The Editors

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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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Lisa Bourne

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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‘His bones are basically like paper’: Parents refuse to abort baby with rare condition

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By Kirsten Anderson

At just 11 weeks old, little Layton Diven is not like other babies. Every time his parents pick him up or cuddle him, there is a chance they will break his bones. In fact, Layton has already suffered more than 20 fractures in his short life – beginning at the moment of his birth.

Layton has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a rare disease that makes his bones brittle and prone to breakage. There are several types of OI, and Layton’s type, OI Type III, is the most severe type found among infants. Most babies born with the disease, like Layton, are born with multiple fractures, especially along the rib cage. Many struggle to breathe or swallow. The incurable disease is progressive, so it will get worse as he gets older.

Layton was diagnosed with OI in the womb, but abortion wasn’t an option for his parents, Chad and Angela Diven, who considered their baby a gift from God, no matter his condition.

“We weren't going to have an abortion, so he was born with the disease,” Angela Diven told KSLA. “God chose me for him, to be his mom, so I have to take that huge responsibility and do what's best for him.”

That responsibility comes with a heavy price. Layton requires 24-hour care, but both Angela and Chad have full-time jobs. He can’t go to regular daycare, because it’s not safe for him.

“You can't just pick him up like a normal baby,” Diven said. “You can't dress him like a normal child; his bones are basically like paper. He can't go to daycare because of his condition. He's medically fragile, and a daycare can't handle him."

Childcare costs are just the beginning, though – the treatments Layton will need throughout his life are expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

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Layton is currently receiving pamidronate IV therapy, which will help to strengthen his bones. But in order to be able to stand or walk, he will need metal rods implanted in his legs – an operation that will cost the Divens $80,000. The OI specialist coordinating Layton’s care is in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Divens live in Louisiana. As he grows, Layton will also require special equipment, such as a wheelchair, along with extensive physical therapy.

Despite the hardships they knew would come, the Divens stepped out in faith to bring Layton into the world. Now, they are reaching out to the internet for help to shoulder the financial burdens that came with their baby blessing. The family has set up both a GoFundMe and a Facebook page called “Lifting Up Layton Diven,” where people can receive updates on Layton’s condition and contribute to the cost of his care.

To donate to baby Layton’s medical trust fund, click here.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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