On the service of Charity

Pope Benedict has just issued an excellent new Motu Propio entitled Intima Ecclesiae Natura in which he speaks about the works of charity in and by the church and has also issued regulations to improve the organisation of the Church’s charitable activity.

“With the present Motu proprio, I intend to provide an organic legislative framework for the better overall ordering of the various organised ecclesial forms of the service of charity, which are closely related to the diaconal [ministerial] nature of the Church and the Episcopal ministry.

Key phrases to note:

It is important, however, to keep in mind that “practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ

i.e. any charitable endeavour must not be a mere fund-raising activity but should be caritas in action, demonstrating Christ’s love in word and action.

The Church’s charitable activity at all levels must avoid the risk of becoming just another form of organized social assistance”.

Perhaps most importantly for Catholic charities not only must they confirm with relevant civil laws but

“there is a need to ensure that they are managed in conformity with the demands of the Church’s teaching and the intentions of the faithful”.

Furthermore charities “may use the name “Catholic” only with the written consent of the competent authority, as laid down by canon 300 CIC.”

Every Bishop has been instructed to encourage a local Caritas service but

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.”

From my cursory reading it seems that the Holy Father has quite rightly, in accordance with the Catholic principles of subsidiarity, devolved the responsibility for ensuring the promotion of charities and adherence with Catholic principles, into the hands of the episcopacy. Not only does he seem to be wanting to step up Catholic charitable activity and working in the service of Christ, it is a reminder to all of our obligation to work for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the outcast and the needy in deed and word, but also and perhaps crucially, Pope Benedict emphasises that any charity must be wholly in accordance with Catholic doctrine. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum will have overall responsibility for Catholic charities and ensuring guidelines are adhered to.

This can only be good news. Interesting times ahead for various “Catholic-in name-only” charities. The Holy Father is sending out a clear message here, various unholy alliances with pro-abortion groups will need to cease.

Full text here on Rorate Cæli.

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