Cafod Olé


With the Holy See in the grip of a South American Communist and the long but not so gradual decline of the Roman Catholic Church since the 1960s and the disaster known as the Second Vatican Council, nothing really surprises me any longer when I grit my teeth and join the faithful each Sunday morning for weekly Mass.

From the caterwauling in the choir stalls up in the balcony through the lay readers many of whom do not realise that the ‘t’ in ‘apostle’ is silent or how to say ‘Capernaum’ or ‘Colossians’ to the mixed sex parade of altar boys and ‘altar girls’ (there was a reason that these were traditionally only boys) and then the political leafleting or the virtue signalling in the diocesan newspaper about climate change and how green our bishop is. No, nothing surprises me.

But it still gets on my bloody nerves.

This Sunday it was the turn of the military wing of the Holy See, CAFOD (officially known as Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) to issue one of its ideological calls to arm in its fix the food system leaflet (there are no capitals in the original; I guess that not pressing the ‘Shift’ button saves some energy) which outlines ‘A seven station journey’ that we are exhorted join to ‘fix the food system – for everyone!’ Apparently, ‘Our food system is broken. It doesn’t work for the people who work the hardest and it doesn’t work for the planet.’

That old chestnut ‘Profits come before people’ is rolled out showing that CAFOD has no idea about a fundamental rule of economics which is that, without profit, there can be no people. Nobody is going to grow, transport or sell anything without making money from it and then re-investing some of that money back into the business in order to do it again. We can debate the levels of profit, fair trading and monopolies but, without profit, such debates move from being ones held by academics to being simply academic debates.

We are told that ‘the farmers who grow our food live in poverty’ and are treated to a picture of a family of wobbly toothed people of colour from some or other agrarian economy who look poor and clutching a few meagre vegetables. No pictures and, indeed, not a word about poor farmers in the UK struggling to make ends meet or of a few poverty-stricken dust belt farmers from the United States, probably because these are mainly white.

The Seven Station Journey, possibly playing up to the Catholic idea of the Stations of the Cross, is a series of guilt inducing questions, reflections and a call to action: sending an attached card to the Foreign Secretary (better hurry up folks). The journey contains some gems such as ‘reflecting on the imbalance of power’ and ‘who is driving this broken food system’ and ‘how we in the UK are contributing to these issues.’ No answers are provided, not even on the detachable postcard, but we meet people from Zimbabwe who ‘created a community seed bank for everyone to share.’ Not a word of how Zimbabwe was a prosperous and self-sufficient country with a thriving agricultural system until black majority rule. Strangely, I know what the problem in Zimbabwe is while CAFOD seems not to.

Then we meet Alpona and Suchitra from Bangladesh who are ‘growing food in a way that’s good for them and good for the planet – our common home.’ And they are achieving this because, in their own words ‘we don’t use chemicals to kill insects on our plants anymore, we use organic materials.’ The Vatican seems unaware of what is happening in Sri Lanka, where the government has been overthrown, the president has fled, and the prime minister has stepped down. All directly the result of ecomaniac policies on agriculture which banned the import of fertilisers and encouraged a disastrous move towards organic farming. While organic cultivation may be a fun project for middle class lefties and their representative on earth, His Prince the Royal Highness of Wokesbury, it is not scalable beyond market gardens, results in eye-wateringly expensive vegetables and has led to starvation and rioting in Sri Lanka. So, good luck with that one Alpona and Suchitra; I predict it will end in disaster.

The card ends with a prayer which I can hardly bear to share with you. But here’s the gist in an example of tongue twisting theology that ought to deter you from investigating further: ‘may we recognise our interconnectedness with our common home and our global neighbours.’ Not exactly Tridentine is it?

Finally, a word about my fellow Catholics about whom I may often seem critical. Those in the choir loft, doing the readings and serving on the altar—girls as well as boys—will meet St Peter long before I am released from Purgatory. They display more sanctity on a daily basis than I will in a lifetime. We also have a first rate parish priest who says the Latin Mass (the proper one) on a weekly basis. I just weep that The Church does not serve them better.

Roger Watson is a Registered Nurse and Editor-in-Chief of Nurse Education in Practice.