The Scandal within Catholic Relief Services

July 11, 2013 - 4:32 PM

A Catholic organization must be exactly that. It must stand for Catholic values and teachings and never waiver one iota from them. Today’s commentary addresses one such Catholic organization that does not follow Church teachings. Therefore, we must ask ourselves how it can rightfully call itself Catholic.

Catholic Relief Services’ history is not a pretty one, so the most recent news really comes as no surprise.

President Barack Obama has appointed one of his former donors, Ken Hackett, to represent our nation as ambassador to the Vatican. Hackett is the immediate past president of Catholic Relief Services; he served in that post for 40 years.

Thinking about the irony of this connection between Obama and Catholic Relief Services begs the question: How can a Catholic charity align itself with the president of the United States? This is a man whose commitment to abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception for teens—to name but a few of his policy choices—is a matter of record. The answer is that apparently CRS and its leadership prefer alliances with the government and the taxpayer dole to stalwartly defend Catholic truth.

This is why I call it a scandal—an immense scandal—within CRS. For those unfamiliar with what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on the subject of scandal, please note this:

Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. . . . Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: He likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. (emphasis added)

Into this context we place not only the current news about CRS, but past documented facts as well.

For example, in 1989, when CRS adopted a policy on condom distribution, Mercy Sister Phyllis Hughes, manager of CRS’ HIV/AIDS unit, told Our Sunday Visitor, “CRS does not finance, distribute, or promote the use of condoms. However, in line with its HIV Policy, CRS provides full and accurate information about condoms as part of its HIV activities through implementing partner agencies.”

Collaboration with such agencies, of course, appears to mean that CRS must be cautious in pronouncing a strong Catholic doctrinal position in favor of dialogue. Or as Hackett put it at the time, “We just don’t cut people off when they’re providing lifesaving services.”

Nearly 20 years later Hackett made comments on CRS’ behalf when the United States Congress approved reauthorization funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR is a program that advocates, among other things, the provision of condoms for protection from AIDS and HIV—a subject noted in Hackett’s Congressional testimony in defense of the program.

While Hackett pointed out in his remarks that the condom is not foolproof in protecting the spread of AIDS, he did not represent Catholic teaching in his comments, nor did he do so in his joint statement with the USCCB cited above. In other words, there was no defense of Catholic teaching, but simply a pass on it.

In 2008, when CRS’ IRS 990 form was made public, it was reported that CRS gave a $5.3 million grant to CARE Inc., which has made birth control a priority in all of its programs. CRS is a dues-paying member and on the board of directors of CORE group, an organization that has devoted over half of its annual budget to birth control.

Furthermore, CRS is a dues-paying member and on the board of directors of MEDiCAM, an organization devoted to training abortionists in Cambodia. The same sort of litany exposing CRS’ ties with groups at odds with Catholic teaching could be provided here for every year, but space does not permit it.

What we can say is that there is a clear pattern of intrigue, deception, and scandal. We will report further on this in the upcoming days, but suffice it to say that Catholic Relief Services is anything but Catholic. It’s high time the organization changed its name to Politically-Correct Relief and ceased bringing shame upon the Church.