Sunday, 28 February 2010

Catholic Care

joint pastoral letter from the Bishops of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hallam is being read in the parishes of those dioceses this weekend. The letter talks about a High Court case that will be considered on Wednesday of this week with regard to the adoption work undertaken by Catholic Care in their dioceses.
This [ie equalities legislation] has had the effect that most Catholic adoption agencies, depending on their circumstances, have either closed or transferred their adoption activity to other charities. Neither of these options is acceptable to us or to the Trustees of Catholic Care. Indeed, our position has been widely supported not only within the Catholic Church but also from very many others outside.
Fr Ray comments: "Some bishops are standing up to the Government". This is not untrue - but what seems to me to be more to the point is that the Trustees are making a stand. From the website of Catholic Care I have been able to identify a Governing Body, four members of which are lay people and four clergy, and the Chief Executive Officer, a lay person; I haven't been able to identify the Trustees, and am making an assumption that the Governing Body (trustees?) and Chief Executive have played a major role in the strategy being used. Making the (perhaps dangerous?) assumption that this information is up-to-date, then is the support of lay people for the stand being taken over the future of Catholic Care's adoption work just as important as the support of the Bishops themselves?

UPDATE:  Just to explain that my point here is not to downplay the stand taken by the Bishops involved in any way, or to play it off against that taken by lay people. Rather my point is that, if social action such as that undertaken by Catholic Care is seen as part of the lay vocation in the Church, then it is for lay people to take the responsibility for how that social action is undertaken. Bishops do have a pastoral role with regard to that social action, particularly if it is undertaken in the name of the Church; but they should not take on themselves the responsibility that rightly belongs to the lay people involved. The laity and the Bishops have complementary, yet distinct, offices to fulfil. In the case of Catholic Care, it may well be the case that it is the lay people taking their rightful responsibility - and this enables the stand that is being taken. It looks like this to me, but I can't say it for certain, looking from the outside in.

My own view is that, so far as the situation of the Catholic adoption agencies and Catholic schools are concerned, it is primarily for lay people working in those fields to take the responsibility for deciding where the lines are going to be drawn. Whatever stance is taken at a national or Episcopal level with regard to legislative provisions, it is Catholic lay people in schools who will work out the boundaries of their cooperation, or otherwise, with that legislation. Which is why I have not so far joined in the criticism of our Bishops that has been a feature of Catholic blogs recently. I believe such criticism is missing the essential point which is, in my view, that of whether or not there are sufficient skilled and formed lay people in the individual institutions involved to assure the  effectiveness of their Catholic mission.


Hippolytus said...

thanks for bringing this to my attention on your excellent blog....thought you would want an error include NOTTINGHAM in your posting where it should be Bishops of

Joe said...

Thank you for your nice comment, which I appreciate - error has been corrected - thank you for pointing that out too!.

Patricius said...

Thanks for the link to the pastoral letter which I have also posted on my blog now. I live in a diocese and province where the Children's Society was cut adrift in order to comply with this shameful legislation and feel these bishops deserve the support of ALL the Catholics of England and Wales.

Joe said...

Interesting to read the following posts today, addressing the question of the relationship between lay people and Bishops. One might have one's own judgement that a Bishop has not acted as strongly as he should have done - but he remains the "place" in which, under all but the most exceptional circumstances, one finds the Church.

At Dolphinarium:

At Porta Caeli: