WASHINGTON, DC, July 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - There has been a flurry of response to the LifeSiteNews revelations on July 17th that Catholic Relief Services’ top grant-recipient has been a major promoter of contraception. The $5.3 million grant to CARE by the U.S. Bishops’ international charity arm represents more than a quarter of all the monies it gave out to US-based organizations according to its 990s for 2010.

After LifeSiteNews published the piece, CRS demanded a retraction or correction.  “None of the activities listed suggest support of or involvement in immoral activities,” spokesman John Rivera wrote in an e-mail. “In the terminology of moral theology, there is no material cooperation with evil.”

Then on July 20th, CRS issued a press release titled CRS Disputes LifeSiteNews Article, in which they stated that “all of the CRS programs … are entirely consistent with Church teaching.” At the same time, they strongly implied that the grant was approved by Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the U.S. Bishops’ top advisor on bioethical issues. 

In a follow-up statement on July 24th, CRS states that after reviewing all of their grants, Haas “found that none of them constitutes support of or involvement in immoral activities.”

But when LifeSiteNews contacted Dr. Haas he revealed a very different picture.

Dr. Haas told LifeSiteNews that when he reviewed the proposed donation to CARE it was “of grave concern to me.” 

While Haas noted that the NCBC assessment did not dispute that CARE’s project was laudable nor that the monies were non-fungible, he opposed the grant because of the scandal it would cause. His main concern was the stridently pro-abortion stances taken by CARE’s president and CEO, Helene D. Gayle.

Reading from his submission to CRS, Dr. Haas said:

“On the anniversary of Roe v Wade in 2009 [Gayle] called on President Obama to rescind the Mexico City Policy and fund abortions abroad. She issued this call on the very day hundreds of thousands of pro-life demonstrators including many bishops called for the reversal of Roe v Wade. Her testimony and statement are both posted on the website of CARE.

“Even though the grants going to CARE are for very laudable and indeed life-saving initiatives, I believe that these very strong public positions taken by the President of CARE in complete opposition to the policies and positions of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops would certainly give rise to legitimate theological scandal if not confusion as to why the Bishops would fund such an organization.

“I think even some bishops would take exception to the grant to CARE if they were aware of the strong public advocacy of abortion and the positions at odds with those of the bishops.”

While the CRS release mentions the NCBC concern that scandal could be caused by the CARE grant, it fails to mention that Haas believed CARE should not be funded. The CRS release says only: “The NCBC found that there could be a risk of scandal over such partnerships if people become confused and wrongly assume that CRS was endorsing a partner’s position on other issues. To avoid any misunderstanding, such as the Lifesite news article, CRS worked with the Bishops and the NCBC to address this risk through internal and external communications on our work, and continues to do so.”

In the report to CRS, Haas added: “In my opinion because CARE is so well known and so high profile and because the advocacy of abortion has been so strong and public and in such opposition to the position of the bishops, scandal would be unavoidable.”

Haas was referring to the fact that while the US Bishops were advocating for the Mexico City Policy, CARE was publicly opposing it. The Mexico City Policy ensured agencies in receipt of US funding could not divert the money to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions.  It was enacted in 1984 under Ronald Reagan, and has since been rescinded by Democratic administrations and reinstated by Republicans.

On numerous occasions the U.S. Bishops Conference has advocated for the policy.  Without the Mexico City policy, Cardinal Justin Rigali said in a letter sent to all Senators before a vote in 2007, “abortion-promoting organizations will exploit their status as the conduits for U.S. aid to promote abortion to vulnerable women in the Third World.” 

Meanwhile CARE President and CEO Gayle appeared before the Senate Committee handling the matter to demand that the Mexico City Policy be repealed. “In the reproductive health field, many of the best local organizations provide comprehensive family planning services, sometimes including counseling on safe abortion,” she said.  “The Mexico City Policy prohibits organizations like CARE from working with such organizations, and in some cases, prevents us from working with the only organizations that are capable of providing the most basic family planning services.  Thus, it diminishes not just the availability of these services but also their quality.”

When President Barack Obama repealed the policy, Cardinal Rigali noted that it was “very disappointing.” He added: “An Administration that wants to reduce abortions should not divert U.S. funds to groups that promote abortions.” 

With respect to funding CARE in light of Gayle’s advocacy for international abortion funding, Haas told LifeSiteNews, “It would be different if she weren’t so public about her opposition to the moral teaching in this area and I said I had grave reservations about this whole thing going forward without the question of the scandal being addressed.”

Haas revealed that CRS wanted to retain the long-standing relationship with CARE nonetheless.  At that point he advised that the only way to do so was to publicly chastise Gayle and CARE. 

“I said ‘I think that would be a necessary part of going forward, if you decide to go forward, it’s up to you,’ because the scandal question rests with the local authority, so in that case it would have been Bishop Kicanas and the CRS Board,” said Haas.

CARE’s pro-abortion activism is felt far beyond the United States.  Pro-life groups on the international scene have reported on the strident activism of CARE at the United Nations.

LifeSiteNews spoke today with Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D., of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). She confirmed a C-FAM report she penned in 2007 regarding the CARE CEO, noting that Gayle “is an avid advocate for an international human right to abortion on demand.”

“She was a key figure at the 2007 Women Deliver conference and a founding partner of the International Initiative on Maternal Mortality and Human Rights which seeks to make abortion rights part of a new international right to maternal health,” said Yoshihara.