The National Catholic Review

I had the privilege last month of hearing a talk from Dr. Carolyn Woo, the president of Catholic Relief Services, in which she highlighted the collaborative efforts of CRS across the world as it helps to alleviate global poverty. CRS, an organization that has inspired me for many years, is the official international development agency of the Catholic Church in the US. It’s always a source of my Catholic pride whenever my non-Catholic friends and acquaintances who work in development speak highly of CRS, admiring its professionalism and effectiveness. Woo explained that CRS is able to do so much good work because it forms partnerships as frequently as possible, often with local organizations, to avoid duplicating efforts and to bring services directly to those who need them most.

So it was surprising and disappointing when I read that CRS is under attack from within the church. From US Catholic:

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops, is coming under fire for an item that someone recently dug up in its 2010 financial reports. CRS gave $5.3 million to a humanitarian organization called CARE which was used for water and sanitation programs in Central America and for food and nutrition programs in Africa.

So what's the problem? Even though it was in no way related to the projects that CRS funded, CARE also supports family planning--including access to contraceptives--as part of its efforts to reduce poverty and injustice, particularly towards women. Critics are now saying that CRS is undermining the teachings of the church and the bishops by working with CARE to provide clean water and food to developing communities. According to that logic, since Melinda Gates also supports family planning for impoverished countries, anyone who buys Microsoft products is going against church teaching.

CRS replied quickly, noting that the funds distributed to CARE would not have been able to support anything that violates church teaching. What is going on in the church when an organization committed to alleviating poverty, to living out the Gospel call, is criticized and accused of negligence by fellow Catholics? Showing support to CRS and similar organizations when they come under attack by right-wing Catholics is essential. 

Comments

Tim O'Leary | 7/27/2012 - 2:08am
I have read the links and the correspondence, and have come to the conclusion that the CRS is doing its very best to live up to the fullness of the Catholic faith as it carries out its most important mission to the poorest of the poor. It's willingness to consult Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and to respond to the advice given is a clear sign of their desire to be ''in the world but not of the world'' and to be fully Catholic (thanks John Rivera for the link). Their stance is totally different from organizations that claim the Catholic name but have a hermeneutic of dissent.

So, I would ask my several Catholic allies above to give the CRS some trust in their efforts here. I myself will continue to support their great work, even as I continue to follow their work and words with vigilance.
Michael Schlacter | 7/25/2012 - 8:58pm
I am sure that the Insurance policies taken out for health care throughout the world by the Catholic Church and its orthodoxed membership do not include any companies whose benefits are also used to cover abortion, even for other customers.
Barry Hudock | 7/26/2012 - 9:23am
Jim #10, re. the suggesting that CRS is not a charity or does not provide relief services to the poor because it provided federal funding it recieved to CARE:

The statement from the National Catholic Bioethics Center addresses well the context for CRS providing this funding to CARE:

''CARE and Catholic Relief Services are two of the oldest and most respected international relief agencies in the world. They have a relationship reaching out to the starving, malnourished and needy that goes back decades. They have worked closely together to serve these populations because there are situations in which CARE has infrastructure, personnel, and capabilities on the ground where CRS does not. Likewise, Catholic Relief Services is a worldwide relief organization with infrastructure and personnel in places that CARE cannot reach. As a result, they often provide grants to one another for very specific charitable purposes that either one of them is incapable of achieving alone.'' (http://www.ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1263)
David Smith | 7/26/2012 - 1:48am
Thanks, Jim, for #10.  Fascinating.  Catholic charities that are only somewhat Catholic and not charities at all in the traditional sense, Catholic hospitals that are Catholic in name only, Catholic schools and universities staffed almost entirely by lay people, many or even most of whom are not Catholic.  What's happening here?  It looks as though the secular society has swallowed the Church whole.

And thanks, John (#9), for

http://www.ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1263 

By the way, ''John Haas Refutes'' is a bad link.
JIM MCCREA | 7/25/2012 - 6:27pm
Any Catholic organization (CRS, CHD) that is attacked by the orthotoxic right is worthy of my financial support.

I have just sent CRS money and told them why.  I suggest more of those lurking here do the same.
james belna | 7/25/2012 - 5:49pm
This is fascinating. I had been under the (apparently false) impression that Catholic Relief Services was a charity funded and operated by Catholics to provide ''relief services'' to the poor. As it happens, CRS is not a ''charity'' in any meaningful sense of the word. 72% of its funding comes from government sources, and less than 2% comes from the nationwide annual collection in Catholic parishes. It is also noteworthy that CRS did not actually perfom any of the relief services related in this story - rather, it gave $5.3M to another organization (CARE) which provided the water, sanitation, and nutritional programs. As far as I can tell, the only value that CRS added to this transaction was to cash a check from the government and then write a check for the same amount to CARE.

