Last week I wrote here about the Vatican refusing to renew the post of Lesley-Anne Knight, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis; the outrage it has caused in the organization; and what it might mean. The piece is summarized in this week's Signs of the Times.
1. Caritas spokesman Patrick Nicholson has been in touch to point out an inaccuracy in what I wrote (in 'Signs of the Times'). I reported that "the organization’s leadership bureau—Cardinal Rodríguez, Knight, the organization’s treasurer and seven regional presidents—met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone on Feb. 5, but they were unable to change the position of the Holy See on Knight’s reappointment". In fact, says Nicholson, "Only one representative of the Bureau (Juerg Krummenacher) and Francois Soulage (Candidates Committee) were given a meeting on 5 Feb and it was not with Cardinal Bertone but two Under Secretaries. Cardinal Bertone declined to send a Secretary of State representative to the Bureau meeting and has not met with them. Lesley-Anne Knight has never been granted a meeting with Cardinal Bertone and has therefore not met him during her tenure."
2. Lesley-Anne Knight has given an interview to NCR's John Allen in which she defends Caritas' "outward-looking" stance as one that gives credibility to the Catholic Church, and complains that there has been very little contact between Caritas and the two Vatican dicasteries with which it is supposed to relate -- Cor Unum and the Secretariat of State - -despite considerable efforts on the part of Caritas. "The information flow tends to be one-way", she points out. She also says that the Vatican's nihil obstat came as a complete surprise, and made public in a way that has been "very, very painful" for Caritas.
3. Cor Unum's second-in-command, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, has meanwhile hit back in an EWTN interview, claiming (in a media interview) that using the media to discuss questions "related to matters of the governance of Caritas Internationalis does not seem to me the best way to treat the various positions" and that "The channels for discussion are not lacking, nor our willingness to dialogue, as Caritas Internationalis knows very well."
Taken together, these three developments underline what appears to be a breakdown in understanding and trust between the Vatican (or at least the Secretariat of State and Cor Unum) and Caritas. What lies at the heart of it is harder to work out. The indications from Cardinal Robert Sarah (Cor Unum) and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Secretariat of State) suggest that a shake-up of Caritas is down the road, designed to make Caritas more of a church organization and less of an NGO, and to give it a firmer "Catholic" identity -- whatever that may mean in practice.
But that kind of language may be cover for the Vatican's real aim, which is to tie Caritas more tightly to Rome's policy objectives, whether diplomatic or pastoral. Caritas is a vast global organization with a budget of $5bn; its influence, reach and legitimacy -- it is always tied to the local Church -- make it, in the eyes of some, a kind of parallel Vatican. When Cardinal Bertone in the January letter reported by The Tablet speaks of the need to harmonise the "theological dimension" of its work with its role as an international organisation, and suggests that it needs to work more closely with the Vatican, the problem seems clear: Caritas and the Vatican are not working well together.
But what is to be done? The answer to that seems no clearer. But meeting and talking would seem to be a pretty good start.