The former chair of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ) Margaret Ann Fisken has questioned why the Church is turning its back on racial justice at such a crucial time.
The former CARJ chair reacted angrily to the news that the Bishops Conference of England and Wales are now cutting the funding, having taken agency status away from CARJ last autumn.
“Racism is still a fundamental issue in public life. It is alive and well and in direct conflict with Catholic Social Teaching. To me, and I’m sure to many others, CARJ’s loss of agency status is a disturbing development. Who will now be the official voice of the Church on these issues?” said Mrs Fisken. “The sin of racism is something that the Church must not only continue to speak out against, it must also seek to set an example by engaging with the issues in practical ways."
The comments came after it was revealed that CARJ has now been reduced from the main recipient of the proceeds from the annual Racial Justice Sunday collection to being one of a number of “external organisations,” which can apply for funds from a grant drawn from the proceeds of that collection.
The latest move follows the decision of the BCEW back in the autumn to take away agency status from CARJ. At that time, the bishops agreed that CARJ would receive some of the money from the Racial Justice Sunday collection.
CARJ has largely been funded from the proceeds of the collection, which has topped £100,000 some years, since it was first instituted in 1995.A spokesperson for the Bishops Conference confirmed that: “a proportion of the funds raised by Racial Justice Sunday will be used to set up a grant system, which would allow external partners to apply for funding for specific projects pursuing the mission of the Church to support those affected by and to fight racial injustice.”
The BCEW then confirmed that CARJ would be one of the “external partners” who could apply for these funds.
The BCEW had previously indicated that its priorities now lie with work on refugees and human trafficking. Racial Justice Sunday has also been moved from its traditional date on the second Sunday in September to the 28 January this year.
CARJ activities, which have included confronting racism in the Church and beyond, doing outreach work with schools and parishes, running the Travellers Support Network and the Urban Network, are now being put at risk.
CARJ works in dioceses and parishes to support people from diverse backgrounds. CARJ aims to empower black and minority ethnic Catholics to give them an effective voice in the Church and in the wider society.