CRS concedes that it was advised by John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center that a scandal would be unavoidable if it funded CARE. Dr Haas was right - scandal has ensued. Of course, the obvious solution for CRS would have been to return the money to the government, which could have funded CARE directly if it found the proposed projects to be sufficiently meritorious.

There seems to be little justification to call CRS ''Catholic'' anymore, but if we must, I don't think that it is too much to ask that it take some care to avoid scandal, particularly when (as here) it was warned in advance.
Carlos Orozco | 7/25/2012 - 2:07pm
A more balanced note should have included information found in the link posted by Jim (comment #1). A few paragraphs follow:

"Catholic Relief Services’ top grant-recipient has been a major promoter of contraception. The $5.3 million grant to CARE by the U.S. Bishops’ international charity arm represents more than a quarter of all the monies it gave out according to its 990s for 2010.

Meanwhile CARE President and CEO Gayle appeared before the Senate Committee handling the matter to demand that the Mexico City Policy be repealed. “In the reproductive health field, many of the best local organizations provide comprehensive family planning services, sometimes including counseling on safe abortion,” she said.

CARE’s pro-abortion activism is felt far beyond the United States.  Pro-life groups on the international scene have reported on the strident activism of CARE at the United Nations.
LifeSiteNews spoke today with Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D., of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). She confirmed a C-FAM report she penned in 2007 regarding the CARE CEO, noting that Gayle “is an avid advocate for an international human right to abortion on demand.
She was a key figure at the 2007 Women Deliver conference and a founding partner of the International Initiative on Maternal Mortality and Human Rights which seeks to make abortion rights part of a new international right to maternal health,” said Yoshihara.

Gerardine Luongo | 7/25/2012 - 12:36pm
It is important to note that the charges DID NOT come from the Bishops...the official body of the Catholic Church is not charging CRS with doing anything wrong...
T BLACKBURN | 7/25/2012 - 11:15am
See these Christians, how they insist on an FBI background check and review by a panel of approved theologians before giving aid or comfort to widows, orphans or strangers in their midst and always stand ready to withdraw anything they may have graciously granted, in an excess of compassion, if one of the most hysterical of their members screams out loud. Their Catholic practices insure their purity from the sweat and dirt of common life and leave them standing in a thoroughly whitened place from which they can throw stones at others and go home feeling good about themselves. The waterboys are calling the signals.
Roberta Lavin | 7/25/2012 - 10:17am
The attack by the ''rightous'' should not come as a surprise.  The same form of segreation of funding and the defense of it is being used by the government as it relates to insurance premiums and coverage for contraceptions.  When the Bishops so loudly objected to that accomadation it was predictable that the ''righteous'' would then use the same premise to attack others.  No one should be surprised that such an arguement came back on CRS, the Girl Scouts, and I'm sure more to come.

I appreciate the work of CRS and CARE.  I do not agree with the arguement that an organization is all bad if they support one thing that I may not agree with or are associated with an organization that may be associated with an organtion that does something with which I may not agree.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 7/25/2012 - 7:16am
The essential problem is here: "Even though the grants going to CARE are for very laudable and indeed life-saving initiatives, I believe that these very strong public positions taken by the President of CARE ... would certainly give rise to legitimate theological scandal."

Let's try this in another context: "Even though spraying water on Mr. Smith's house when it was on fire would have saved his life, I believed that the fire truck driver's opinion on contraception would have given rise to theological scandal," says the fire chief sanctimoniously. "So I had to let him burn to death."
David Smith | 7/25/2012 - 2:36am
Thanks, Jim. http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/john-haas-i-advised-catholic-relief-services-not-to-fund-care 
''>That article
is essential to understanding what's going on here.

In light on the caution given to CRS about the agreement with CARE, we need to know why CRS decided to go ahead with it.  Were they pressured by the government?

By the way, CRS's refutation of LifeSiteNews's reporting refers to contraception, not abortion:
CRS is not in agreement with CARE’s position on contraception because we do not support any positions that would be in violation of Catholic teaching on human dignity and the sanctity of human life.
 LifeSiteNews's objection was to the CARE head's advocacy of abortion - a considerably more serious charge.

Thanks, Michael, for bringing this to light here.

 
james belna | 7/25/2012 - 12:08am
In case anyone is interested, you can read the other side of the story at http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/john-haas-i-advised-catholic-relief-services-not-to-fund-care 
Michael Schlacter | 7/25/2012 - 8:58pm
I am sure that the Insurance policies taken out for health care throughout the world by the Catholic Church and its orthodoxed membership do not include any companies whose benefits are also used to cover abortion, even for other customers.