By Tim Waggoner

RICHMOND, VA, June 19, 2008 ( – The Diocese of Richmond in Virginia is caught in the middle of a controversy surrounding workers at a Catholic charity, who helped procure an abortion for an abandoned immigrant. Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, as well as two other bishops, wrote a letter to the 350 bishops nationwide addressing the situation, in which they indicated that the workers have since been fired.

According to the letter, in January, the unnamed 16-year old girl from Guatemala obtained the abortion by using a parental consent form signed by workers from the Commonwealth Catholic Charity, Richmond (CCR).  Members from the charity also drove the girl to the abortion center and, two-months prior, issued her a contraceptive device.  Consequently, four members of the CCR have been fired, and one supervisor from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) agency has been suspended.

To add to the controversy, a federal investigation is in the works, given the fact that Virginian law states that only a parent, grandparent or adult sibling can give parental consent – not a social worker.

As reported by the Washington Times, the girl was a ward of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  For years the USCCB has received contracts from the HSS for the care of foster immigrants.  The USCCB, namely their MRS arm, in turn subcontracts to Catholic Agencies such as the CCR.

As faithful Catholics are aware, any Catholic who procures or helps someone else procure an abortion is automatically excommunicated.  Further, one who uses contraception is considered to be in a state of mortal sin.

Yet according to the bishops’ letter, the employees behind the scandal were unaware of some or all of the Church’s teaching on abortion and contraception: “Some members of the MRS staff were not sufficiently aware of church teaching and [USCCB] policy regarding these matters to take stronger and more appropriate actions.”

In order to combat this ignorance, the letter said that all MRS employees will be trained on “the primacy of Catholic teachings and beliefs as they impact their work or professional ethics…to assure that such unacceptable incidents never happen again.”

“This incident is a most regrettable stain on the record of excellence in the work both of MRS and of Catholic Charities,” read the letter.

In a LifeSiteNews interview, Steve Neil, the spokesperson for the Richmond diocese, confirmed that, “all Catholic agencies are to uphold the Church’s teachings.”

Neil also said that it is “expected that all employees of Catholic Agencies are to adhere to these teachings and should be fired if they do not. Ultimately they are undermining the mission of the Church.”

As expected, the USCCB has received considerable criticism for this incident because the organization chooses the agencies to which the foster immigrants are given to for protection and support.

David Siegel, acting director of the HHS Refugee Resettlement Office, issued his concerns via a letter to Johnny Young, executive director of the USCCB MRS agency.

“USCCB’s inability to direct the actions of its sub-grantee was a failure of management, oversight and monitoring,” stated the letter.

According to the Washington Times, HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe criticized the CCR directly, saying, “We were surprised and disappointed to learn of a chapter of Catholic Charities using this funding to facilitate a minor procuring an abortion.”

In its defense, the CCR blamed Bishop DiLorenzo for the incident, pointing to the bishop’s membership on the CCR’s board as well as the fact that the agency is incorporated under direction of the Richmond Diocese.

However, in a press release regarding the event, the CCR admitted to the role their employees played and attempted to reassure the public that precautions were being taken to prevent such an incident from happening again, including the “ongoing education and training for all Catholic Charities employees to underscore the primacy of Catholic teachings and beliefs that impact their work and professional ethics.”


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