In a rather surprisingly rapid move, the bishop’s conference have issued a response to the press release of Solidaridad regarding their spat. The press release has appeared on the websites of a number of Dutch dioceses and comes from the pen of Msgr. Jos Punt, bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam and referent for Mission & Development corrects the incorrect and incomplete story from Solidaridad. An excerpt (emphases mine):
Solidarid has been going through a period of ‘generalisation’ for a while now, and has expanded her originally Christian identity. For that reason the Protestant Church in the Netherlands has already statutory distanced herself from Solidaridad. Solidaridad recently also requested the Dutch bishops’ conference to be allowed to drop the last conditions that still bind her to the Catholic Church. Msgr. Punt, bishop referent for Mission & Development has replied to that by saying that, if Solidaridad keeps managing the Advent charity project, there are two possibilities: either they relinquish the statutory changes and reinforce their identity, or they continue as an ‘implementing organisation’ and accepts that the final responsibility moves to a to-be-established ‘Episcopal Committee for Mission and Development’ (ECMD).
Msgr. Punt: “In service to the parishes and the faithful the bishops must obviously set these conditions to fulfill their duties of supervision and to guarantee total transparency about the utilisation of funds collected by the Advent charity. But Solidaridad chose to continue her development completely separate from the churches. The bishops respect this choice and will find a new realisation for the Advent charity.”
The 10 February press release by Solidaridad, and also their letter to the parishes, incorrectly puts ‘churches help the poor’ opposite the episcopal standpoint of ‘churches help churches’. Of course this means that ecclesiastic channels will be used for charity as much as possible. Goal is the make it possible for the churches in the south to set their own priorities in the care for the poor and their diaconate mission, instead of us deciding it for them. Many parishes already have good experiences with that and sometimes also suggest projects themselves. The Catholic Church has, after all, a unique worldwide network with very short lines – through missionaries, dioceses, congregations, partner parishes, etc. – which makes fast, cheap and reliable relief possible.
There is constructive dialogue with the other missionary organisations to reach good new agreements and procedures. Solidaridad’s public ‘slip-up’, because of premature and one-sided publicity, did cross the scheduled and careful supply of information to the faithful and parishes. More information will follow when the new structure is ready, in cooperation with the missionary organisations.
So, in essence, what Solidaridad wants is basically what the bishops also want: to allow local people to decide what the funds will be used for. But by dragging unrelated issues into it, Solidaridad presented the disagreement as one caused by the bishops, while it was the change in direction from Solidaridad that led the bishops to set terms for continued cooperation. It’s a bit sad, actually, and something that a little more care and objectivity could well have prevented.