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Analysis: What is behind the changes at Caritas Internationalis?

November 22, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis speaks in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 15, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 22, 2022 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Why did Pope Francis dismiss the entire leadership of the Church’s worldwide charity arm Tuesday?

What role will Pier Francesco Pinelli play as temporary administrator of Caritas Internationalis, appointed by papal decree on Nov. 22?

A key date to understanding the move and how it aligns with the pope’s broader reforms is Oct. 15, 2022.

On that day, Pope Francis received in audience at the Vatican Father Giacomo Canobbio and delegates of Bain Capital. The financial investment firm is where Pinelli previously worked. And Canobbio is the priest who, without announcement, was appointed by Pope Francis to the role of commissioner of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Both appointments are typical for the pontiff and his preferred modus operandi: Pope Francis sends an inspection or appoints a commissioner whenever he wants to reform something.

The papacy of commissioners

There were no apparent reasons for appointing a commissioner to Caritas Internationalis — just as there were no apparent reasons for appointing a commissioner at the Pontifical Lateran University.

However, Pope Francis has previously ordered a number of inspections.

Bishop Claudio Maniago was made the inspector of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after which the pope appointed Archbishop Arthur Roche as prefect of the dicastery. Next, Bishop Egidio Miragoli inspected the Congregation of the Clergy, which was still in progress when the pope appointed the Korean bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik — later created cardinal— as prefect of the dicastery.

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis appointed several commissions.

One such body was the commission of reference on the administrative-economic structures of the Holy See, known by its Italian acronym COSEA. Another was CRIOR, the commission for studying the Institute of Works of Religion reform, commonly known as the Vatican Bank.

Their work, once completed, resulted in the extensive overhaul of the Vatican’s financial departments and the new Institute of Works of Religion statutes, promulgated in 2019.

However, the appointment of a commissioner in Caritas Internationalis has another clear precedent: the inspection of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.

The inspection took place in July 2021 and was led by Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago. The team also included Sister Helen Alford, vice-rector of the Pontifical Angelicum University, an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences; and Pinelli, the new administrator of Caritas Internationalis.

Pinelli’s profile

A trained engineer and experienced manager, Pinelli has worked with several institutions as well as a consultant for management and investment firms.

According to Vatican rumors not officially confirmed but provided to CNA from multiple sources, Pinelli was also involved in restructuring what is now the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

A press release from the dicastery said Pinelli was an engineer “with a more humanist than technical way of proceeding” and that he was “formed in Ignatian spirituality,” a man who “from an early age was active as a volunteer working with recovering drugs addicts, in development cooperation, support for missionary works, and catechesis.” The statement also noted that he is married with three children and three grandchildren.

The release also emphasized that “in 33 years of work,” Pinelli had gained managerial experience in different sectors, including a large energy company.

Having worked both as a project manager for energy companies and as a management consultant for Bain, Pinelli also has experience working with religious and secular works and institutions, according to the release.

Obviously, his formation and positions in some Jesuit institutions may have played a role. It seems likely that Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, the current prefect of the dicastery, had a word in involving him and others.

However, it is still hard to assess which issues are at stake. It seems clear that the pope wants to reform Caritas Internationalis, including its statutes and bylaws.

Founded in 1951, the Catholic confederation is made up of 162 charitable organizations based in 200 countries around the world. Its headquarters are located on Vatican territory in Rome, and the Vatican oversees its activity.

According to Czerny’s dicastery, “no evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety”; however, “deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team spirit and staff morale.”

Pinelli’s task

The reform of the statutes will be the first task of the new commissioner.

Pinelli will be assisted by Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar, Caritas Internationalis’ head of advocacy, and by Jesuit Father Manuel Morujão, who will provide personal and spiritual accompaniment to Caritas employees, according to Pope Francis’ decree.

In May 2023, the next Caritas Internationalis general assembly is expected to be held in Rome, with the appointment of the new president, general secretary, and treasurer. By then, the reform process will likely be completed.

