It is shameful that our bishops refuse to say the same thing

The Catholic bishops of North Dakota (there are two of them) have just issued a statement warning Catholics in their dioceses against supporting organisations (eg Amnesty International) which, though they may do some good work, also support what are to Catholics morally objectionable actions and beliefs. Their statement of principle is admirably put: and I quote a report of their words here at length, because of its complete applicability to Red Nose Day, which if you hadn’t noticed falls today:

“Catholics are compelled by the Gospel to responsibly promote the protection of human life, families, and the common good,” the bishops wrote. “We applaud the charitable giving and social justice efforts of our parishes, Catholic schools, and individuals.

“At the same time, we urge attentiveness to the possibility of endorsing an organization whose mission or affiliation may be morally objectionable or, at least, questionable. We call upon pastors, clergy, and the lay faithful to use guidelines based on the virtue of prudence and justice when making charitable giving decisions. “

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Organizations that promote “abortion, contraception, ‘reproductive rights/family planning’ or embryonic stem cell research” or that seek to “redefine marriage” should not be supported by Catholics, the bishops said.

The two bishops pointed out that these principles were the same as those enunciated by the Vatican in 1996, when it suspended its annual contribution to the United Nation’s UNICEF programme because “activities that were once solely focused on child welfare now include contraceptive and abortion services”.

For exactly the same reasons, Catholics should now be boycotting Red Nose Day, which gives huge funds to organisations like Oxfam, which has a long history of support for abortion, which openly promotes the worldwide legalisation of abortion, and which, as John Smeaton of SPUC pointed out in 2009, received £1,000,000 from Comic Relief, according to its then most recent accounts. The African Women’s Development fund (AWDF), according to the same accounts, received £1,560,000. The AWDF is, it says, committed to “Freedom of choice and autonomy regarding bodily integrity issues, including reproductive rights, abortion, sexual identity and sexual orientation”.

So, why do our bishops shrink away in horror from any idea that they should warn their people against supporting Red Nose Day? Why? The reason is that they were glibly assured by Comic Relief that they did “not fund, and have never funded, abortion services or the promotion of abortions”: and the bishops simply accepted that assurance, without hesitation, and probably with some relief.

The point is disputed. SPUC and many others have argued that Comic Relief has funded abortion providers and that that they do continue to fund leading abortion promoters. Our bishops, however prefer not to dwell on that. Red Nose Day is a jolly sort of affair, popular with the public, and they don’t want to look like killjoys, always against things. And so, they would rather not only not warn against it, but actually get behind it. And this has been going on for a long time. Consider this priceless (by which I mean shameful) example, from 2005, as reported in the Guardian:

“I am afraid there has been a misunderstanding,” said the Rt Rev Mark Jabale, bishop of Menevia. “Comic Relief has assured the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales that they would be willing to hand over their books to us to check so that we could see that they do not support any abortion projects.

“I want to reassure parishioners that they can give money to Comic Relief without worrying that any funds would be given to support something contrary to Catholic teaching.”

Is this just a bishop being utterly naïf? Or is there something worse than that going on here? I don’t know. But it seems to me a simple-minded refusal to perceive an inconvenient reality. Comic Relief don’t support “any abortion projects” directly, of course: but they do support those who are likely to do so. So we of course shouldn’t support them. If you want to support some of those entirely unobjectionable organisations that Comic Relief also funds, then do it direct.

The simple fact is that, in John Smeaton’s words, “there is only one response to Red Nose Day. Abortion hurts women and kills unborn children and Red Nose Day funds organisations which promote it. Boycott it.”

Why won’t our bishops say the same thing? Why? It’s a real question. But for answer there will come a deafening silence.

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