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International pro-life group calls for U.S. Bishops to dissolve Catholic Relief Services

The Editors
The Editors
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Editor’s Note: The following quotes the hard-hitting 3 pages of conclusions in the Population Research Institute’s 119-page report on its on site investigations of Catholic Relief Services in Madagascar. The conclusions summarize the serious contradictions between CRS practices and its Catholic mission. It also emphasizes credible reasons for dismissing on-going CRS denials of the PRI investigation revelations. See the interview transcripts Part I and Part II of two Madagascar bishops supporting the previous series of articles published on LifeSiteNews regarding PRI’s investigations.

See also  PRI and Stephen Mosher should receive an award for exceptional report on CRS Madagascar scandals

September 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic charity has always been, first and foremost, the responsibility of the Catholic faithful, who in living their Christian lives must follow our Lord’s commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  PRI’s president, as the recipient of the Blessed Frédéric Ozanam Award from the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and who has himself helped to found a number of charitable organizations, has a deep appreciation for this aspect of the Christian calling and a profound respect for those who are involved in such work.  

As Pope Benedict wrote in Deus Caritas Est, such an exercise in charity “needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community” (“Deus Caritas Est,” 20).  And among the most important of such organized charities, as noted in the Kinshasa Declaration, is the “diocesan Caritas . . . [which] unlike the other organizations of lay groups or religious congregations, [is unique] in being the official organ of the bishop for the service of charity.

Thus the African bishops, in concert with the universal Church, underline the indispensable role of the bishop in his diocese in overseeing both the giving and receiving of charity through the official organs of the Church.  

 This reasonable request—that all the official charitable organs of the Church, including CRS, respect and submit to the authority of the bishop in his diocese—constitutes a major stumbling block for CRS.  After all, it receives most of its funding from an organization—USAID—that forbids it to discriminate in favor of one religion over another.  Were “Catholic” Relief Services actually to attempt following the Church’s dictates and carrying out its government-funded programs through the bishop in his diocese, it would shortly thereafter lose its government funding.  

This same consideration accounts for the failure of CRS to favor Catholics in its hiring policies and to preferentially serve the population whose name it bears.  It bewilders African bishops that a “Catholic” charity does not hire Catholics to carry out programs to help fellow Catholics.  Muslim charities help fellow Muslims, they point out, and Baptist charities help fellow Baptists.  What they don’t realize is that the Muslim and Baptist charities rely upon private funds, but that grants from USAID come with nondiscrimination clauses attached.  Let CRS begin hiring only Catholics, and complaints of “bias” in the hiring would be quickly leveled and, if not corrected, contracts would be cancelled.

In fact, it is to avoid the appearance of favoring the Catholic Church in any way that CRS does not work, modestly and efficiently, out of the existing Catholic network of chanceries and parishes.  Instead, like the other secular humanitarian organizations that it partners with, it sets up an expensive, freestanding headquarters in the countries and dioceses in which it operates.  It may, as a matter of courtesy, inform the local bishop of its activities in his diocese, and it may from time to time, send a private donation his way, but it will not submit to his lawful authority.  It can’t, if it wants to continue to receive a half billion dollars from the U.S. Treasury each year.

CRS goes to great lengths to spin these necessities into virtues.  To explain why it does not preferentially serve Catholics in its programs, it loftily boasts of responding “on the basis of need not creed.”  To explain why an ostensibly Catholic organization does not preferentially hire Catholics, it speaks of hiring on the basis of professional qualifications.  Such claims sound plausible until you understand that they have been imposed on CRS by its principal donor, USAID.  

An authentic Catholic charity would understand that it is a guest in the diocese of the local bishop and would work under his authority.  It would hire faithful Catholics and, while not turning away anyone in need, seek above all to serve its fellow Catholics.  That approach would surely please the vast majority of CRS’ private donors, even if it would displease its enormous public one.  And it is an approach that St. Paul specifically endorsed in his letter to the Galatians: “So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith. (Galatians 6:10)

What kind of an organization does CRS want to be? Does it want to fundamentally restructure society as many of the secular humanitarian organizations obviously do?  Does it want to prattle on endlessly about fighting for a more just or a more democratic society like the other humanitarian NGOs?  Or does it want to be a physical expression of the personal encounter with the love of Christ which moves us, as the Cardinal Sarah stated, “generously and freely towards the most disadvantaged so as to give witness to the Trinitarian love.”

Are its employees satisfied to be seen by the supposed beneficiaries of its actions as merely extensions of USAID and the anti-life ideology that it spreads?  Or are they seeking a personal relationship with God through prayer and the frequenting of the sacraments so that they can be true witnesses of the love of Christ and not fall into political or social activism or secularism?  