Caritas Internationalis will undergo a review “in order to improve its management norms and procedures — even while financial matters have been well-handled and fundraising goals regularly achieved — and so better to serve its member charitable organizations around the world.”

However, a reform of the statutes already took place in 2019 and was approved by the pope with a rescript of Jan. 13, 2020.

As for the change of the statutes of Caritas Internationalis, it was simply a matter of passing the competencies from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which no longer exists, to the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, which has absorbed its functions.

As for the rules of procedure, these changes were not communicated. But they generally accepted some of the requests approved by the Caritas General Assembly, which envisaged encouraging the presence of women within the highest representative bodies and including two young people in the same representative bodies.

In particular, there was talk of the Representative Council of the federation, abbreviated with the name RE.CO., the acronym for Representative Council. These indications have now been implemented and will become operational.

The structure of Caritas Internationalis was thus “adjusted” and adapted to the reform of the Curia.

However, the statutes of Caritas Internationalis remained confirmed in the structure as Pope Benedict XVI reformed them in 2012. Those statutes strengthened the collaboration between Caritas Internationalis and the Holy See and clearly outlined the competencies of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Not only that: the new structure of Caritas Internationalis gave greater coordination to departments and bodies connected to the Holy See, which also concerned doctrinal aspects.

The rationale behind Benedict XVI’s reform

It is noteworthy that the 2012 reform was part of a more extensive project by Benedict XVI to accomplish Pastor Bonus’s provisions fully.

Pastor Bonus was the apostolic constitution that regulated the functions and tasks of the Curia offices, and Praedicate Evangelium now replaces that.

However, the reform came after a governance crisis. In 2011, the Secretariat of State did not approve the renomination of the former secretary general, Lesley-Anne Knight. (However, her work was praised by the president of Caritas Internationalis at the time, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga.) As a result, she was replaced by Michel Roy, a Frenchman who worked with Secours Catholique — the Caritas in France.

Knight’s non-confirmation also stemmed from the new approach given with the subsequent reform of Caritas Internationalis.

It was an approach that derived from the formulation of Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate. In the encyclical, Benedict XVI stressed that human development and foreign aid could not be separated from the demand for truth. The encyclical also pointed to the fact that many international organizations were promoting abortion, contraception, sterilization, and euthanasia.

This was an approach that Knight did not fully share, as she publicly explained to the media at the time.

While some approved of Knight’s departure, others were disappointed. Despite a robust generational change in Caritas Internationalis in recent years, these divisive feelings may have lingered in the background and fueled some complaints about “management and procedures.”

What will the new reform look like?

The tone of the dicastery’s press release suggests that the reform will be more managerial. But, above all, it is a substantial change in philosophy from the reform of Benedict XVI.

In short, it could be another paradigm shift by Pope Francis, comparable to some degree to his restrictions of the Traditional Latin Mass.

From this point of view, Pope Francis has identified several people to help complete his changes to the Church’s structure.

In carrying out the reform, the pope does not hesitate to demote someone like Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, current president of Caritas, who now finds himself mandated to “liaise” with Pinelli and his staff for the upcoming general assembly.

Tagle was rumored to be appointed the next prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops. Even if these rumors were to be confirmed, Tagle’s public image has now been compromised by the Caritas decision. This will also weigh in a future conclave.

Pope Francis, however, is completing his goals. As he said in one of his homilies in the days of the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020 — and also in a meeting with the Candia Foundation in April — he remains critical of humanitarian organizations that do good work but spend 60% of their budget on wages. The pope called on them to keep costs to a minimum, “so that most of the money goes to the people.”


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Pope Francis removes Caritas Internationalis leaders, appoints temporary administrator

November 22, 2022 Catholic News Agency 0
Statue of St. Peter on St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 22, 2022 / 06:11 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday removed the entire leadership of an international confederation of charities and appointed a temporary administrator to improve the organization’s management.

Pope Francis issued a decree Nov. 22 appointing Pier Francesco Pinelli, an Italian management consultant, as temporary administrator of Caritas Internationalis (CI).

