EVERY Catholic charity in the West today faces intense pressure to secularise.
That pressure comes in many forms: the offer of public funds in return for downplaying of Catholic identity; the promise of increased peer approval in return for quietly dropping unpopular moral principles; and the difficulty of finding talented staff who are fully committed to the Church’s vision.
It is not surprising, then, that many Catholic charities have drifted away from the Church that once inspired and nourished them.
It is clear that, from the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI has grasped this problem and made a concerted effort to draw charities back into the heart of the Church. That was a key theme of his very first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.
In late May, the Pope made a major address to one of the Church’s most important charitable bodies, Caritas Internationalis.
Each year this organisation relieves the suffering of thousands of the world’s neediest people: the victims of war and natural disasters. But for some time Vatican officials have worried that Caritas is in danger of succumbing to secularising temptations.
The Holy See refused to allow Caritas’ capable secretary-general, Lesley-Anne Knight, to stand for re-election and made a concerted effort at the general assembly in Rome to encourage Caritas to take a new direction.
In an unusually blunt speech, Pope Benedict urged Caritas to rediscover its distinctive Catholic identity, to ensure that all its documents are in harmony with the Magisterium and to promote the “non-negotiable” values of the Church in its outreach to the needy.
He asked delegates to see Caritas’ ecclesial identity as its greatest asset rather than as an inconvenient inheritance.
The Pope’s words should give courage to those waging an often lonely struggle against secularising pressures within Catholic charities and hope to those who seek to offer a daily witness to God’s love for the neediest through their service. - THE CATHOLIC HERALD