Wednesday, November 12, 2008

LiveSimply: dossier

'Livesimply', founded in 2006, is the achingly right-on project, constantly promoted by aging trendies in the Church's bureacracy, to replace genuine Catholic social teaching and concern for the worst off (which surely includes the victims of abortion) with a series of platitudes about saving water and recycling. Not that they are very open about being Catholic - this emerges only after considerable searching of the website - but it is the creaking structures of the Bishops' Conference and their friends who supply the lion's share of supporters and finance, and it is the time and resources of Catholic parishes and individuals which they wish to tap.

This is what they say about themselves:

Economic growth that tramples on the rights of the poor is not progress. The accumulation of riches at the expense of people and the environment is not true wealth.
We can choose to live in a way that puts us back in touch with what really matters.We can help create a world where human dignity is respected and people in developing countries have the chance to live their lives to the full. God calls us to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with people who are poor.

How is this put in practice? The livesimply site directs us to Progressio, which suggests buying local food or 'fair trade' brands, using low energy lightbulbs and turning down the heating, etc. etc.. It is interesting to see that there is nothing here about direct concern for the less fortunate (such as joining the Sisters of Charity soup-run in London, for example), and nothing about the Gospel. It is simply the a series of things which Islington dinner guests would agree would constitute 'doing our bit' for the planet.

Who are they?

The website is coy about who set it up, or even what it is. (A campaign? An organisation? A department of another organisation? How related to the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales?) It emerges, however, that the major force behind it is CAFOD: the text explaining the purpose of 'livesimply' is signed by a CAFOD official; resources packs can be had by emailing a CAFOD address; and CAFOD is providing a bank account ('cheques should be payable to CAFOD'). CAFOD itself tells us of its committment to the project:

In the run-up to the launch of LiveSimply in Advent 2006, CAFOD’s Spirituality team trained 216 individuals to become local leaders to promote the initiative.

CAFOD promotes condoms for the poor, despite being an official agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales (see our dossier on CAFOD for full details).

A key organiser of the livesimply project has been Fr James O'Keefe, a director of CAFOD, who celebrated the notorious Mass celebrating the civil partnership of Martin Pendergast, the gay activist and former priest, and Julian Filochowski (a former CAFOD director). O'Keefe stepped in when Bishop Crowly of Middlesbrough, was forced not to do it after the event became public: full details here and here.

Another important contributor is Progressio, which, as well as providing the practical tips noted above, hosts the website. The '' address is simply a domain name which covers up the real address, which is
The 'livesimply' address has been stuck onto this part of the Progressio website using 'frames', which means that whatever link you go to from there it will say '' in the location bar of your browser, although it is not the 'real' url.

Progressio has been repeatedly exposed as supporting abortion, as well as contraception: see our dossier.

Any organisation can become a 'member' of livesimply for £50 so there are quite a few. It lists the large number of nominally Catholic organisations which regard material help, understood from a strictly left-wing viewpoint, as the only 'Catholic' response to human needs; it also lists some of the more trendy Catholic dioceses, and other groups which seem to have been memerised by the hype.

The dioceses are Hallam, Westminster, Plymouth, East Anglia, Liverpool, Leeds, and Portsmouth.

Dissident groups listed, in addition to CAFOD and Progressio, include Pax Christi, and the National Board of Catholic Women, an agency of the Bishops Conference which has been taken over by the feminists of 'Women Word Spirit', recently expelled from the Catholic Directory for its support for abortion and women's ordination. Listed as an 'ecumenical partner' is Christian Ecology Link, which supports not only contraception but China's forced abortions.

The Distortion of Catholic teaching

Many Catholics who identify with what we might call the 'progressive left' give outstanding witness to their Catholic committment by criticising the left's undermining of the family and support for abortion. After all, these positions are incompatible with a committment to the poor and vulnerable. Such Catholics are, alas, becoming less common as their fellow lefties become increasingly intolerant of pro-life and pro-family views. Accordingly, we encounter the phenomenon of Catholics on the left who will say nothing in support of the family or unborn life, but, to salve their consciences, attempt to present the left's agenda on third-world development and climate change as Catholic, and their support for it as arising from their Catholic beliefs. It is, however, nothing of the kind: this agenda evidently has its origins outside the Church, and its usefulness or otherwise depends on political and economic judgements which are outside the scope of Church teaching. That is not to say it is wrong - perhaps turning down the heating is good idea - but to present it as a 'Catholic position' (or: the position which should be supported by agencies of the bishops' conference, dioceses, parishes and so on) in the place of family and life issues, and indeed spirituality, is a gross distortion of Church teaching.

