‘National “Caritas” organisms have an important role in over a hundred countries, to animate and coordinate charitable action, in close liaison with the episcopal Conferences. […] According to the beautiful name you bear, which is the key-word of the Gospel, you are ordained to “charity”. Your whole enterprise is to live by charity, to bear witness to it, to put it into practice, concretely and with others.’
Pope St John Paul II, Address to Caritas Internationalis, 28 May 1979.
We promote charitable activities undertaken by Catholic dioceses and specialist Catholic charities in England and Wales. These organisations are united in:
- Recognising, as their call and pattern for mission, the Gospel and living tradition of the Church.
- Seeking to alleviate all forms of destitution faced by individuals and families.
- Forming opportunities to relate to others more fully.
- Contributing to a flourishing society.
Our core contributions as a national Caritas agency include work to deepen Catholic social thought and practice in the contexts of our charities and conditions of our society, and to communicate publicly in ways that advance the common good in England and Wales.
In more detail
Charities in our network have long track records in providing professional and voluntary assistance to people of all faiths and none: to families, migrants and asylum seekers, older people, vulnerable adults, the homeless, prisoners, and the unemployed. Professional services include counselling, skills training, welfare advice, health and social care, substance abuse work, and supported housing. The charities’ approach is frequently distinctive, offering:
- Long-term support to people with complex/chaotic life stories, and people who cannot access other support or have no/few entitlements;
- A whole-person approach, grounded in a Catholic understanding of human dignity, that statutory services tend not to be resourced to deliver, and
- Stable, deep connections with volunteers from parish communities.
Many services are accredited in their fields, as well as subject to statutory inspection.
CSAN’s small national team develops, services and facilitates the network, and assembles a coherent Catholic voice in the public arena. We work closely with parliamentarians and official national agencies of other Christian traditions. We are keen – and always interested in hearing and learning from others – to increase the capacity of services and volunteers to enable individuals to be fulfilled in their communities, based on living witness to God’s boundless and irrevocable love. The national team is supporting more dioceses to become active in the network as resources allow, and to develop practice resources that inform social action by parishes.
We see scope to extend the benefits of the network in innovative ways, by enabling our member charities and parishes to work together more effectively on common causes, in safe and supported structures. CSAN is uniquely positioned to facilitate this step change, as it has the capacity to gain support at both parish and national levels.
Catholic Social Teaching
Catholic Social Teaching (often referred to as CST) has sometimes been called ‘The Church’s Best Kept Secret’. It helps us reflect on the Church’s mission in the world today, and to think about how we relate to the world around us.
Drawing on the Bible, the Church’s traditions and knowledge of human development, social and economic systems around the world, the Church has produced many teaching documents over the past hundred years or so. Often in the form of ‘encyclicals’, or letters, these documents offer a way to consider social and economic activity against principles of human dignity, community and participation, care for creation, life and work, peace, solidarity and subsidiarity.
Catholic Social Teaching is at the heart of our work. We are committed to the reality of human dignity and that each person can and should contribute to his or her own human fulfilment.
“There is a growing awareness of the sublime dignity of human persons, who stand above all things and whose rights and duties are universal and inviolable. They ought, therefore, to have ready access to all that is necessary for living a genuinely human life: for example, food, clothing, housing, the right freely to choose their state of life and set up a family, the right to education, work, to their good name, to respect, to proper knowledge, the right to act according to the dictates of conscience and to safeguard their privacy, and rightful freedom, including freedom of religion.” Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes, 26.
As a Catholic charity, solidarity with the poor and marginalised, and subsidiarity in enabling participation in care and support, are integral to our work.
“A consistent theme of Catholic social teaching is the option or love of preference for the poor. Today, this preference has to be expressed in worldwide dimensions, embracing the immense number of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and those without hope.” On Social Concern, 42.
A key encyclical which speaks to us is Deus Caritas Est (2005). It describes charity in action. It calls us to be the “heart which sees”. Professional competence is not enough – we are called to be compassionate in our work with the poor and vulnerable. Pope Benedict XVI states that we help those who are suffering because we are Catholic, not because they are. “Those who practise charity in the Church’s name will never seek to impose the Church’s faith upon others.” (31)
There is a UK-based website dedicated to explaining and exploring CST in more depth.