The Gospel this Sunday tells us about Lazarus who’s need for help went unheard by the rich man. After they had died the rich man found himself in the fire of Hell while Lazarus was comforted by Abraham. Only when it was too late did the rich man repent.
Looking after our neighbour is what the Gospel calls us to do. It frequently begs the question ‘who is my neighbour?’ And we all know the answer to that one. If anyone is in need, we help them.
Cafod (The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) looks after Lazarus on our behalf. And it’s no mean feat either. Their work is endorsed by all the Bishops of England and Wales, just about every parish in the country has a Cafod coordinator who keeps the line of communication open so the man on the Clapham omnibus knows what is going on and where help is needed.
But Cafod have been called to account, and rightly so. There have been things in their practice that have caused concern. Concerns that we are entitled to have answered. The most pressing problem recently was their involvement in the ‘If’ campaign. ‘If’, recognising that there is enough food in the world for everyone, presses that this should happen, no one should go hungry. There are several charities involved in the campaign, some of the charities are not in accord with Church teaching. Contraception and abortion services are part of their agenda. This can make a catholic uneasy to say the least.
But what if Cafod had not got involved? How much more good did Cafod do? Cafod asked the question ‘why is this not happening, why is the food not being shared?’ I’d prefer they did so rather than stand outside saying ‘some pro aborts are asking the question…… We won’t because they support abortion’. There would have been a much greater outcry at this stance than the path taken. It has been said that those looking for more information on ‘If’ could be confused if they looked at the website and some of the partners were pro population control charities. Realistically I feel anyone with the brains to look them up will have the brains to know where we as Church stand on this matter. And if they don’t, the guidance is there. If our neighbour needs help in this matter, we help them with clear explanations.
Julian Filochoski was a director of Cafod. He resigned from the post 10 years ago. He has, for over 30 years been in a relationship with another man. This alone was enough to have some people pointing the finger at Cafod. Comments that are, to be quite frank, cheap about Filchowski’s salary at the time were made, but as we’ve seen, Cafod comes out very well in how much they pay their directors. We can be greatful to Julian for doing the job so cheaply! The fact there was a gay man at the top was also sited while discussions were happening about Cafod’s condom policy. I found no middle ground on this, there was either stunned shock that people could say such things or smug finger pointing. You can guess where I stood I think. But this was ten years ago, and it still gets cited. There’s never a mention as to how well Chris Bain is doing.
The whole condom issue is a minefield. I’d love to write about it but if I do there is a danger it could be misconstrued. We’ve seen it happen before, quite intentionally, so I think I should avoid any “confusion and upset” that might occur.
The latest Cafod kicking fest comes via one of their media team, Damien McBride, a former Labour spin doctor who has written his own book of revelations about his time in that job. “are they taking his filthy money?” “why isn’t he giving the money to Cafod?” are among the (sorry) silly things I have seen written about this.
I can only seen this as another reason for Cafod to be seen as less than lily white. There are Catholics saying ‘we must stop supporting Cafod’ ‘give your money to other charities’. And what happens if we do? People will die. People who we are called to save will die. That’s the cold hard fact.
A priest of my formative years was once spoken to by a parishioner about of one of the women he was allowing to help at the parish youth club, “you know about her don’t you?” he was asked, and her lifestyle and past were presented to him as if he did not already know. His reply was beautiful “Christ did not ask us to wash our hands before we did his work, in fact he spat on the ground and got his hand dirty. He calls us all, sinners and otherwise”. But the parishioner pressed on with her concern. Father then conceded “Ok, I’ll ask her not to come back, you’ll do the door at the youth club will you?”
What do you think her answer was? Getting her hand mucky wasn’t in the plan. I am just not able to go and work for Cafod, I don’t have the fibre, let alone the knowhow. And while the bishops are happy for them to get on with their work, so must I be.i