By Richard Shaw A CATHOLIC headteacher has expressed doubts over assurances about Comic Relief's support for organisations which promote abortion.
Fr Frank Turner Si, assistant general secretary to the Bishops' Conference of England in Wales, in a letter to The Catholic Herald denied that the bishops had been misled by the charity.
"Officials of the bishops' conference and Cafod had full access to Comic Relief's project files", he writes. "On this basis, the bishops are certain that no Red Nose Day funds whatever are allocated to projects that promote or finance abortion."
James Caffery, headmaster of Rosary Catholic Primary School in Birmingham, whose original letter sparked Fr Turner's response, disagreed. He pointed to groups on Comic Relief's list of grant recipients, such as Marie Stows, International Planned Parenthood Federation and Population Concern as "agencies providing and/or facilitating contraception and abortion". Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham added his voice to the support for Comic Relief.
He said: "1 would urge all Catholic schools in the archdiocese who previously boycotted the charity not to shun it through ignorance."
Fr Turner emphasised that "Comic Relief has agreed to set up a special bank account so that Catholics may, if they see fit, direct their money away from the very small proportion [three per cent] of projects with an artificial birth-control component".
Mr Caffery pointed out. however, that "three per cent of about £140m, which Comic Relief gets each year, is a lot of money".
Comic Relief issued a statement about the special fund which is being created to enable Catholics to raise money for Red Nose Day.
Projects funded from the account "will have no connection with sexual or reproductive health". Comic Relief emphasised that "donors will be able to check that this has happened by writing to us later in the year for a list of beneficiaries".
Nevertheless, Mr Caffery said: "1 do not believe that this will mean less money will go to such organisations; surely they will simply reorganise where money will come from, not where it will go to. The fund will probably just release money from other contributors for these organisations."
Sarah Burke, media relations manager of Comic Relief, said that the new system "will not affect the proportional distribution of total donations".
"Organisations won't get any more or less as a result," she said. Mr Caffery said: "We have a moral obligation and a Catholic duty to ensure money goes to a cause in no way anti-life. There are so many good Catholic charities crying out for money. Why can't we just donate directly to them? We don't need to connect ourselves to the new media culture of charity.
"I suspect that it's got something to do with the fact that they're embarrassed that Cafod is one of the charities which receives money from Comic Relief."
Letters — p7
Comic relief and the promoters of abortion
From Bishop Hugh Lindsay Sir, Mr James Caffery is concerned for Catholic teaching and principles but his disappointment over the Bishops' Conference statement on Comic Relief and Red Nose Day has led him sadly astray (19 January).
He assumes that the bishops' representatives "have been given incorrect information by the management of Comic Relief' when they received what the statement calls "firm assurances that they do not fund, and have never funded, abortion services or the promotion of abortions". Yet, unlike our representatives, Mr Caffery did not ask Comic Relief about abortion. His letter shows he assumed that safe-sex or contraception "is code for pills, condoms and abortion".
He suggests that bishops expect him "to ask my children to have fun and raise money for abortion agencies in Africa and dubious causes nearer home". Yet their statement clearly says that they have checked that such funds will not be used for abortion. It also made it clear that schools are free to decide whether or not to take part in Red Nose Day and, if they do, to specify that the school's donation "be earmarked for the relief of poverty, or other such broad areas".
How are the children in Mr Caffery's care tieing taught to deal with others when they have a serious disagreement? He gives no Catholic example in his false conclusion that "our bishops prefer the Gospel of expedience and tainted money wherein we can support abortion and political correctness whilst washing our conscience!" That shows little or no regard for Our Lord's reply to the question, "Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?" (Mt 22:36) Yours faithfully, + HUGH LINDSAY Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria.
From Mr John Coughlan Sir, Like Jim Caffery (19 Jan) I was very disappointed that the Catholic bishops of England and Wales decided to support Comic Relief.
Organisations like SPUC and LIFE have been warning us for years about so-called charities who openly oppose the teachings of the Church. Were they, as professionals in the field, involved in checking the books of Comic Relief, or was the task given to people who can so easily have the wool pulled over their eyes?
Why did the bishops not take the brave step of suggesting a list of charities that we Catholics can support knowing that we will not be giving to organisations who openly and covertly act against us?
Catholic schools are ripe pickings for fundraisers who weekly bombard our schools with requests for help. It takes time but on investigation it frequently turns out that, for example "Third World health clinics" are really family planning clinics run by abortion agencies, or "baby charities" are really IVF Centres.
Many charities have what appears to be a good outward sign but are an inward disgrace.
Ten years ago the governors of Cardinal Newman School, Coventry, took the brave step and designed a simple but very effective "charities policy" which ensures that funds raised by our children go only to worthy causes. Copies are available by e-mail.
They decided to be pro-active rather than react when it is often too late. It would make a difference if all diocesan Catholic school inspections started with viewing such a policy. Come on bishops why not try it?
Yours faithfully JOHN COUGHLAN Deputy Head Cardinal Newman RC School Coventry CV6 2FR e-mail: jc @cardinalnewman.
coventry.sch.uk From Fr Frank Amer S,1 Sir, Mr James Caffery's letter about Comic Relief (January 19th) begins by "assuming" that the bishops of England and Wales have been misled by Comic Relief, and ends by accusing the bishops of adopting "the Gospel of expedience and tainted money".
It is difficult to discuss reasonably a change made in such abusive terms. But it is not the case that Comic Relief merely offered vague assurances about their grants. By special agreement, officials of the Bishops' Conference and CAFOD had full access to Comic Relief's project files relating to the very organisations Mr Caffery complains of. On this basis, the bishops are certain that no Red Nose Day funds whatever are allocated to projects that promote or finance abortion.
This does not mean that the Bishops conference approves every single activity of the organisations supported by Red Nose Day. By analogy, Catholics legitimately contribute at many levels to the NHS, even though it clearly carries out abortions. We co-operate in the doing of good where we can; we challenge, oppose and seek alternatives where we must.
In the case of Red Nose Day, Comic Relief as agreed to set up a special bank account so that Catholics may, if they see fit, direct their money away from the very small proportion of projects with an artificial birth control component.
Yours faithfully, FRANK TURNER General Secretary, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales. London SW1.
From Mr Bernard Toolan
Sir, Comic Relief has recently had a great deal of free publicity in the Catholic press, but surely the real problem is the charitable status of a medical procedure which is a crime against the humanity of the unmboarny Icld.
suggest that it is now time to question the charitable status of the abortion providers themselves. The general public know perfectly well that at least 90 per cent of all abortions are done for reasons of which they disapprove and they are susceptible to the prolife message that killing babies in the womb is not an act of Christian charity.
If any of your readers would like to help with this activity, perhaps they would be kind enough to send me an e-mail, or write to me at 42 Conway Road, Southgate, London N14 7BE. It would be nice to hear from people with organisational, fund-raising, and communication skills, but the most pressing need is for volunteers who live in Taunton, Liverpool, or London.
BERNARD JOHN TOOLAN [email protected]