The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has reiterated its historical Catholic character and affirmed its commitment to Church teaching in the face of criticism of the society’s failure to take a stance in the upcoming referendum on the right to life of the unborn.
In a letter to The Irish Catholic, SVP National President Kieran Stafford reiterates that the society will not be issuing advice to members on how to vote, noting that this has been society policy in the past.
“As on previous occasions, where there have been referenda or elections, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will not be issuing advice or comment to its membership as how to vote in the forthcoming referendum,” Mr Stafford wrote, adding that as a registered charity the SVP is “constrained by law from involvement in political campaigns which are not aligned to our charitable objectives”.
Despite this, he stressed, members and supporters of the SVP should understand that the society is a Catholic organisation committed to Church teaching.
He wrote: “However, although we will not be issuing advice or comment to our members for the reasons outlined, the Society of St Vincent de Paul would emphasise to its members and supporters throughout Ireland, that it is a lay Catholic organisation, strongly committed to the values of Catholic social teaching and as set out in our constitution/Rule our activities are fully supportive and consistent with Catholic teaching and morals.”
The Rule of the International Confederation of the Society of St Vincent de Paul affirms “the dignity of each human being as created in God’s image”, calling Vincentians “to listen to the voice of the Church which demands their participation in creating a more equitable and compassionate social order, promoting the culture of life and the civilization of love”.
It notes that “Vincentians are committed to promote the right to life from conception to the natural end of earthly life”.
Mr Stafford’s statement comes against a background of concerns among Northern members of the society and grassroots level throughout Ireland about a previous statement by the society that it would not be advising its members on how to vote in the referendum, regarding this as a “personal decision for each member, based on their own views”.