16 May 2011

Some Writing On The Wall?

The write-ups of the Low Week Meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is no laughing matter.  "The Bishops’ Conference asks the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis to coordinate the process of consultation on the Synod of Bishops’ 2012 Lineamenta and to supervise the production of a response on behalf of the Conference" is the sort of thing they run off, or rather, that their staffs run off.  This is an NGO like so many other NGOs in this fair land whose bureaucracy substitutes turgid officialese for clear words.  But some interesting stuff has seeped through: interesting enough to make me wonder if the supertanker might be preparing to turn.

Among the Plenary Resolutions listed here, comes this:

"The Bishops’ Conference reviewed their aims and objectives for the next three to five years. The source of these aims and objectives are the vision and priorities found in the teaching which His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI set forth during his visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. They are also rooted in the requirement of the core work of Episcopal Conferences set out by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church."

(Note the use of capital letters, by the way.)

Now, there's nothing on view as helpful as a list of the new or revised aims and objectives, but there is a contextualisation here of where the new aims and objectives come from that leave me at least hopeful that real change might be on the way.  Yes, they are insisting on Episocopalconferencism as a foundation of their "right" to set their aims and objectives: but the Pope's vision and priorities should be enough to set that "right" in perspective and keep it pointed in the right direction.

I found their document on Social Action (here) even more interesting.  It says that the Bishops' Conference has two subordinate organisations involved in social action, both of which are subordinate to Caritas Internationalis: CAFOD and CSAN: Caritas Social Action Network.  It then says that while everybody at the Conference is very pleased with what CAFOD is up to, it's about time we started to put more emphasis into what CSAN is, can, and should be doing at home, and some serious work is going to be put into identifying what that might mean over the next year.

Two thoughts spring to my mind, both positive: first, that the ludicrous identification of Catholic social action with an organisation indistinguishable from its non-Catholic peers except for its right to the first-fruits of Catholic charitable giving in England and Wales might be beginning to be weakened, and in favour of an organisation which will have to match up to Catholic social teaching in that very difficult area - right in front of its donors' eyes - and which might be about to reach some level of maturity.

Second, that this might be a straw in the wind: that if the reported Vatican crack down on Caritas Internationalis organisations which want to self identify as Catholic, without actually having to behave as Catholic, leads to CAFOD (for example) breaking away from Caritas Internationalis, then the Bishops' Conference has a manageable substitute in the wings.  This, of course,  puts the Conference into a win-win situation with regards to CAFOD's future direction.

Maybe I'm misreading this completely, but maybe I'm not: maybe this is the way Archbishop Nichols is asserting control, while not losing his left flank. 

(There is some other interesting stuff about looking at the structures of the Conference itself, but I reckon that's there just to keep the staff under control!)

Interesting times ...

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