We support a network of over 40 Catholic charities operating in England and Wales. These charities take their example from the call of the Gospel to serve the poor and those who are unlikely to find long-term support from other sources. We seek to alleviate all forms of poverty, and promote human flourishing in our society. We also seek to support community development through building capacity for social action in dioceses and parishes. The national team of CSAN, based in London, works to strengthen and facilitate the network, conduct policy and advocacy work and use its ‘voice’ at a national level.
In more detail
Member charities in our network have long track records in providing services 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 43 members collectively have c.9,000 staff and c.20,000 volunteers. In 2014-15, volunteers with just one of the members, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), supported 58,000 individuals and families, providing 498,000 hours of voluntary service.
CSAN’s national team of five staff develops, services and facilitates the network, and in public policy provides advocacy and ‘voice’ for the poor, working closely with parliamentarians. We are ambitious – and always interested in hearing and learning from others – about increasing the capacity of services and volunteers to enable individuals to flourish in their communities, based on our enduring care for the common good. 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 also see huge 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, sometimes known as Catholic Social Thought) has sometimes been called ‘The Church’s Best Kept Secret’. CST is constantly developing; it reflects on the Church’s mission in the world today, and helps us to think about how we relate to the world around us.
Drawing on the Bible, its traditions and its knowledge of 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 judge social and economic activity against principles of human dignity, community and participation, care for creation, life and work, peace, solidarity and subsidiarity.
CSAN puts Catholic Social Teaching at the heart of its work. We are committed to the reality of human dignity and that each person can and should contribute to his or her own human flourishing.
“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, n26
As a Catholic charity, solidarity with the poor and marginalised, and subsidiarity in providing 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.