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98% of political donations by Catholic Relief Services staff go to abortion advocates: report

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, August 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The vast majority of political contributions made by employees of the U.S. Bishops’ international relief agency go to support pro-abortion candidates.

A new report from the Lepanto Institute says 70 percent of the donations came from employees in leadership roles, including directors, senior advisers and country representatives.

A full 98 percent of political contributions made by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) employees go to candidates that actively work to support the abortion and contraceptive industry, according the report, based on public records dating to 2002.

The Lepanto Institute obtained public contribution records for 52 CRS employees, with 50 of them donating to openly pro-abortion politicians. 

Of the 191 contributions found in public records, 187 went to pro-abortion candidates directly, through a political action committee or the Democratic National Committee — the party having abortion as part of its platform — representing a statistically overwhelming inequity in favor of abortion, with next to no diversity of opinion among those working for the USCCB’s relief agency.

The statistics represent a search of public records for political contributions from individuals identifying their employer as Catholic Relief Services. 

“The data reveals a disturbing trend among CRS employees to place their political values above Catholic moral teaching,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn said. “Not only does the data reveal a nearly exclusive political demographic among CRS employees, but it’s a demographic that represents ideas in direct odds with Catholic moral teaching.”

CRS did not respond to LifeSiteNews’ inquiry into the findings of the latest Lepanto Institute report.

Most of the individuals identified in the report are at the senior level, Hichborn continued, composed of advisers, directors, representatives, and department heads.

In one instance from the records, Jennifer Nazaire, who has worked for CRS for more than 19 years and currently serves as CRS’s Manager for Fellowships, Internships and Volunteers, Talent Development and the Human Resources Department, gave a total of $1,100 to Emily’s List, once in 2005 and twice in 2007. Emily List’s stated mission is to “elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.”

CRS Executive Vice President and CFO Mark Palmer, an 18-year employee, made three campaign donations to Barack Obama in 2008 totaling $1,500. The U.S. president repeatedly has shown zealous support for Planned Parenthood since taking office. Palmer also gave $250 in 2003 to presidential candidate Wesley Clark, who had stated, “No one is going to take away a woman’s right to choose when I’m president of the United States. It’s that simple.”

Michael Wiest retired from CRS after 18 years in December 2011, ending his tenure as executive vice president of marketing and fund development. Wiest and wife Toni both made repeated contributions to Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and to the Democratic National Committee’s Services Committee, totaling $1,300.

Melinda Burwell held various roles with CRS for 13 years until 2012, the last one being chief of party for a program in Pakistan. From 2004 to 2012, Burwell gave $6,400 combined to Obama, DNC Services Corp., Democratic Party Committee Abroad, Virginia Congressman Tom Perriello — who had said, “I firmly believe that abortion should not be criminalized” — and Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who has a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-choice America.

The list goes on in the Lepanto Institute report, including former CRS vice president and chief information officer and now Director of Technology Innovation for Development Carol Bothwell, who contributed $250 to the Democratic National Committee’s Services Corporation in 2009.

It also includes current Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy Bill O’Keefe, who told CNN’s belief blog in 2014 that CRS is “proud” that it does not evangelize in the work that it does. He donated $500 this year to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Hichborn told LifeSiteNews that the report demonstrates why issues continue to be found with CRS, such as a vice president in a same-sex “marriage,” an employee who deliberately ran over pro-lifers with her car, personnel writing documents promoting condom use, and continued discoveries that CRS is involved in the promotion of contraception through its partnerships with other organizations. 

“This report illustrates a stark reality that must be addressed by the bishops,” Hichborn said. “They can't maintain the Catholic identity for this organization if the employees are neither Catholic nor hold to Catholic moral teaching.”

Along with expressed political support among CRS staff for pro-abortion politicians and organizations, Hichborn pointed to the reliance of the U.S. Bishops’ relief agency on government funding as an obstacle to preserving Catholic principles.

“As long as CRS takes government money, it cannot hire exclusively Catholic personnel,” he said, “and as long as that is happening, CRS will have a problem with its Catholic identity.”

“If CRS wants to maintain its Catholic identity, it needs to get away from government funding, hire exclusively Catholics, make evangelism the co-priority in all of its work,” Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “As Pope Francis said, ‘The Church is not a shop, she is not a humanitarian agency, the Church is not an NGO. The Church is sent to bring Christ and his Gospel to all.’”

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