In what some Catholics are calling a “surprise move,” Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic letter directing Catholic charities that they must act in complete compliance with Catholic teachings.
The Pope’s letter was released following his expression of deep concern in recent years at the secularization and openly anti-Catholic trends that have manifested themselves within lay-funded Catholic charitable organizations that have been officially recognized by the Church.
In his six-page letter released in November, the pontiff instructed bishops to improve their supervision of local charities to ensure that the work performed by these organizations is consistent with Church teaching. Pope Benedict observed that it is the duty of the diocesan bishops and parish priests to safeguard that, in charitable service, the faithful “are not led into error or misunderstanding.”
According to Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International, there has been a dramatic increase in charitable services to the poor becoming integrated with practices that are inconsistent with Church teaching.
“Emergency shelter somehow requires legalized abortion, food comes with condoms and incredible pressure to reduce birth rates, economic assistance requires adoption of a radical sexual and political agenda,” said Boquet. “More and more the message to the poor and suffering from the secular development industry is ‘we’ll help you, but you need to stop having children now and leave your traditions behind.’”
“The Church’s charitable activity at all levels must avoid the risk of becoming just another form of organized social assistance,” the pope wrote. He instructed that bishops and priests “are to prevent publicity being given through parish or diocesan structures to initiatives which, while presenting themselves as charitable, proposes choices or methods at odds with the Church’s teaching.” In addition, the pope wrote that church leaders must see to it that “the norms of the Church’s universal and particular law are respected, as well as the intentions of the faithful who made donations or bequests for these specific purposes.”
The pope explicitly identified the organization, Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella group that represents hundreds of Catholic charitable groups around the world. The U.S. members of Caritas are Catholic Charities U.S.A. and Catholic Relief Services.
In 2009, LifeSiteNews uncovered evidence that groups promoting legalized abortion and artificial contraceptives were being funded through grants from the Canadian Catholic Organisation for Development and Peace. Since that time, the Vatican has been forced to intervene directly on at least two occasions in Caritas activities.
Stephen Mosher, president of Population Research Institute, said that the pope’s directive “is a welcome corrective to the corrosive secularization of many Catholic agencies around the world, including Catholic Relief Services in the U.S. African and Latin American bishops have been complaining for years about so-called ‘Catholic charities’ that are, in fact, neither authentically Catholic nor truly charitable.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Pontifical Council that oversees the Church’s charities, had earlier warned of a “silent apostasy” within Catholic charities when he informed Caritas:
Today, dear friends, the tragedy of modern mankind is not lacking clothing and housing. The most tragic hunger and the most terrible anguish is not lack of food. It’s much more about the absence of God and the lack of true love, the love that was revealed to us on the Cross.