Thursday 3 October 2013

It's a Question of Trust

Reflecting on the McBride/CAFOD affair, it seems to me that much of the commentary misses the point.

People are talking about what McBride did then, and whether CAFOD should or should not accept 'tainted' money.

Heavens above: if only the completely virtuous could donate to CAFOD they would be poor indeed! That's really not the issue, as I see it.

It is not what McBride did then, when employed in the ugly world of party politics; and which he may well, for all I know, have confessed and been shriven for. 

It's the fact that now, as a senior member of CAFOD, and indeed the one in charge of PR, he is publishing what he is publishing, and in the way that he is publishing it (serialisation in a mass-circulation paper at Party Conference time...) that I think is the current issue.

The analogy isn't Mother Teresa taking money from dodgy dictators: it is Mother Teresa permitting one of her senior nuns to raise money in dodgy ways.

All of which contributes to my feeling that CAFOD still does not merit my trust.

So I have been ruminating on trust.

It seems to me that there are three components of trust, in this context. One is the good intentions of the party who seeks to be trusted; a second is his or her competence; and the relative importance of each of these elements varies with the context. I would sooner trust with a scalpel over my abdomen the competent surgeon with dodgy views on the Trinity, than the completely orthodox one with a shaky hand and poor nerves... The third is integrity: that fundamental congruence between what somebody says and what he or she is and does.

In the case of CAFOD, I fear all three are in question.  I won't rehearse all the issues again, as I have bored my indulgent readers with them so many times (a click on the tag CAFOD will reveal all...).

I should reiterate that I am talking here specifically about the leadership and central organisation. I know of many good people who are completely trustworthy - and virtuous, generous and more - who support CAFOD in the parishes. 

But I fear the central question is important. Because they have forfeited trust, both by concealing and obfuscating, on the one hand, and by poor judgement and decision making on the other, I have no confidence in the claims they make about the work they now do. It is not just a fear that they may be promoting condoms, or even working supportively with agencies that campaign for and provide abortions. 

It is also that they are engaged in campaigning and educational work: and I do not think that they are doing so from a sound Catholic, but rather a secularised, perspective.  Frankly, I am not prepared to risk money I donate to a body that claims to be Catholic being spent in ways that go against the Church's teaching, and may even be actively undermining it: their reinterpretation of Abstinence being a case in point.

My beef with CAFOD is actually very personal and very longstanding.  It starts many years ago, when I co-ordinated a project that raised significant funds for them.

I remember meeting the regional co-ordinator for a discussion towards the end of the project, at a time when the see in which we were working was vacant. During the meeting, a priest wandered in to the office. He was a big CAFOD supporter and very J&P. He was chatting idly with the CAFOD chap about why it was taking so long for the see to be filled, and said scathingly that it was because Rome was searching around for someone - anyone - who believed in Humanae Vitae. They both thought this was ludicrous.

At that moment, I realised that I had been a dupe.  Here I was, working to support a Catholic Charity, only to see that, at least in its local incarnation, it was not.  The regional co-ordinator, a lovely chap, had always seemed perfectly sound in our conversations heretofore. But the mask slipped, possibly because by now he felt comfortable with me, and also in the company of his priest friend. But what was behind the mask was an attitude of dissent - and habitual, casual dissent, at that, as though everyone really shared such views.

That impression was only strengthened the more I learned and attended to CAFOD's various activities and publications in the intervening years.

And this problem points higher up the chain. CAFOD's supporters often point to the fact that they are under the oversight of the bishops, so they must be all right. One would hope that such an assurance would be all one needs. But I fear that the bishops of England and Wales, collectively, and many of them individually (with some notable and honourable exceptions) have also forfeited our trust.

I do not know whether it is incompetence or a different belief-system (or both) that lead to the various behaviours and statements that undermine my trust in them; and it is probably better not to speculate.  But when one considers:

  •  ++Nichol's support for Queering The Church - led LGBT Masses; 
  • +Conry's extraordinary misrepresentation of Vatican ll documents, injudicious (to put it mildly) comments on confession, and support for ACTA; 
  • +Arnold's failure to hold CAFOD to a Catholic line, 
  • ++Kelly saying lay-led funeral services were as good as funeral Masses, and offering his Cathedral to Methodists for their 'ordination' services,  
  • + McMahon's failure to hold the CES to a Catholic line, and welcoming the appointment to it of a man who, as an MP had voted consistently in ways that are diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching on, for example, abortion, contraception, 'gay' relationships etc.
  • the collective stance in favour of Civil Partnerships, which paved the way for the SSM fiasco,
  • and...

...but alas the list could go on and on... but considering these, it is fair to say that my trust is undermined.

Prayer and fasting are clearly the first priority. But beyond that, we do have a duty to speak out: both to ensure that others are not misled, and in the hope that the Nuncio will be able to keep the Holy Father properly informed, so that he does not place his trust where it may not be honoured.

At such times, as I have remarked before, the only other thing to do is throw myself back on the promises of Our Lord, in particular those in the Tu es Petrus:

Et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam.

And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her (The Church).

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