful to bishops in the developing world but also very useful to reactionary bishops in the first world who never seem to get bored with reminding Western Catholics the Church is not a democracy and that pelvic issues are vastly more important than social justice issues.

And sadly, this movement to dis-empower the progressive social justice wing of the Church is only going to get more intense.


  1. The new Catholic identity as defined by the Romans in charge under Pope Benedict's rule is to continue the charade these right wing fascist are really Catholics and servants of Christ. They are servants of doom and gloom.

    I'd be willing to drop the name Catholic. I think I dropped it a while ago anyway. Who needs these misogynist gay bashers anyway? I'm utterly sick of them. I'm sick of their insane political views, perverted views of sex and sexuality, their stupid moronic outfits and their pompous, backward and uncharitable ways.

    Who needs a Nazi-style right wing lunatic running any kind of organization? "Catholic" is now not just an identity thing, it is a "brand". A Nazi-Catholic brand.

    People will be "branded" and labeled too by the branders. We are just cattle to these idiots in charge.

    1. The Benedict papacy has reduced itself to tilting at it's own projected, unexamined fears. No organization can run well when it's CEO is unable to honestly look at his own issues and how those issues color his leadership. Back to back popes incapable of self assessment are destroying the soul of this Church.

  2. I was shocked when the Catholic church teamed up with the religious right over conservative/christian issues. I was a Catholic, old enough to remember when christian religions were very weary of Catholics and remember the issues about JFK's religion and the 1960 election.

    This move by the Pope/bishops does not surprise me. I think that they got what they wanted by teaming up with the other religions and now want nothing to do with other religions.

    I research which charities I give to; i will not be supporting any catholic charity.

    1. I actually support my State Government, above and beyond taxes, partly because I get my daily bread through medicaid, but also because the State serves all without discriminating against anyone.

  3. Great analysis, Colleen. I, too, wondered whether or not the Pope would do U.S. taxpayers the favor of refusing our billions and billions of dollars - but on second thought, the prelates are just too greedy to give that kind of money a pass. However, what the overall tone of the message tells me is that the Pope is pretty damn sure of continued financial support from his donor base of the world's plutocrats. Betty Clermont

    1. Thanks Betty. I had the same thought, that somewhere somehow Benedict knew this wasn't going to have much effect on Rome's bottom line.

      What I think will happen is most Catholic social services endeavors will just drop the name Catholic and incorporate as secular NGO's.

  4. Flail away, O B-16!
    The heretical passage in the Book of Revelation about making all things new is easily overturned in favor of making all things old and never allowing the Holy Spirit any space. That story where Jesus did not condemn those who did good works in his name apart from the band of apostles reminds us that if it is not against is for Christ. The bureaucrats think it is a franchise. If they seek a worldly reward, they will get what they are seeking. God writes straight with crooked lines. The pope thinks he can straighten everything out.
    Chuck Murphy
    near Milwaukee in Wisconsin

    1. I think the Pope and the curia have decided they can survive without 90% of the Anglo world. In thirty years, they will have 10% of that 10%. At that point they will have the Catholic cult they want and they already have enough plutocrats who are financially willing to support them in their clerical fantasies that they will be able to continue unabated---at least in their own minds. And then we will all know Rome has very little to do with Jesus as the Truth and the Way.

  5. Any "Catholic" charity with a sense of integrity will dissociate itself from official connection with the pope and his minions. Catholic Healthcare West did exactly that and is now Dignity Healthcare Services. Caritas et al can continue to do their good work without interference by some shriveled old me with wayyyyyyyy too much time on their hands. If this nonsense is allowed to continue I suspect that the 501(3)c status of many of their groups might be called into question, or at least their eligibility for government funding in support of many of their programs.

    Jim McCrea.

  6. I walked into a store a week or so ago and saw in the entry way a table set up to collect donations for a charity. The info suggested primarily it was to benefit people with challenges in mental capability [I can't think of the correct term right now]. I started to reach into my pocket because it is a habit with me to drop in small change or bills to such efforts. Then I noticed that the men collecting were further identified as from the Knights of Columbus and walked past without making a donation. Because given the political proclivities of that organization who knows where my 50 cents might have gone. I don't give money based on the religious-branding aspects of the charity. I prefer to make my charitable donations with more respect for human dignity than that.

    1. KofC is a main donation collector for the Developmentally Disabled. The DD system gets waayyyy more money than the Adult mental health system and the sad thing is, once the DD have a diagnosed Axis I mental illness, many of them wind up in the adult mental health system and we are very hard pressed to meet their needs. The whole system sucks.

  7. What does it mean to be is Catholic? A Reform Jew recently explained that Reformed Judaism is to Orthodox Judaism as Unitarianism is to Fundamentalist Christianity. Is there a continuum of definition of Catholicism in this same way? I think there is.

    I don't think of myself as Catholic anymore, but catholic. To me, little c catholicism is not associated with Rome, it is associated with Jesus of Nazareth, the Gospel Tradition, and even all the rest of the history all the way up to now. But it takes none of it literally, dogmatically, finally. In my vision, catholicism approaches the Bible, church history, and tradition the way Reform Jews approach the Torah ... as a work to be continually explored and opened up, to be understood in context and then unravelled and unmoored from its historical ties so as to examine its breathing heart. C(C)atholicism has taken the breath out of church tradition and debate and solidified it, ossified it, at every turn, even when it very obviously contradicts a previous form. There is no life breathing in Rome any more.

    There is a momentum growing among catholics of integrity, intelligence, education, and commitment to the spirit of life and Vatican II ... if only we can keep ourselves together as some kind of faith community long enough. Maybe we need to organise support groups for small c catholics, those of us who are not sure we can deal with Rome any more but still see so much value in other elements of our tradition and practice and way of life. Those of us who still insist on breathing life into our Gospels, our traditions, and teachings. Thoughts?

    1. Monav, my daughter had a T shirt made with that sentiment. "I am a small c Catholic." I spent the last two days wondering if we who are small c Catholics could do just what you propose. I came to the conclusion we needed a respected voice with global pull in order to do that. The National Catholic Reporter may just have declared themselves that voice.

  8. I'm actually not sure if the whole idea isn't to stamp out Christian from Roman Catholic and to further the purposeful conflation of Church with God, pope with God, priest with Jesus, Holy Spirit locked up in Vatican City dragged out only when god the pope allows it."

    ## I had to laugh - don't forget god the Church. There are identity problems - but those in the Church at large are less severe than these other ones. The Church's doctrine of the Church & the Papacy makes them too one-sidedly Divine to be safe for mere humans. The God Who really did become a man is overshadowed both by the Church & by His mother. Being Christian is not enough to make one a "good Catholic" :(

    I think the Papacy needs to be Christianised, converted, reformed, & shorn of some of its power, & made accountable to the rest of the Church. Everyone should be accountable to everyone. STM that the more Christian the Church is,the more Catholic it will be. To be "RC" is not enough to make one either Catholic or Christian - IMHO, one can become Catholic only by looking after more important things; like the Kingdom &, above all, its King. JMO.