CRS and Catholic teaching: Why the dichotomy?

By Michael Hichborn

In 2008, noted theologian Germain Grisez wrote an article entitled “The Church Betrayed?” In this article, Grisez discusses the troubling nature of a Catholic Relief Services memo regarding the dissemination of information on condom use through its HIV/AIDS programs overseas. Furthermore, Grisez noted a standing policy by CRS not to have its own logo attached to such materials, hiding its activities. 

In response to this story, then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan sent a letter to the bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In this letter, Archbishop Dolan said, “In no cases does CRS promote, purchase or distribute condoms,” and “all HIV programs supported by CRS promote abstinence until marriage and mutual fidelity within marriage.”

After five months of back and forth public debate on this matter, Archbishop Dolan finally conceded that CRS had made a “mistake.”

If this sounds all too familiar, it’s because, since that time, CRS has issued statement after statement denying any wrongdoing with its programs or funding practices.

In July 2012, LifeSiteNews broke the story of CRS giving $5.3 million to CARE, a contraception and abortion-promoting organization. CRS’ response was that it doesn’t agree with CARE’s promotion of “family planning,” but that the money wasn’t fungible so CRS didn’t violate any Catholic teaching.

On August 2, 2012, Red State revealed that CRS is a dues-paying member of CORE Group, an organization that pushes contraception. CRS’ response was only that “CORE Group offers us an opportunity to highlight our work and improve the quality of our programming so mothers and children can live and thrive.”

On August 14, 2012, Red State also revealed that CRS is a dues-paying member and on the executive committee of MEDiCAM, an organization that pushes contraception and abortion in Cambodia. In fact, a CRS regional director was a member of the planning committee for MEDiCAM when it created a policy paper for 2011 indicating the intention to train abortion providers. CRS’ response was that, “Almost anyone active in the health field in Cambodia belongs. Our critical work there would be hampered if we did not belong.”

On September 6, 2012, LifeSiteNews revealed that CRS had written several documents promoting condom use. CRS responded that it was revising one document and reviewing others, while maintaining innocence of having ever promoted condoms.

In 2013, American Life League proved that CRS provided $64 million to organizations distributing contraception, committing abortion, and performing sterilizations. CRS’ defense was that, “The relationship and the activities carried out in these grants have been assessed and determined to be appropriate and in conformity with Catholic teaching.”

Just this year alone, CRS was found to have implemented and tested a Planned Parenthood-style sex education program that taught 10-year-olds about masturbation; it conducted a cover-up of its contraception-promoting programs in Kenya; and it was caught implementing an MTV-produced video program that amounts to a 75-minute long condom commercial. 

And each step of the way, CRS’ response is always the same: deny, deflect, twist the facts, and attack the messenger.

The fact of the matter is that, for those who have eyes to see, Catholic Relief Services is in dire need of an extreme overhaul. The influx of government funds has intoxicated the entire organization to the point of irrational and decidedly un-Catholic behavior. The sad reality is that Catholic Relief Services is in a fantastic position to do a lot of good for the salvation of souls, but it remains content to feed bellies while exposing the souls of those under its care to the ravenous wolves of the culture of death. Until organizations like CRS cease their work which aids and abets the enemies of Christ, and focus exclusively on activities which are entirely and unambiguously Catholic, there will be no end to abortion, contraception, and the other evils of our age.

Michael Hichborn is the president of the Lepanto Institute. Formerly, Michael served American Life League for nearly eight years as the director of Defend the Faith, host of the American Life League Report, and media director.