BALTIMORE, July 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As the U.S. Bishops’ development agency was taking heat last summer for handing out over $5 million to the abortion-supporting group CARE, they were in the midst of giving a total of $13.8 million in grants to the same pro-abortion group during 2012, according to its recently-published IRS filings.

While CARE claims it “does not fund, support or perform abortions,” in 2009 its president and CEO, Helene Gayle, appeared before a Senate committee to urge the funding of abortions abroad by overturning the Mexico City Policy. CARE also heavily distributes contraceptives, including the abortifacient “emergency contraception,” as part of its development efforts.  Moreover, it partners with the illegal-abortion practitioner Marie Stopes International (page 4).

Susan Yoshihara of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) told LifeSiteNews last year that Gayle “is an avid advocate for an international human right to abortion-on-demand.”

Since LifeSiteNews’ coverage of CARE last summer, CARE issued a commitment at the Gates Foundation’s London Summit on Family Planning in which they pledged to put “reproductive rights” at the center of their work in the area of maternal health and to make “family planning” a priority in emergency services. Of the $13.8 million CRS gave to CARE in 2012, nearly $9 million was dedicated to “emergency services.”

According to the 990s, CRS gave CARE three separate grants in 2012: $4,752,008 for “agriculture”; $8,894,703 for “emergency”; and $233,432 for “welfare”.

Pro-life leaders react

Catholic pro-life leaders decried the news, saying it’s a scandal that a Church agency would support a group working against the Church’s efforts to promote a culture of life.

“Our pro-life educational and advocacy work is severely hampered, to the detriment of untold numbers of our brothers and sisters in the developing world, when groups like CARE can say that they enjoy a good working relationship with the Catholic Church,” said Fr. Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International. He said this is the case “even if behind the scenes one finds that no Catholic money goes directly to their anti-life projects.”

“The scandal is that it appears to some that the Church supports CARE's entire program,” he added.

Judie Brown, president of American Life League, said 2012 appears to be CRS’ worst year yet for funding of immoral groups.

“CRS is bringing a scandal on the Church. They need to stop calling themselves Catholic because what they’re doing is in direct contradiction to the moral teachings of the Church,” she said. “And I finally want to encourage anybody who has ever given a thin dime to Catholic Relief Services to ask for a refund and never give them another penny.”

Catholic Relief Services responds

Asked for a response, CRS director of communications John Rivera told LifeSiteNews that their grants “save, protect and transform lives” and are given in accordance with policies “reviewed and approved” by their board of directors, which is led by members of the U.S. episcopate.

“We have careful guidelines and processes to ensure that our work to care for the poor around the world is consistent with Catholic teaching and provides a strong and faithful witness of Christ’s love for those in greatest need. This includes our work with partners,” said Rivera.

“We mitigate the risk of scandal by ensuring that our Catholic identity is very clear in the way we present ourselves, including on the home page of our web site, which has a section that responds to questions about our partnerships like those raised by Lifesite News,” he added.

‘Scandal would be unavoidable’

After our initial story on CARE last summer, CRS immediately decried the coverage and strongly implied that the $5.3 million grant to CARE had been endorsed by Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, who is a highly-respected, orthodox moral theologian and advisor to the bishops.

In an interview with Dr. Haas, however, LifeSiteNews learned that he had expressed concern that the grant would cause “unavoidable” scandal because of CARE’s strident and public pro-abortion and pro-contraception positions.

After CRS insisted that they wanted to continue their long-term funding relationship with CARE, Haas said, he advised them that the only way to do so was to publicly chastise the organization.

In a follow-up statement to clarify the issues, Haas indicated that he had judged the grant to be morally acceptable because, in his view, the funds were not fungible – federal law prohibits them from being used in a general pool.

He then added a caveat, however. “Even if cooperation with an evildoer to achieve some great good were morally legitimate,” he wrote, “it still could not be done if the action of the Catholic would lead others to believe that the Catholic Church were indifferent to the evil, such as, for example, contraception.”

“In this case, the NCBC was gravely concerned about the risk of scandal that could arise from a Catholic agency cooperating with an organization that consistently took such strong public positions at odds with the Catholic Church, such as advocating contraception and abortion,” he added.

Working with the devil

Judie Brown of American Life League said CRS has adopted a “lesser of two evils” argument.

“They would say that giving money to CARE for specific purposes having nothing whatsoever to do with the population control that CARE is involved in is a sensible position,” she said, “even though everybody knows that there is no way that Catholic Relief Services can ever prove that that money that they give to CARE is not used specifically for population control.”

Rather than work with groups like CARE, she said, “please put Catholics on the ground so that you don’t have to work with the devil.”

“Their reasoning is so weak. In all of these countries where CARE is, there are Catholics there. There are bishops in those countries,” she said. “If you ask a bishop about what CARE is doing in the country where they represent Catholics, they tell you, especially in the Third World, we don’t want condom marketing. They don’t want birth control marketing among Catholics. So why isn’t CRS going to those bishops? Why aren’t they giving money to those dioceses in Third World instead of giving them to CARE? There’s no excuse for what they’re doing.”