18 March 2015
Egan: clergy should screen NGOs for faith values
Clergy in Portsmouth have been told to make sure they do not support charities that are “incompatible” with Catholic faith, such as organisations that support abortion, contraception and gay relationships.
Bishop Philip Egan has written to priests and deacons in his diocese asking them to review all relationships with external charities by applying principles of Catholic teaching before offering support.
In a set of new guidelines the bishop gives the example of a relationship charity that has won an award from gay rights group, Stonewall. That, according to the document, is enough to rule it out as a provider of education in a Catholic school or parish, even if the education on offer had no connection to the services for which it received the Stonewall award.
Another example explains that it would not be admissible for Confirmation candidates to volunteer for a charity working with homeless people if that charity, as well as running soup kitchens, also provided condoms in its welfare provisions.
And a third example says parishes should not support those charities that, while doing “many other things which we might find good an in accordance with Catholic teaching”, engage in initiatives that “promote the use of, or have recourse to contraception, and even abortion, contrary to Catholic teaching”.
In his letter Bishop Egan asks his priests to undertake a review of all charities with which his parish is involved, as it will help with the establishment of Caritas Portsmouth, a diocesan charitable agency.
But one parish priest in the diocese said he found the bishop’s letter, and accompanying guidelines, extremely sad.
“The diocese cannot tell people how to respond to the human conditions that people find themselves in,” he said. “When you give money to a charity you give in response to a situation. You cannot give funds and then start saying, you can’t do this or that with it.”
Bishop Egan’s directives also appear to be at odds with the recent advice from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales that says Catholics should not vote according to single issues, said the priest.
The priest added that the bishop’s move was “pure centralisation and dictatorship” and would probably end in people deciding not to give money through the diocese at all, so they could make their own decisions.
Another parish priest, who asked not to be named, said the guidelines proposed by Bishop Egan would backfire on the Church.
“If Catholics follow the tone of these instructions the offertory collection will drop dramatically because the Catholic Church itself is not beyond reproach regarding ethical giving,” he said. “The next time a tramp comes to the presbytery door am I expected to put an interrogation: ‘Have you ever had an abortion or been associated with someone who has? Have you ever taken illicit substances?’”
The priest also admitted that despite having read through the new guidelines five times, he still could not completely understand them, saying: “Ninety five per cent of Catholics would not even attempt to understand the moral grounds as outlined in these instructions. The five per cent who do grapple with its meaning will realise they are forbidden to donate to any charity including the [ITAL]Big Issue[UNITAL] seller outside Waitrose, Cafod and the offertory collection next Sunday at Mass.”
In his letter Bishop Egan said it is a bishop’s responsibility to oversee the ministry of charity and charity law only permits the Church to support charities whose work is compatible to that of the diocese, “namely to promote the Catholic faith”.
Photo: © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk
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