Patrick Craine

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CRS ended major contract with printer over ties to pro-life group that criticized it

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine
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BALTIMORE, August 26, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic Relief Services ended a longstanding relationship with a Virginia printing company last year because of the company’s ties to a pro-life group that has criticized CRS over its million-dollar grants to pro-abortion groups, LifeSiteNews.com has learned.

The news comes as the U.S. Bishops’ agency has been under fire from pro-life leaders and activists in the last month after LifeSiteNews revealed that they gave over $13 million to the pro-abortion group CARE in 2012 and are in the midst of giving a $2.7 million grant to the abortion marketing firm Population Services International.

On July 26, 2012, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, chairman of CRS’ board of directors, wrote a letter to the bishops to inform them that CRS would not renew its contract with AKA Printing and Mailing because it is owned by the family of Judie Brown, president of American Life League (ALL). AKA was founded by Paul Brown, Judie’s husband, and is currently run by their son Hugh Brown.

AKA has been doing business with CRS for over a decade. From 2009 to 2012, AKA was CRS’ largest independent contractor, according to CRS’ 990s, receiving over $7 million in contracts over that period. (See CRS’ 990s here: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012).

In his letter, Bishop Kicanas says CRS would end its largest printing contract with AKA as of September 30, 2012 after learning “recently” that AKA is owned by Brown’s family and “maintains a close affiliation with ALL.”

"While the board and I welcome all constructive questions about the work of CRS, we have strongly disagreed with the manner used by ALL in raising its concerns, including tactics used against the USCCB, its members, staff, and programs,” the bishop writes.

Pro-life activist Shaun Kenney, who served as executive director at ALL from 2008 to 2010, told LifeSiteNews that he believes Kicanas’ letter is “black and white” evidence that CRS leveraged its relationship with AKA against American Life League.

“It’s abundantly clear CRS put direct pressure on AKA so that they would put direct pressure on ALL. That is not Catholic,” said Kenney, who is a columnist at RedState.com and is no longer associated with ALL. “It doesn’t live up to the standards of charity we should expect from an authentically Catholic organization.”

Kicanas’ July 26, 2012 letter came after Brown had issued a commentary critical of CRS on July 20, 2012 following LifeSiteNews’ first story on July 17, 2012 revealing that CRS was funding the pro-abortion group CARE. However, Kicanas says the decision to end AKA’s contracts was made earlier, at the CRS board meeting in June.

LifeSiteNews discovered Bishop Kicanas’ letter on a parish website August 6th after CRS’ dealings with AKA were made public by a senior CRS official on Facebook earlier this month. LifeSiteNews contacted Bishop Kicanas the same day, August 6th, but has not heard back by press time.

The Facebook comments came from John Rivera, CRS’ Director of Communications, who was responding August 1 to a post by Michael Hichborn, director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith Project. Rivera was initially responding to Hichborn but then had an exchange with Kenney.

Rivera [to Hichborn]:  …how's AKA's business doing these days? And what was the REAL reason your video on CRS was taken down a couple of years ago. As I recall, we received a note of apology from Judie Brown for it.

Kenney: I wonder how long CRS held that over AKA's head in order to pressure ALL to stay silent...

Rivera: I wonder what it says about ALL's integrity that they'd be silent to preserve a printing contract?

Kenney: were they? or were they pressured to do so by CRS? you deny this?

Rivera: We didn't have to. Once Hugh Brown saw that video he flipped out and contacted us immediately to profusely apologize.

Kenney: CRS *never* pressured AKA or ALL? is that you're telling folks? interesting if so.

Rivera: We're not telling folks anything. We've never publicly discussed this. This is just between us

(See a screen cap of the back-and-forth here.)

Asked for comment on the allegations he made about ALL’s integrity via Facebook and why CRS was going public now about its dealings with AKA, Rivera told LifeSiteNews: “My conversation with Michael on my own Facebook page contained my personal comment. CRS has not made any allegations, and has not made any information publicly available.”

Rivera’s comments on Hichborn’s Facebook page were posted under the handle “John Rivera CatholicRelief”. He also has a private account at “John Rivera”.

CRS also declined comment when asked about allegations from Kenney and others that they used financial pressure to silence ALL.

The ALL video that Rivera refers to was published in May 2011. It included a criticism of CRS’ then-president Ken Hackett for his endorsement of The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs. In the book and elsewhere, Sachs promotes population control through “family planning” as a solution to poverty.

A couple of days after the video was posted, Hackett sent a letter of complaint addressed to Judie Brown but used Hugh Brown’s fax number at AKA. ALL pulled the video, but they reposted it on August 21, 2012. In a piece on July 12, 2013, Brown said they had been wrong to pull the video but did not mention the AKA connection.