With the same ordinance, the pope said the positions of the Catholic confederation’s leadership are to cease immediately.

This decision includes Caritas Internationalis president Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and secretary general Aloysius John. The positions of the vice presidents, treasurer, ecclesiastical assistant, executive council, and representative council also end.

A press release said an independent review found deficiencies in Caritas Internationalis’ “management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.”

Caritas Internationalis, founded in 1951, is a Catholic confederation of 162 charitable organizations based in 200 countries around the world. Its headquarters are located on Vatican territory in Rome, and the Vatican oversees its activity.

The governance of Caritas Internationalis is elected for four-year terms during the organization’s general assembly. The next general assembly is scheduled for May 2023. 

According to a Nov. 22 press release, the temporary administrator, Pinelli, will carry out his service in consultation with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which is headed by Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ.

The dicastery’s press release said that the Vatican’s human development office commissioned an independent review of Caritas Internationalis’ workplace this year.

The review looked at “the workplace environment of the CI General Secretariat and its alignment with Catholic values of human dignity and respect for each person.”

Both current and former employees were invited to participate, according to the dicastery, which said: “No evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but other important themes and areas for urgent attention emerged from the panel’s work. Real deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.”

Pinelli will be assisted by Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar, Caritas Internationalis’ head of advocacy, and by Father Manuel Morujão S.J., who will provide personal and spiritual accompaniment to Caritas employees, according to Pope Francis’ decree.

Among Pinelli’s administrative tasks will be updating the confederation’s statutes and by-laws in preparation for the next general assembly in 2023.

Cardinal Tagle will also work with Pinelli to prepare for the general assembly.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, in its press release, cited Pope Francis’ new apostolic constitution, Praedicate evangelium, which says the human development office has competency over Caritas Internationalis and “exercises the responsibilities reserved by law to the Holy See in establishing and supervising international charitable associations and funds created for the same purposes, in accordance with the provisions of the respective statutes and in compliance with current legislation.”


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Priest denounces Spanish Caritas for Christological error

January 11, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Gerard David’s Triptych of Jan Des Trompes, 1505. / null

Cuenca, Spain, Jan 11, 2022 / 15:51 pm (CNA).

Father Antonio María Domenech Guillén, a priest of the Diocese of Cuenca, harshly criticized Spanish Caritas for writing “nonsense” about Christ on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Spanish Caritas tweeted Jan. 9: “Jesus was baptized as one more seeker of truth and justice in his time, without calling attention to himself, away from the Temple. Jesus is the Church that goes out, he receives the Spirit of God who recognizes him as a beloved Son and he understands that this Love is to be shared. We are invited to do the same.”

Fr. Domenech responded on Twitter, “Don’t talk nonsense. First of all,  the first part has nothing to do with the second. That Jesus is the Church that goes out is not because he is baptized as one more seeker of the truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; and the only way to go to the Father.”

“He didn’t have to look for any truth because He was the truth,” the priest pointed out.

“The problem is the moment when we Christians forget that Christ is the truth or we don’t believe it and then we send out messages that are so equivocal that they are, apart from lies, nonsense,” he continued.

Fr. Domenech also stressed that “Christian charity, the charity of Christ, cannot be practiced if there is no faith in Christ.”

“The day the Father says ‘this is my beloved Son’ and everyone discovers it because the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends and John points to him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, you can’t tell me that he’s there looking for the truth,” he said.

The priest noted that it’s true that Christ “placed himself among sinners, but not because he had to seek the truth, but so that we would realize that we had gone wrong.”

“So, before sending out a message for us to share, let’s carefully convey the true faith of seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Fr. Domenech warned that if it’s not done this way, “if we seek all these things and forget the Kingdom of God, we’re going to run out of funds because we didn’t impart Christ.”

“Brothers in Caritas: Correcting those who err is a Christian obligation, a work of mercy, a work of charity.”

To conclude, the priest exhorted: “Apologize, correct the tweet and study Christ!”

As of press time, Spanish Caritas had not made any correction to its tweet.