Cafod and the Seamless Garment

if-cafod-t-shirtsIf I were wiser and more prudent I would probably desist from writing about this, but I was horrified by a recent post by James Preece in which he highlighted the (perhaps inadvertent) promotion of organisations that support abortion, by CAFOD and urged people to sign a petition directed to Bishop John Arnold, Chairman of CAFOD, a call that has been echoed by Mark Lambert and the Ora Pro Nobis blog. This is a matter for concern and not something that should be ignored.

For those not already in the know, CAFOD have signed up as a partner organisation in the very worthy IF campaign that aims to tackle the causes of global hunger. The problem is that this campaign is being heavily promoted by CAFOD in Catholic schools up and down the land, as well as by various youth ministry projects and children are being encouraged to go to the website, where a click on ‘who we are‘ will lead to a page with logos and links of organisations that support or promote abortion.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of all (just for a change), I don’t have too much of a problem with CAFOD’s support for the campaign, which should be lent as much weight as possible. Global hunger is an urgent and pressing problem and it is an issue upon which we should be lobbying governments. Admittedly there were other ways that CAFOD could have tackled the issue without getting involved in the IF, but I don’t think that they should be attacked for doing so. An alliance of organisations seems a good way of concentrating efforts.

Having clicked on the logos and links page, as someone in the know, I could immediately identify which organisations support and promote abortion, but I wonder how obvious this would be to a member of the general public, or a schoolchild? Furthermore, those organisations which do support and promote abortion, are not overt about it, which some might venture makes them more ‘dangerous’. Where abortion is supported or promoted, it isn’t necessarily with an aggressive agenda of ‘reproductive rights and justice’ but as a misguided compassionate solution. The organisations involved seem to be predominantly interested in the provision of aid, which for some will include medical aid which encompasses abortion. Put it this way, it took me a a good hour to find the support for abortion in some of the listed organisations and that was after a targeted search. Would a schoolchild look for this with the same dogged determination? But if they did come across it, there is a real danger that they could believe that abortion was sanctioned and encouraged by CAFOD, the official aid agency of the Catholic Church.

Co-operation with evil (which is what this potentially amounts to) should be avoided. That said, my (albeit limited) understanding of Catholic Social Teaching means that Catholic organisations can partner with other non-Catholic organisations in pursuit of the common good, in this way. Whilst CAFOD could not partner with organisations such as Marie Stopes International, Planned Parenthood or BPAS, they can partner with other organisations whose main aim is not concerned with advocating abortion, to further a vital cause.

However, where CAFOD have been extremely remiss is that they have failed to spot that this association could be potentially problematic and therefore missed an opportunity for education and catechesis. What we should have seen is an explanatory statement from CAFOD, together with a re-statement of the Catholic position upon abortion, a pledge from them that they will not work with individual agencies who promote abortion and refer women for abortion, along with naming those agencies, as well as setting out their position in terms of the medical aid, assistance and education that should be provided to women in developing countries.

One of the most infuriating aspects of this campaign in schools is that an opportunity for further education surrounding the issues facing those in developing countries has been missed. If they had any nouse, decision-makers in CAFOD would have instantly identified the potential difficulties in such a partnership, and instead of sticking their fingers in their ears and going la, la, la and hoping that no-one, especially the pesky tenacious interfering bloggers would find out, they should have given qualified support to this campaign, together with additional materials for schoolchildren, including perhaps a ‘danger list’ of organisations as well as material to instigate classroom discussions of why Western norms of contraception and abortion should not be pressed upon vulnerable women.

As a result, they’ve left themselves with something of a mess to sort out. A seamless garment approach is not one that compartmentalises or prioritises one issue, such as as concern for global hunger, over another, such as abortion. These are all violations of issues of human rights and dignity and should all be given equal weight, one bleeding effortlessly into another.

This blog has a pro-life bent towards the unborn, not because I believe them to be more important than anyone else, but because it is an area in which I have a very particular interest and insight. Furthermore whilst I might get the odd article published elsewhere, I am largely an unpaid amateur, a blogger who happens to be Catholic, as opposed to a ‘Catholic blogger’, I don’t represent the Catholic Church in any official capacity and neither do I solicit any sort of contribution from the faithful.

The same cannot be said of CAFOD however and whilst it would be a positive development if CAFOD could at least qualify their involvement in this project, even better would be if they could take this opportunity to clarify their position on contraception and abortion, and better still if some kind of internal audit or overhaul could take place to ensure that this type of snafu does not reoccur.