Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

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Vatican fires leader of international aid organization Caritas, to strengthen ‘Catholic identity’

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
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February 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Vatican has refused to allow Caritas General Secretary Lesley-Anne Knight to submit her name for reelection to her position, citing the need to strengthen the organization’s “Catholic identity,” among other concerns.

Knight was refused the “nihil obstat” (“nothing obstructs”) declaration required for candidates to be eligible for the office, despite protests from organization leaders, including Caritas President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga.

“The Holy See wants a change in the way it works with Caritas and says this requires a change in the person of the secretary-general,” Caritas said in an official statement on the firing.

Caritas Internationalis is an umbrella organization that unites numerous Catholic aid organizations worldwide, including the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), supported by the bishops of Canada.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, told Zenit that “after four years, the mandate of the present Secretary General, Lesley Anne Knight, will end. In this time, Knight has done much to make the confederation more agile and professional.”

“Now Caritas Internationalis is dealing with new internal challenges, including the revision of its statutes. These challenges also involve internal collaboration, the Catholic identity of the Confederation, cooperation with the Holy See, greater participation of the various continents, a proper understanding of the autonomy of each Caritas member of the confederation,” he added.

Changes in the Vatican’s approach to international aid appear to be part of the general reform project outlined in Pope Benedict’s recent encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth).

The encyclical insisted that human development and foreign aid cannot be separated from the demands of truth: “Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value,” Benedict writes, and observes that international aid organizations are sometimes involved with abortion, contraception, sterilization, and euthanasia.

“Some non-governmental Organizations work actively to spread abortion, at times promoting the practice of sterilization in poor countries, in some cases not even informing the women concerned,” he writes. “Moreover, there is reason to suspect that development aid is sometimes linked to specific health-care policies which de facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures. Further grounds for concern are laws permitting euthanasia as well as pressure from lobby groups, nationally and internationally, in favor of its juridical recognition.”

The CCODP, a Caritas member organization, has come under fire from pro-life groups for supporting organizations that advocate the legalization of abortion, distribute contraceptives, and support homosexualist policies. Knight vigorously defended CCODP after such policies were exposed by LifeSiteNews in early 2009 in a letter sent to donors and obtained by LSN.

In addition, anonymous Vatican officials told LifeSiteNews last November in Rome that similar problems exist with Catholic international aid organizations sponsored by other national bishops’ conferences and that this was a disturbing and unacceptable trend. LifeSiteNews was told that these bishops’ conferences were not conducting proper oversight over their international development and aid organizations resulting in the funding of groups whose objectives are in serious conflict with Catholic teaching.

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