On the Service of Charity

There has been a little coverage of Pope Benedict XVI latest Motu Proprio “On the Service of Charity.” Catholic blog coverage has run down the lines of it being a smack down of, for example, Catholic Charities.

Reading through it, it certainly is much more than that. No doubt the Pope has recognized the problems where Catholic charitable institutions have strayed a bit from their responsibilities to the faith. This has led him to notice that the Code of Canon Law does “not expressly mention charity as a specific sector of episcopal activity.” This document is intended to provide a legislative framework that addresses this and sets forth the various responsibilities for the bishops, charitable institutions, and the faithful.

The introduction starts with:

“The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia) and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable.” (Deus Caritas Est, 25).

It also precisely states what the problem is in that there has been a schism in charitable efforts regarding proclaiming the word and celebrating the sacraments. The “Socialworkering” of charitable efforts have flattened such institutions as secular organizations that do some good things.

These articles in the document are especially of interest (at least for pundit bloggers.)

Art. 7. – § 1. The agencies referred to in Article 1 § 1 are required to select their personnel from among persons who share, or at least respect, the Catholic identity of these works.

§ 2. To ensure an evangelical witness in the service of charity, the diocesan Bishop is to take care that those who work in the Church’s charitable apostolate, along with due professional competence, give an example of Christian life and witness to a formation of heart which testifies to a faith working through charity. To this end, he is also to provide for their theological and pastoral formation, through specific curricula agreed upon by the officers of various agencies and through suitable aids to the spiritual life.

Art. 8. – Wherever necessary, due to the number and variety of initiatives, the diocesan Bishop is to establish in the Church entrusted to his care an Office to direct and coordinate the service of charity in his name.

Art. 9. – § 1. The Bishop is to encourage in every parish of his territory the creation of a local Caritas service or a similar body, which will also promote in the whole community educational activities aimed at fostering a spirit of sharing and authentic charity. When appropriate, this service is to be established jointly by various parishes in the same territory.

§ 2. It is the responsibility of the Bishop and the respective parish priest to ensure that together with Caritas, other charitable initiatives can coexist and develop within the parish under the general coordination of the parish priest, taking into account, however, the prescriptions of Article 2 § 4 above.

§ 3. It is the duty of the diocesan Bishop and the respective parish priests to see that in this area the faithful are not led into error or misunderstanding; hence they are to prevent publicity being given through parish or diocesan structures to initiatives which, while presenting themselves as charitable, propose choices or methods at odds with the Church’s teaching.

Art. 10. – § 1. It is the responsibility of the Bishop to supervise the ecclesiastical goods of the charitable agencies subject to his authority.

Can we get an Amen?

The goals of this document do not reflect the situation today in the main. So often we find heads and personnel of Catholic charitable agencies at odds with Church teaching. Especially prominent is the fact that so many of these agencies link up with other agencies that are decidedly opposed to Church teaching. The narrowing of social justice into a term charged more with political than Catholic meaning is quite rampant.

So I am very happy to see this document from the Pope. How well the implementation will go is another matter. Remember when Catholic schools cleaned up their act after the promulgation of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae”? Well maybe that didn’t happen. Although this is a slightly different situation where the bishops should have more control and have been given very specific authority regarding it.

Now the pessimist in me would point out that it is hard to expect the bishops to clean house when the USCCB’s “Catholic Campaign for Human Development” is an example of the problem this document addresses. There just has not been really any shakeup with CCHD and while some problems have been addressed I get the feeling that changes have been reluctant. The type of entities that CCHD donates to is rife with interconnecting links to seriously anti-Catholic organizations. Considering that the USCCB is currently using Cokie Roberts to raise money for retired religious or that they had Chris Matthews front and center at the Alfred E. Smith dinner there are certainly some mixed messages. It is alright to advocate the murder of innocents as long as you give your voice to some charitable cause.

Getting to the more optimistic side of me. Good bishops have just been given a legislative framework that is going to help them in coordinating with charitable institutions and correcting problems as they exist. It also means that they have just been given an even larger workload that needs to be managed. The coordination and creation of applicable training along with implementing this document is going to be no easy task. Well just another reason to pray for our bishops.


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Jeffrey Miller (789 Posts)

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