ST. PETERSBURG, Florida, August 8, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A bishop who formerly headed Catholic Relief Services has issued a vigorous defense of the relief agency while at the same time accusing its pro-life critics of “attacking” CRS as a “money raising scheme.”

Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, who served as chairman of CRS’ board of trustees from 2001 to 2007, made the charge in a Wednesday post on his personal blog that was co-published by CRS and promoted through its media channels.

“From time to time, I suspect when these organizations need money, they try to stir up a hornet’s nest or storm by attacking a Catholic organization, usually falsely accusing them of being anti-life, pro-contraception, either pro or soft on abortion, etc., etc., etc.,” the bishop writes. “The storms start small enough and then occasionally grow in size. It’s simply a money raising scheme with little regard for the human lives which they allege they seek to protect – well maybe it is only pre-born human life in which they are interested.”

Bishop Lynch became known in pro-life circles nationwide in 2005 during the Terri Schiavo crisis when - as the bishop of the diocese in which the crisis raged - he failed to intervene even as the Vatican urged the Florida courts to preserve her life from euthanasia.

A month before Terri’s death, Bishop Lynch issued a statement urging Schiavo’s family to seek “mediation” with Terri’s husband, Michael, even as he fought to remove her access to food and water and prevented a priest from giving her the last sacraments.

Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler, later said he held Bishop Lynch more responsible for Terri’s death than he does Michael Schiavo. “When apostolic grace and responsibility are abdicated, innocent people die,” he wrote in a letter to the bishop in 2007.

“Terri’s legacy is one of life and love,” Schindler continued. “Sadly, your legacy will be that of the shepherd that stood silently by as one of his innocent disabled lambs was slowly and needlessly slaughtered by removing her food and water — while you persistently ignored the cries of her family for help.”

In 2000, Bishop Lynch issued guidelines barring parishes from practicing perpetual Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. “Parishes seeking to inaugurate or restore eucharistic devotions should reflect on … their commitment of time and money (stewardship) to social services,” the guidelines read. (The guidelines, still in force, are published by the diocese here.)

In his Wednesday blog post, Bishop Lynch targets a recent series of reports by the pro-life group Population Research Institute, which charge that Catholic Relief Services had been engaged in distributing contraceptives and abortifacients in Madagascar as part of a USAID project. PRI spent a month in the African country in the fall of 2012 conducting interviews with USAID and CRS employees/contractors, as well as clergy and two Archbishops.

Calling PRI an “allegedly pro-life group,” Lynch says the “attacks” on CRS began with them and then “spread to a few other notoriously and consistently wrong entities who ‘thrive’ on attacking the Church or its entities.”

The bishop targets PRI’s investigation in Madagascar and does not address other findings reported by LifeSiteNews, such as CRS’ $13.8 million grant to the pro-abortion group CARE in 2012, or its $2.7 million grant to the abortion marketer Population Services International.

"I'm sure Bishop Lynch has read the motu proprio, On the Service of Charity. That changes everything,” said Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute. “CRS should cease being an NGO and report directly to the bishops. Even the Pope has said Catholic charities have to stop acting as NGOs. And guess what, if you take money from USAID, you can't do what is at the heart of charity in the Church, and that is to evangelize.”

On July 31, PRI released strong quotes from Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina backing up their charges. “Even in my own diocese!  Without my knowledge,...they [CRS] were working on an artificial contraception project here,” he said.

The USCCB responded in a statement August 2, saying they had spoke with Archbishop Tsarahazana and he expressed “strong support” for CRS.

In his blog post, Bishop Lynch cites the USCCB statement, but quotes it as though it were a direct quote from the Archbishop:

Now, how about the hierarchy of Madagascar? Do they think CRS is acting contrary to Church teaching? Are they unhappy with the presence and work of CRS in their country? Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana, President of the bishops’ conference of Madagascar expressed “strong support” for CRS and said that the agency is “acting in accord with Catholic teaching and does not provide or facilitate access to contraception or abortion.”

However, as LifeSiteNews noted in an editorial Wednesday, the USCCB statement offered no direct quotes by the Archbishop and does not even indicate that the archbishop believed his quotes to PRI had been in error. It states merely that there had been “some confusion” about CRS’ work in the archdiocese that was “quickly resolved,” and CRS is not now distributing contraceptives.

The program in which CRS was allegedly distributing contraceptives ended July 24th, which would be consistent with the claim that CRS is not currently distributing contraceptives in the archdiocese.

Bishop Lynch alleges that the critics of CRS and other Catholic agencies “never identify their sources but just throw mud up into the air.”

“So who do you wish to believe, an organization that will not identify either its sources of the allegations or name its own members of its Board of Directors or the arm of the Catholic church that saves lives daily throughout the world?” he asks.

In LifeSiteNews’ reports we have backed up our allegations with links to original documentation, quoted commenters by name, and sought responses from CRS before publishing. The Population Research Institute has identified each of the aid workers and clergy they have quoted.

“So this little storm which was headed in a way to harm CRS’s work in Africa has run into a ridge of dry air and will stall,” the bishop concludes. “But when the Population Research Institute or others need money from Catholics who want to believe the worst about their church, its leadership and their service agencies, then it will suck up the mud-filled moisture and try to stoke up another storm.”

Contact:

Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
Palazzo della Congregazioni,
00193 Roma,
Piazza Pio XII, 10
Phone: (011) 39-06-6988-4217
Fax: (011) 39-06-6988-5303

Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11, 00193 Roma, Italy
phone: (011) 39-06-6988-3357
phone: (011) 39-06-6988-3413
Fax: (011) 39-06-6988-3409
E-mail: cdf@cfaith.va