Anne Rice and the Catholic Church. Yesterday’s post on Christopher Rice‘s interview with his mother at Advocate.com in which she called the Catholic Church “immoral” brought in some reader comments, including one from a woman who movingly tells of being a daughter of a survivor of the infamous Magdalene Laundries. “Culchiewoman” writes “I find it interesting that you deign to post Anne and Paul’s opinions on
‘organised’ religion. It proves that their voices are being heard.”
And they should be heard. (Paul, BTW, is Paul Haggis, the  Academy Award-winning writer who in 2009 broke with the Church of Scientology.)

I’d like to make it clear that I like and respect Anne Rice. I believe her decision to leave the Church was a personal one based on heartfelt conviction. While I wouldn’t label the Church itself as “immoral,” I think its fair to say the Church dismisses her real concerns at the risk of driving away other followers. Certainly, many devout and believing Catholics are not happy with the Church’s handling of the clergy sex abuse scandals.

Still, while its very important to recognize and grapple with the Church’s scandals (hopefully, leading to needed reforms), I would also point out that the Christian principles the Church stands on remain as valid today as they were two millennia ago when Jesus Christ first taught them.  

Of course, people can serve Christ outside the structure of the Catholic Church, but many people do work within its structure to live out their faith as individuals and through organizations like Catholic Relief Services.  Founded in 1943 by the Catholic Bishops of the United States to
serve World War II survivors in Europe, the organization has since expanded to provide assistance to people in over 100 million people in more than 100 countries on
five continents.

As a former producer of a morning radio show on SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel, I can tell you I came in contact with many CRS members and other Catholics involved in selfless work on behalf of others — living out the Christian values they were brought up to believe. (Anne Rice, BTW, was one of our guests, talking about her Christ the Lord book series.)

While the Church (like the government and many man-administered institutions) has certainly had its share of scandals, I think its also important to note those instances when it does strive to live up to its creed.

Here’s some of the good work done by CRS as compiled by Wikipedia:

Overseas

Overseas work is done in partnership with local church agencies,
other faith-based partners, non-governmental organizations and local
governments. CRS emphasizes the empowerment of partners and
beneficiaries in programming decisions. Program examples include:

  • Agriculture
    — CRS’ immediate goal is to improve family well-being through
    agro-economic development and environmental stewardship. The long-term
    goal is to strengthen the capacity of local communities to take control
    of their own development.
  • Emergency Response
    — Natural and human-caused disasters disproportionately affect the
    lives of the poor. CRS works to ensure that disaster-affected
    populations are at least able to meet their basic needs and live a life
    with dignity. The agency works directly with affected communities and
    local partners to help restore and strengthen their pre-disaster
    capacities.
  • HIV/AIDS
    — CRS promotes community-based programs that help those infected,
    address the underlying causes of AIDS and reduce the spread of HIV. CRS
    is the lead agency in a consortium that is expanding the delivery of
    antiretroviral treatments to people infected with HIV in Africa, the
    Caribbean and Latin America. Funding for this venture comes from the
    President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In addition to this,
    programming addresses AIDS-related stigma, poverty and the special
    vulnerabilities and burdens faced by women. Included in CRS’ HIV/AIDS
    work is home-based care for individuals and families living with
    HIV/AIDS; support to orphans and vulnerable children affected by AIDS;
    behavior change and life skills education; voluntary counseling and
    testing; and projects that help increase beneficiaries’ livelihoods.
  • Peacebuilding
    — The agency’s commitment to global solidarity led CRS to adopt
    peacebuilding as an agency-wide priority. Peacebuilding in this context
    is defined as the long-term project of building peaceful, stable
    communities and societies. CRS assembled a team of regional advisors and
    a headquarters-based technical staff to work with partners, and
    peacebuilding projects were started in dozens of countries. Each summer,
    CRS conducts training programs for its staff and overseas partners at
    the Mindanao Peace Institute in the Philippines and at University of
    Notre Dame’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. An increasing number of bishops from developing countries have attended these sessions.

In the United States

The agency has also made engaging the U.S. Catholic population a
priority. CRS is seeking to help Catholics more actively live their
faith and build global solidarity. Program examples include:

  • Operation Rice Bowl
    — Nearly 12 million parishioners, students and teachers participate in
    CRS’ Lenten program, which emphasizes prayer, fasting, learning and
    giving. Materials offer daily prayers, recipes for simple meals and
    stories that teach about life in the developing world. And the bowl
    itself, a symbol of both hunger and hope, is used to collect funds for
    those in need. Seventy-five percent of funds raised support development
    projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America; the remaining 25 percent
    stays in the diocese for local poverty and hunger alleviation projects.
  • Global Solidarity Partnerships
    — Tailored to an individual diocese or faith community, the initiative
    helps U.S. Catholics to connect with the poor overseas through education
    and awareness activities, reciprocal visits, shared faith and prayer
    experiences, as well as financial support for specific locally
    appropriate development programs.

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