|For Caritas gaining equal access to meds, not condoms is a very big problem.|
George Weigel is back on the pages of InsideCatholic.com and this time his target is Caritas and Leslie Anne Knight's failure to be Catholic enough as she and Caritas are way too under the sway of progressive thinking INGO's (international nongovernmental organizations). The following is an excerpt from the article and although full of attacks, Weigel never really does tell us what makes 'Catholic' concepts superior to INGO concepts--other than the fact they aren't INGO concepts. It starts out with Weigel discussing the discontent in Caritas affiliated members over the impact of Knight's dismissal on their relationships with other providers.
.....If that's the case, it won't be because of anything the Vatican did. Rather, it will be because the INGO world is dominated by an unbending "progressive" orthodoxy on development and health-care questions that sits poorly with Catholic understandings of how people are empowered to break out of the cycle of poverty. INGO shibboleths are also in sharp conflict with Catholic understandings of the best way to fight the AIDS plague in Africa and other poverty-stricken parts of the world. There is very little public evidence that Caritas International, under Knight's leadership, challenged the rigidities in INGO thinking that are a real-world obstacle to empowering the poor and to driving down the incidence of HIV/AIDS. A case in point was her address to a "Catholic Networking Session" at the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
There, Knight asked, "Is there a uniquely Catholic approach to the global HIV pandemic? And if so, what is it?" Her first answer: "I fear that there may be people here in Vienna this week who would answer that it is one characterized by dogma, hypocrisy, moralizing, and condemnation." True enough, given the attitude toward the Church's sexual ethic prevalent in the INGO universe. But did Ms. Knight challenge this caricature? Not really. The best she could manage was to lament that Catholic AIDS workers (the largest group of non-governmental care-providers for people suffering from AIDS) "are still dogged by these criticisms."
Nor, in answering her own question, did Knight say what she might have said, which is this: "Yes, there is a uniquely Catholic approach to the global HIV pandemic. It is an approach that takes seriously the dignity of the human person, which includes the capacity of men and women to change patterns of behavior that put themselves, their families, and their communities at risk. It is an approach that takes the spiritual and moral dimensions of the AIDS crisis seriously. It is an approach that stresses abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage -- both of which have been shown by independent scholars to drive down the incidence of AIDS in vulnerable populations. It is an approach that refuses to accept the empirically unproven claims that poverty, stigma, and low levels of education drive AIDS epidemics. And it is an approach that refuses to burn incense at the altar of the false god latex, where the real votaries of rigid dogma are to be found among those for whom condoms are instruments of salvation." (I'd love to see Weigel accepting medical care from an HIV positive doctor not wearing latex gloves. Funny how we can worship a the latex altar for our hands, but not other appendages.)
Knight, I hardly need add, said none of this. To the contrary: She put the authority of her position behind a reiteration of the poverty/stigma/low-educational-levels mythology. Which is to say, she reinforced the rigidities that are the true obstacles to the "development innovation and collaboration" for which she called....
Weigel then goes on and rejoices that the Vatican is bound and determined to increase the "Catholic identity" of Caritas. I guess that means Caritas will no longer be attempting to help alleviate all those mythical poverty, stigma, low educational issues. They will probably now concentrate on spreading Catholic notions of dignity and spirituality. That should be a lot cheaper than actually trying to change much of the material reality of the countries in which Caritas operates, and I bet the Vatican will have no problem coming up with something else for all that unused budget.
I still think there's more to this removal of Knight beyond her supposed weak Catholic Identity flaw. I'd be more inclined to buy that line if the impetus for her removal had come from any other place than Cardinal Bertone and the Office of Secretary of State. I can't help but wonder if certain governments haven't complained to the Vatican about Caritas and their ideas about fixing the 'myths' of poverty and low educational issues, especially as those issues effect women. Or if there hasn't been some pressure placed on the Vatican by wealthy for profit multi nationals (WPMN's)who don't want Caritas affiliates empowering local populaces to question their right to exploit them. Those WPMN's would probably really appreciate Caritas being policed by the Vatican to insure Caritas is espousing Weigel's notions of neo con Catholic identity.
Weigel seems to want us to believe that Caritas's Catholic identity is based strictly on maintaining the correct attitude towards condoms, as if that alone is all that counts. Maybe it does for him, and maybe it does for a Vatican obsessed with Papal authority, but I'm much more inclined to think what matters to Caritas includes far more than condoms and includes those 'myths' of poverty, stigma, and low education and the effects those 'myths' have on the very real lives of over two billion of us. They may even be inclined to think that neo cons like Weigel spend way too much time worshiping at the altar of unfettered capitalism.