Questioned by LifeSiteNews.com, Judie Brown acknowledged what she called “veiled threats” that AKA and the ALL board had received over criticism of CRS.

She said her decision to pull the video was because they had neglected to reach out personally before going public. “We felt at least before we put it up, we should have asked them for a statement for what we were going to report. We violated the biblical principle of going to your brother first.”

She said they began publicly criticizing CRS a year later, in July 2012, after meeting with them directly and finding there was no interest in mending their ways.

Since neither CRS nor Bishop Kicanas responded to requests for comment, LifeSiteNews went to Brandon Vogt, a prominent Catholic blogger and speaker who has defended CRS’ grants to pro-abortion groups in the past through his blog and Facebook account. Vogt spoke up for the Catholic agency when LifeSiteNews provided him with the information.

“I don't see any evidence of financial pressure,” said Vogt. “The only relevant info comes from John Rivera's private Facebook account, but the exchange contains no indication of financial pressure. In fact, he explicitly denies it when accused: ‘We didn't have to [apply pressure].’”

Asked if there might be a double standard in the fact that CRS defends its multi-million dollar grants to pro-abortion groups but cut off a printing company because of its association with a pro-life group that criticizes it, Vogt responded that he believes the question “paints an extremely misleading picture.”

“CRS grants only go toward noble projects like providing food, water, and healthcare,” he said. “When they work alongside other groups toward these ends, the money used is non-fungible, meaning it cannot be used for objectionable ends. Therefore insinuating that CRS gives grants which promote the culture of death is disingenuous.”

“Even still, I don't see how their decisions regarding grants are relevant to choosing a printing vendor,” he said. “I don't see any problem cutting ties with a company that publicly admonishes your own company, especially when the critique is unfounded. Any secular-business CEO would take the same approach. CRS did not act unjustly or inconsistently by deciding not to renew their printing contract.”

Kenney, however, responded by clarifying that, “ALL doesn’t receive a dime from Catholic Relief Services.” “What [CRS is] doing is going after the family. It’s almost as though they went after your father in order not to print a news article,” he said.

Contact info:

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

Find contact information for all U.S. Bishops here.

Readers may also comment on Catholic Relief Services’ Facebook page.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Wendy Davis facing trouble in Democratic stronghold over radical abortion stance

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By Dustin Siggins

State Senator Wendy Davis' outspoken support for late-term abortion made her a national figure, but it may have so turned off Hispanic voters that it could cost her, and her party, the votes of a Democratic-stronghold.

According to The Texas Tribune, Davis has a tremendous advantage in the Rio Grande Valley, a strongly Hispanic part of the state. Hidalgo County has not elected a Republican to a countywide post in "the modern era," the paper noted.

But her Republican challenger, Attorney General Greg Abbott, is looking to change that, targeting the area and the Hispanic vote with a new ad campaign.

According to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-TX, pro-life Democrats will find it more difficult to vote for Davis because of her abortion position. And the region, which is very Catholic, tends to send pro-life Democrats to the polls.

Even as Davis faces risks among Hispanic Catholics, Abbott is making a major push to the minority population, which is expected to become a plurality of the state's population by 2020. Abbott has launched ads in Spanish, and spoken about how his wife will be the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas. He has also brought volunteers in for a ground campaign in the Rio Grande Valley, reminiscent of the 1998 George W. Bush gubernatorial campaign.

Bush was considered a popular Republican among Hispanics, winning 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2004 president re-election campaign. While Abbott has a 12 to 13-point advantage in many polls over Davis, and an enormous financial advantage, his efforts are seen as looking to the GOP's future in Texas.

Davis, meanwhile, has struggled with all voting blocs. She is losing to opponent Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott by 12 to 13 points -- including women, according to an April 2014 poll. Democrats have largely written off the race, especially with control of the U.S. Senate taking up enormous media and financial resources.

Since her filibuster, Davis has attempted to walk a tightrope on her abortion position in order to win more moderate voters. She has called herself "pro-life" because of her support for certain education policies, and indicated that she supports limitations on abortions done after the first trimester. However, she has also recently published a book describing how she aborted a child in 1997 to prevent the child from "suffering."

That claim has drawn enormous media coverage for Davis, who was in New York for a book signing, was on the Rachel Maddow show, and generally had her abortion claims widely covered in innumerable national media outlets.

The book has also brought new life to abortion's importance in the gubernatorial race. In the Davis-Abbott debate last week, the first between the candidates, Davis indicated she supported no restrictions on abortion. She was asked "What do you see as fair regulations on abortion?"
Davis responded that she has "always believed that women should be able to make this most personal and difficult of decisions themselves, guided by their faith and their family and with their doctor."
"I stood on the Senate floor for 13 hours to ensure that this most private of decisions could be made by women," Davis said, before attacking Abbott for, among other things, allegedly opposing abortion in cases of "brutal rape" and incest.

