1644 - 1725
La Charité (1720)
Height 0,45 m.
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The Pope has always emphasised that the ‘ministry of charity’ – the service of love – is as essential to the church as the ministry of word and sacraments
The three are inseparable
The Holy Father has now issued a Motu Proprio on Charitable Activity by and within the Church
The timing of its promulgation is interesting when the activities of Catholic charities are coming under closer scrutiny from within and without the Church
The activities of some Catholic agencies which appear to act contrary to Catholic teaching has led to searing criticism from within the Church
The requirement of some States (e.g. in the United Kingdom through the so-called Equality Laws; the enactment of some parts of the Obama health care in the United States) has obviously led to problems
In some countries "freedom of religion" is seen as an activity to be strictly confined to within the four walls of the Temple
And it also has relevance to areas of Church activity in the past where its performance has been less than dismal: the care of children especially where there has been child abuse
Pope Benedict`s response is timely
In his Apostolic Letter issued “Motu Proprio” On the Service of Charity Pope Benedict XVI has decided to legislate. The two keys provisions of the new Motu Properio would appear to be:
"Art. 4. § 3. It is the responsibility of the diocesan Bishop to ensure that in the activities and management of these agencies the norms of the Church’s universal and particular law are respected, as well as the intentions of the faithful who made donations or bequests for these specific purposes (cf. canons 1300 CIC and 1044 CCEO).
Art. 5. - The diocesan Bishop is to ensure that the Church enjoys the right to carry out charitable activities, and he is to take care that the faithful and the institutions under his supervision comply with the legitimate civil legislation in this area."
Other features of the "Motu Proprio" also include restrictions on the use of the word "Catholic" if a charitable agency does not adhere to the principles of the Code:
Art. 2. .§ 2. A charitable agency may use the name “Catholic” only with the written consent of the competent authority, as laid down by canon 300 CIC.
Art. 9. § 3. It is the duty of the diocesan Bishop and the respective parish priests to see that in this area the faithful are not led into error or misunderstanding; hence they are to prevent publicity being given through parish or diocesan structures to initiatives which, while presenting themselves as charitable, propose choices or methods at odds with the Church’s teaching.
Art. 11. – The diocesan Bishop is obliged, if necessary, to make known to the faithful the fact that the activity of a particular charitable agency is no longer being carried out in conformity with the Church’s teaching, and then to prohibit that agency from using the name “Catholic” and to take the necessary measures should personal responsibilities emerge
The emphasis is on the duties of the diocesan Bishop with regard to the provision and regulation of charity by the Church and its agencies within the diocese. The buck stops with the Bishop
The Pope has acted to fill a gap in the present Canon Law
The Pope explained that the provision of charity by the Church is central to its mission and cannot be divorced from any of its other main activities:
"“The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia) and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable” (Deus Caritas Est, 25).
The service of charity is also a constitutive element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being (cf. ibid.); all the faithful have the right and duty to devote themselves personally to living the new commandment that Christ left us (cf. Jn 15:12), and to offering our contemporaries not only material assistance, but also refreshment and care for their souls (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 28).
The Church is also called as a whole to the exercise of the diakonia of charity, whether in the small communities of particular Churches or on the level of the universal Church. This requires organization “if it is to be an ordered service to the community” (cf. ibid., 20), an organization which entails a variety of institutional expressions."