Responding to concerns pro-life advocates have had about Catholic charitable groups that have been using donor funds to support pro-abortion organizations and efforts, Pope Benedict XVI released a new statement condemning the practice.
Pope Benedict XVI released an Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio “On the Service of Charity.” The document uses the kind of formal legal language that acts as binding legislation for the Catholic Church.
It says Catholic charitable organizations “should not limit themselves merely to collecting and distributing funds,” but act as “a valuable educational function within the Christian community.”
“The Church’s charitable activity at all levels must avoid the risk of becoming just another form of organized social assistance,” Pope Benedict wrote in the document. “To the extent that such activities are promoted by the hierarchy…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.”
“The collective charitable initiatives to which this Motu Proprio refers are required to follow Catholic principles in their activity,” it says.
“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,” the pontiff added. “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.”
“Similarly, lest scandal be given to the faithful, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that these charitable agencies do not accept contributions for initiatives whose ends, or the means used to pursue them, are not in conformity with the Church’s teaching,” he said.
Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International, said he is pleased to see the new document.
“Although it is still very new, I think it is safe to say that Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio ‘On the Service of Charity’ will be seen as one of the most important papal directives in the last half-century. It is a welcome move toward improving the Church’s ability to speak with one voice in the defense of the poor and displaced, the unborn and the elderly, and all who are marginalized,” he told LifeNews.
He added: “Over the past few decades, the developing world has sadly seen a dramatic increase in the essential efforts of service to the poor being integrated with destructive anti-life assaults on those being served, and on their cultures. On this view, 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.”
He continued: “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.’ And sadly, too often the Church’s own agencies have not only not spoken up against this new normal in development, but they have at times even funded the groups who lead the trend. This Motu Proprio is an effort to rid this essential work of the Church of its ideological confusion, and to make it both more effective and more Catholic.”
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“Catholics in the field of charitable work should not be afraid to talk to groups who do not share our values, or even to work with them when there is a real human need that must be addressed. But we must stop funding them and lending our Church’s beautiful name and authority to projects and coalitions that contain destructive elements along with good activities,” he told LifeNews. “We must redouble our prayer for conversion and peace within the Church. The Motu Proprio will not be well received in some circles, and is likely to further expose existing crevasses that can no longer be hidden. Still, there is an opportunity for the leadership of Catholic charitable organizations to take Pope Benedict’s call to heart and develop a dynamic, creative and evangelistic new paradigm for the work they are called to do in the name of Jesus Christ and His Church.”
Boquet concluded, “The Holy Father, following his predecessor Blessed John Paul II, has made every effort in patience and charity to lead the charitable agencies of the Church toward embracing a more entirely Catholic paradigm, and importantly, to make evangelization a cornerstone of its effort. This directive dramatically and explicitly forwards this case, laying the groundwork for its codification in Canon Law.”