At no point did Davis indicate support for any "regulations on abortion."

In his response, Abbott said that he is "pro-life" and Catholic. He said that "all life is sacred," and said that "Texas is ensuring that we protect more life and do a better job of protecting the health care of women by providing that women still have five months to make a very difficult decision, but after that time the state has an interest in protecting innocent life."

When asked by Houston-area TV station KHOU whether he would sign a bill that would ban abortions for reasons of rape and incest, however, Abbott did not answer the question. Instead, he described his support for the lives of the unborn and women, and his support for HB2.

HB2 is the legislation that Davis filibustered last year.

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Abbott faces his own difficulties -- he favors border enforcement and has made comments about corruption in the Rio Grande Valley. University of Texas-Pan American political scientist Jerry Polinard told the Tribune that he expects Davis to pull at least 55 percent of Democratic voters in Hidalgo, Texas – simply because "this is the bluest part of a red state." 

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Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73, were “married” in Seattle in May 2013. Wojtowick was an organist at the parish, while Paul sang in the choir. Video screenshot
Lisa Bourne

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Bishop stands by priest who removed ‘married’ homosexual couple from parish ministry

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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'This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,' said Bishop Warfel.

A Montana bishop is standing by one of his priests after the priest told a homosexual couple in his parish that they cannot receive Communion or participate in Church ministry due to the fact that they have contracted a civil “marriage.”

Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73, have reportedly been together for more than 30 years and were “married” in Seattle in May 2013, according to the Associated Press.

The men told the local ABC-FOX affiliate that Father Samuel Spiering approached them shortly after beginning his assignment as administrator of St. Leo the Great and asked if the rumor he’d heard of them being “married” was true. When they affirmed it was, he asked if he could meet with them the following day.

Father Spiering informed them the next day that they have broken Cannon Law, and that they would not be able to receive communion or continue in ministry.

Canon 915 holds that those persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.

Both men sang in the choir and Wojtowick was an organist.

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The men agreed to write a restoration statement that, in part, would uphold the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman, during an August 25 conference call with Father Spiering, Bishop Warfel and other diocesan officials. They said they did not intend to challenge the Church’s concept of marriage with their union, rather they just wanted civil protection.

However, the statement also included a timeline for the two men to cease living together and divorce, which they would not agree to.

In an interview with the Billings Gazette last week Bishop Warfel said he knows Wojtowick and Huff “to be good people.”

“This is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,” Bishop Warfel said. “A lot of people put those two together, and obviously there’s a connection, but it’s not the same thing.”

After meeting with parishioners on Sunday, the bishop said that he would like to “effect healing” at the parish, but pointed out that he also has to uphold Catholic teaching.

The bishop also confirmed for ABC-FOX-Montana on Saturday that Huff and Wojtowick could not receive Communion.

While Bishop Warfel acknowledged growing support for homosexual “marriage” when speaking with the Billings Gazette, he said the fact remains that it stands in conflict with Catholic teachings.

“As a Catholic bishop I have a responsibility to uphold our teaching of marriage between one man and one woman,” said Bishop Warfel. “And I think there’s very solid scriptural teaching on it and our sacred tradition is very strong on it.”

Those teachings leave him little choice, he continued.

“Either I uphold what Catholic teachings are or, by ignoring it or permitting it, I’m saying I disagree with what I’m ordained to uphold,” the bishop said.

“Everyone is welcome to the journey of conversion,” said Bishop Warfel. “But there are certain convictions, beliefs or behaviors that are in direct contradiction to what we believe and teach, and this would be one of them.”

Father Spiering has declined to speak publicly and there has not been an official diocesan statement on the issue since the meeting at the parish on Saturday.
 

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New archbishops in Chicago and Madrid: Ratzingerians out, ‘inclusiveness’ in

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By Hilary White
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Chicago's Archbishop-elect, Blase Cupich

Pope Francis announced Saturday that he is appointing as archbishop of Chicago a prelate best known in pro-life circles as the man who ordered his priests in 2011 not to participate in local 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. The media and Church watchers describe him as “progressive,” “inclusive,” and “left-of-center.”

The appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich, current head of the Spokane diocese in Washington, to America’s third most prominent see – an appointment which Vatican watchers predicted would signal the pope’s priorities for the direction of the U.S. Church – has been widely praised by liberal Catholics and opponents of Church teaching but met with concern by many Catholic activists.

The archbishop-elect gave a sense of his approach to the U.S. “culture war” in an interview Sunday with Chicago’s CBS affiliate, in which he suggested he would be open to giving Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians and a person wearing a button in favour of same-sex “marriage.”

“As long as they’re in church, are willing to hear the word of God, be open to Christ’s call of conversion for each one of us, then I think that that’s sufficient for me,” he said. “We cannot politicize the Communion rail and I just don’t think that that works in the long run.”

Cupich will replace the ailing Cardinal Francis George, known in the US as a “Ratzingerian” for his strong defense of Catholic orthodoxy, particularly on issues of sexual morality, but who is suffering from cancer and is overdue for retirement at age 77. The archbishop of Chicago is also normally granted the “red hat” and made a cardinal, which would make Cupich eligible to vote in upcoming papal conclaves. Cupich is scheduled to be installed in Chicago November 18.

The Chicago appointment mirrors that of another outside the US in recent weeks. Rome announced August 28 that Carlos Osoro Sierra, 69, will be installed as the new archbishop of Madrid, Spain’s capital city and largest archdiocese. But the story in Madrid has less to do with the new appointee and more to do with the would-be appointee who was demoted.

Until just before the appointment, most Vatican watchers expected the prominent post to be given to 68-year-old Vatican Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, dubbed the “little Ratzinger” for his orthodoxy in line with Pope Benedict XVI.  When LifeSiteNews interviewed Cardinal Cañizares in 2009 at the time of his appointment as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, he noted that denying communion to pro-abortion politicians was a charitable act.

Leaving his Vatican post, he was considered a natural for the Madrid spot. But instead it went to the archbishop of Valencia, and Cañizares is to fill that vacancy instead.

The former archbishop of Valencia is known for his strong “liberal” leanings and he will be replacing Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, who, like Cañizares, is also known for following the lead of the retired Pope Benedict XVI.

El Pais wrote of the new appointee that Catholics of the Madrid archdiocese, accustomed to the “hieratic” Varela, will be seeing “an entirely different model.”

“Shortly after the announcement of his appointment, the most repeated words to define his figure were ‘dialogue’ and ‘moderation.’”

“During the 12 years he has been the head of the Catholic Church [in Madrid], Rouco Varela has too often mixed faith and politics, with an overdose of intransigence. Defending the (exclusively traditional) family and attacking laws that recognize the right of women to abortion are the main workhorses.”

Catholic News Agency’s Vatican-watcher, Andrea Gagliarducci, wrote that the appointment marks a “new course for Spain’s bishops.” He is described in the Spanish press as “affable,” “friendly,” and “extremely gregarious.” 

As for Cupich, David Gibson of Religion News Service described him as “a prelate closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing.”

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Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo, author of the “Whispers in the Loggia” blog, wrote that the appointment is “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen in the last decade and a half.” Another Vatican veteran, John Allen Jr., wrote for the US Catholic online magazine Crux that Cupich so closely mirrors Pope Francis’ theology and style that he could be called the “American Pope Francis in Chicago.”

On his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, known for his icy relations with the pro-life movement, shared his excitement over the “new breeze” brought by Cupich’s appointment. The bishop noted that Cupich “admires deeply the ecclesiology and vision” of leftist prelates such as former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn and former Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

The news of Cupich’s appointment was met with praise in the mainstream press. According to The New York Times Francis has “set the tone” for US appointments by “replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.”

It has also been praised by dissident Catholic groups such as the homosexual activist group New Ways Ministries. Last year, the group issued a roundup of evaluations of the various leading members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who were set to elect a new president. New Ways praised Cupich for his intervention in the 2012 debate leading up to a referendum on “gay marriage” in Washington State. Cupich’s only intervention was a pastoral letter in which he asked voters to uphold traditional marriage, but also called for a “more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality.”

“I also want to be very clear that in stating our position, the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility toward homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity,” Cupich wrote.

Cupich stood out from his fellow US bishops in his response to the abortion-funding Obamacare. Though he joined his other bishops in condemning the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic employers cover abortifacients and contraceptives, he encouraged Catholic Charities in his diocese to act as an Obamacare navigator and help people sign up for coverage that could fund the destruction of unborn life.

He also condemned the line of other US bishops when they threatened to shut down Catholic social services. “These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” Cupich wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Today the anti-Catholic organization Call to Action issued a press release saying they are “relieved” at the appointment. “At a time when numerous U.S. Bishops are choosing to fight ideological battles, Pope Francis’ selection of Cupich demonstrates a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.”  

Call to Action, like New Ways Ministries, works to overturn Catholic doctrine, particularly on sexual matters, from within the Church, and has received the censure of the US bishops for their activities. They wrote, “The choice of Cupich shows promise for a church which can be closer to the people. Catholics in Chicago and beyond yearn for a faith rooted in the Gospel call of love and justice over rigid orthodoxy.”

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