As a Catholic who works in the field of international development, I let out a sigh of relief when I found the C-FAM. The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) is, as the name suggests, a think tank working out of New York and Washington D.C. “dedicated to re-establishing a proper understanding of international law, protecting national sovereignty and the dignity of the human person.” They monitor the social policy debate among the United Nations agencies and other major international institutions on, among many things, international development and humanitarian intervention.
In many respects, I am deeply concerned about the direction in which international development and humanitarian action is headed. I’m not about to launch into an in-depth analysis of what I mean by that because that concern is still not even yet well articulated in my own head, enough that I feel ready to go into battle. I’m still a novice but I know there are some very skew-if yet popular definitions of ‘development’ ‘persons’ ‘communities’ ‘families’ and ‘wellbeing’ and ‘empowerment’ (don’t get me started on buzz words). I recognise the enormous good that does happen across the board. I recognise the paradoxes and the compromises that are argued as necessary by some and defeating the purpose by others. And while I believe it is clearly possible to ascertain universal right and wrong on certain things, I accept in part the ‘greyness’ and I choose to continue to engage and work in the ‘system’ (if you can call it that) with a critical eye and conscience that I try to keep informed as best as possible by my Catholic faith grounded in the Church. *Pause for a breath* I try.
It’s not easy. There are times where my involvement has required me to work through the question of cooperation with evil and determine what level of involvement would constitute an unnecessary and unconscionable cooperation with evil. I currently work for an organisation that asserts that it does not support in any way abortion but is concerned for the effects of unsafe abortions on maternal health, and believes that the decision of ‘family planning methods’ is best left to individuals themselves based on social, cultural and religious practice. That all sounds reasonably fine to me and is pretty tolerant given the popularity of contraception and abortion as the answer to population issues among policymakers today. This organisation has an unprecedented impact on the lives of millions of the world’s most vulnerable (not without it’s inefficiencies, paradoxes and challenges…but that’s a discussion for another day). So, all in all, we’re talking a darn lot of good, and on the face of it, a reasonably ‘neutral’ policy on the question of how to protect life – I don’t hold the same views, but their official position is one that I can engage with at least. However, with a little bit of research (Google, God bless you…), I found that my employer has a track record in advocating contraception as the ideal form of family planning and supporting advocacy towards the legalisation of abortion in many countries in the ‘developing’ world. Where does that leave me, as an employee? If it isn’t already clear, I do believe my employer has a pivotal role to play in attacking poverty and vulnerability – and the Vatican long agreed with that too until recent years – but I don’t compromise in the slightest my position on the morally apprehensible influence of the ‘radical feminist’ agenda that has led the organisation to contradict in practice their official position on critical issues.
I’ve systematically worked through the question of whether my employment constitutes cooperation with evil in such a way that I need to be worried about the state of my own soul – and believe firmly that I am not in the ‘red zone’ so to speak. Anyone who wants a detailed account of why, give me your email in the ComBox. A good explanation of the moral theology around the phrase ‘cooperation with evil’ can be found here…and Fr Neil Vaney sm in Auckland is my go-to guy for questions of this nature too (hope he doesn’t mind me saying so! Go gentle on his inbox!)
It’s becoming increasingly difficult in our day and age to avoid entirely the possibility of cooperating with evil as threads of morally contemptuous paradigms, policies and practice become more and more ingrained in our workplaces, schools, institutions and the like. What this brings with it is an ever more urgent, solemn challenge to make sure we inform our consciences on what that means (a bit of moral theology anyone?) and lean heavily on the deposit of faith found in Revelation, Tradition and Scripture…AND, here’s the critical bit (I believe)… “be not afraid” as JP II would affirm, to step out into the world (for those of us who aren’t called to a life of contemplation…beautiful as that is!!) and muck in to the issues of today with fervour, charity and reason. We cannot bunker down and block our ears and ignore the ‘big voices’ influencing society today as that will only service to galvanise the opposition. If we only want to ‘preach to the choir’ per se, then I have a suspicion we’ve tied ourselves in a knot and we are NOT being faithful to the radical call that Christ put upon us to go out, two by two, and share the Gospel. In the world, but not of the world. In the workplace, but not of the workplace.
Hurrah. Preaching, over. And at the end of the day, all of that engagement ‘out there’ has to come before Christ on the cross, in the Eucharist, to let my soul soak in his infinite love, mercy and wisdom…recognising the both the incredible capacity and limit of my own human reason…and the fact that whatever I am or do is but a drop in an ocean for which I am definitely NOT the saviour!
So in closing, I’d encourage you to take some time to look around the C-FAM website and the blog they sponsor Turtle Bay & Beyond which provides a refreshing thoroughness in analysing the daily news items that have a pivotal implication for our faith and conscience.