Not only does the 'livesimply' message distort the message, but it is an attempt to divert attention and resources away from the issues on which the Church has something distinctive to say, in opposition to the assumptions of secular society, on the family, life, and spirituality, towards things about which the Church has nothing distinctive to say: where all she can say is 'we care about the environment too!'

We can do no better than quote from Pope Benedict XVI's encyclicals.

Deus Caritas Est 28:
The Church is ... alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.

Spe Salvi 35:
... our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world's future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance. If we cannot hope for more than is effectively attainable at any given time, or more than is promised by political or economic authorities, our lives will soon be without hope. It is important to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for. Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere. Certainly we cannot “build” the Kingdom of God by our own efforts—what we build will always be the kingdom of man with all the limitations proper to our human nature. The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot—to use the classical expression—”merit” Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something “merited”, but always a gift. However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behaviour is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. This is what the saints did, those who, as “God's fellow workers”, contributed to the world's salvation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Th 3:2).

What should faithful Catholics do?

Catholic parishes should not be used to spread 'Livesimply' propanda; Catholic organisations should not be members of it; indvidual Catholics should not support it.

If you want to support this kind of thing, support some group like Greenpeace - they promote their ideas without claiming that they are Catholic teaching. No Catholic can in conscience present his private opinions as Catholic teaching, or highjack Catholic organisations to further his personal views.

Best of all, support the 'livechastely' 'promise': see here.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with this article, I don't think we have to make a choice between Simple Living versus aunthentic Catholic teachings.

To be fair, there is a long tradition of simple living within the Church such as the work of Father Vincent McNabb and the Catholic Land Movement.Fasting and and attending spiritual retreats is simple living. Even Lent is a period of simple living.

I agree that it should not be the only focus for Catholics at the expense of other more important issues.

However, a simple, less consumerist lifestyle will complement our prayer life and help us to be more chaste and pious. Like I say, why should it have to be choice?

Keep in mind that greed and gluttony are among the major sins of modern world and are PART of the moral decline.

With regards to..."Such Catholics are, alas, becoming less common as their fellow lefties become increasingly intolerant of pro-life and pro-family views." I'd like to see some evidence to back this up?

I also would also hope to see a little more criticism of the "right" on this blog for the sake of balance.

Cardinal Winning urged us to think about the LIFE of the child after it is born and support women considering abortion.

The increase in Abortions are a result of moral decline, loss of traditional family values and the break down of society which has been caused by consumerism, the puruit of profit, wealth, status and selfishness. All of these things have helped support the idea that having children is a burden.

Wealthy, capitalistic and individualistic Catholics are "anti-community". Therefore they are at he heart of creating abortions, you can't victimize the poor and lone parents then promote selfishness and greed and not expect this to happen?

This is why Simple living is important to Catholics.


Hercules said...

Fasting and spiritual retreats: great. Show us where 'livesimply' promotes these, please!

Catholics on the left: don't you read the papers? Look at the posts on this blog about the TUC wanting abortion rights; practically no Labour MPs voting pro-life over the hybrids bill; etc. etc. For heaven's sake just google 'Emily's list' and 'abortion'

Balance: show us cases of the Churchin the UK being highjacked by a right-wing agenda and we'll blog about it. Everyone (except you?) is aware that these groups are dominated by the left, so it doesn't happen very often.

There are plenty of posts on this blog criticising the Tories, especially David Cameron, notably for his support for homosexual adoption. But if you were interested I suppose you'd have found that out for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Well if Live Simply are ok for the Jesuits then they are ok for me...

There are no posts on this blog criticising the Tories or Labour for their militarism, cuts, attacks on the poor and most vunerable in society. I guess that you don't consider such things to be a part of the faith?

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen