This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Catholic charities unite CLIFFORD LONGLEY

Many voices, one message

A major step forward has been taken towards uniting Catholic agencies in England and Wales in a new network to be called Caritas. The agencies, national and local, will pool their expertise and provide an authoritative voice for the Church’s work with the poor and vulnerable


he project has been likened to herd- ing cats. It is the process, now six months old, of shepherding the many and various agencies of the Catholic

Church in England and Wales, large and small, new and old, into a new and more organised system or arrangement. Some call it a structure, some a network, some just a “relationship”. It is all of the above, and more. Indeed, it could be very much more – a new way for the Catholic presence to make itself felt at local and national level, with the media, the Government, and other regional and national bodies, whether friend or foe. And a new way to tap into the thirst for com- passion and justice that is already a characteristic of the contemporary Catholic grass roots, often unacknowledged even by itself. This could be headline-making stuff. It would be wrong to see this initiative sim- ply as a response to the Prime Minister’s call

for a Big Society, though that factor is not irrelevant. Before the last election, all political parties were calling for a revival of civil society, that third place between the public and the private sector where things happen not because the law says so or because there is profit in it, but because ordinary people want them to happen. The Catholic bishops’ own pre-election

statement referred to the need not to overlook “the offer of time, energy and possessions out of the spirit of good citizenship and gen- uine neighbourliness”. This third form of motivation was crucial in making a society worth living in, they went on: “Local insti- tutions expressing good citizenship and neighbour liness, which are not beholden to the Government, form a vital part of civil society.” The visit of Pope Benedict XVI, and the encyclical Caritas in Veritate he published a

year before, underlined the point. In a sense, therefore, David Cameron’s Big Society idea was a bonus rather than a trigger. It is hardly a secret, furthermore, that the theory of the Big Society owes a good deal to Catholic Social Teaching, which may be what the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was refer- ring to in his New Statesman article last week when he rather dismissively talked about “the way several political thinkers today are quarry - ing theological traditions for ways forward”. Through its various social agencies, the Catholic Church was already a leading, if largely unsung, player on this field. Last November the bishops, responding to the papal visit, called on it to “deepen its social engagement”. What that might mean is only

8 | THE TABLET | 18 June 2011

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36