It is logically incoherent to say, as CRS currently does, that it is only necessary that the organization's employees recognize that CRS is officially Catholic.  Clearly, a Hindu employee of CRS is not going to be “frequenting the sacraments.[1]”  And a former CRS-Madagascar director, who happened to be Jewish, is not going to start going to Confession and being a “true witness of the love of Christ.  If Cardinal Sarah of Cor Unum suggests that employees of Catholic charities should be going to Mass, then those same charities, including CRS, are going to have to start hiring Catholics—faithful Catholics.

These are two fundamentally different visions of what Catholic charity should be. The first, which is espoused by many current CRS employees, is essentially secular and humanitarian.  The second, which is espoused by the Church, is sacred and Trinitarian. The Kinshasa Declaration seems to be speaking directly to CRS about its close relationship with USAID when it warns:  “We can thus not let ourselves be absorbed by those with powerful means – financial, of the mass-media, and of a great manipulative capacity – [who] want to spread, under the cloak of a so-called progress and of the vision of an allegedly universal man, a philosophy of rights that we cannot accept.”  

Taken together, the transcripts of the interviews we carried out in Madagascar, the more diplomatic but equally revealing speeches given by African bishops at Kinshasa, and the brief but incisive Motu Proprio issued by Pope Benedict XVI lead to a single conclusion: The official Catholic charities of the North are, at least to many of their supposed “beneficiaries,” no longer recognizably Catholic.  They have devolved into humanitarian relief organizations that are, in their day-to-day operations, indistinguishable from their secular counterparts.  Fundamental structural reforms are required to bring them into conformance with Church teaching.

In Paragraph 10 of the Kinshasa Declaration, the assembled African bishops called “upon our representatives . . . to draw the attention of other members of the Caritas family [to our concerns].”  There is no sign, however, that “other members of the Caritas family,” in particular CRS, have taken meaningful cognizance of the concerns expressed by the African bishops at this meeting.  And, if they have, it is certainly true that they have not shared these concerns with us, the members of the “Catholic community of the United States of America,” to whom the international humanitarian agency CRS supposedly belongs.  

In fact, the only reference to the Kinshasa meeting that a search of the CRS website brings up is a press release entitled, “Catholic Church in Africa 'outraged’ by Congo Violence.” As its title suggests, this one-page release highlighted an armed clash in the Congo that occurred simultaneously with the Kinshasa meeting.  It mentioned only in passing that “The bishops met November 20-22 on the work of Caritas on the continent.” That is the only reference to the Kinshasa meeting, the results of which the African bishops specifically asked to be conveyed to the “other members of the Caritas family”!

CRS continues to engage in the pretense that there is nothing wrong with its current business model.  Here is what a representative of CRS told one member of that American Catholic community who wrote to express concern that at least one African bishop was not at all happy with the American organization:

“We are unaware of any bishops that CRS works with in Africa having refused to work with CRS.  We have a very good working relationship with all of our partners around the world, including the Church, and meet with the bishops regularly to consult on our work and partner on projects.”

This is, purely and simply, a fantasy.  For real-life examples of how far removed it is from reality, remember the remarks of the bishops, priests, and other Catholic officials with whom we spoke in Madagascar, including the president of the Madagascar bishops’ conference.  Almost to a man, they were incensed at the “unequal,” “non-horizontal,” “infantilizing” working relationship that they had with CRS – when they even had a relationship.  As for the “regular” meetings, recall the remarks of the president of the Malagasy Bishops’ Conference about CRS operating out of his sight and behind his back in his own diocese.  Recall the complaints about how it had taken two years for the Malagasy bishops to wrangle a meeting with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)/CRS, and how they had wanted that meeting not for the purpose of congratulating the USCCB/CRS on the “good working relationship” enjoyed by all, but to air their grievances against CRS and to fundamentally alter the one-sided relationship they had with that organization.

Some may conclude that CRS’ refusal to acknowledge its problems—and even its uncharitable attacks on its critics—are merely typical bureaucratic stonewalling.  We disagree.  We believe that the CRS leadership understands, perhaps better than the African bishops, and perhaps even better than the bishops who serve on its board, what is at stake here.  They understand the risks, both to their funding and to their careers, of acknowledging their past failures and embarking upon a process of reform.  They understand that extricating CRS from the smothering secular embrace of USAID will result in the loss of perhaps two-thirds of the organization’s funding.  They understand that re-establishing its identity as a truly Catholic charity means giving up its current pose as a humanitarian NGO and reintegrating it into the Catholic Church under the direct control of the bishops.

They understand that CRS, if it is to be an authentic Catholic charity as demanded by the Motu Proprio, “On the Service of Charity,” will cease to exist in its current form.  

Recommendations

 1.­ That the non-profit corporation known as Catholic Relief Services be dissolved.

 2. That the charitable activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) be carried out by an office, known as International Catholic Charities (ICC), located in the USCCB itself.

 3.  That all programmatic activities carried out by ICC be done in concert with the bishop in the local diocese where the program is located, under his guidance, approval, and supervision.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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