BALTIMORE, November 14, 2013 ( – In the wake of revelations that Catholic Relief Services gives millions of dollars a year to organizations that advocate legal abortion and dispense contraceptives and abortifacients in the developing world, the Archbishop of Kansas City questioned the U.S. Bishops’ official charity on its funding guidelines at the conference’s annual assembly.

After CRS president Carolyn Woo and board chair Bishop Gerald Kicanas gave a presentation Monday, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann rose during a follow-up question period.

The archbishop first thanked CRS for its work overseas, and then suggested CRS ought to adopt similar funding standards as recently established for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development after a review process. CCHD is the bishops’ domestic anti-poverty arm.

“In terms of the criticism, part of that criticism revolved around the partnerships,” he observed. “One of the critiques was encouraging CRS to use the same criteria that CCHD is using. We went through a similar criticism at that time. Are we using at least the same standards [as] CCHD?”

According to CCHD’s guidelines, “No group that advocates or acts in opposition to fundamental Catholic social and moral teaching is eligible for or will receive CCHD funding.”

Among the groups that received funding from CRS in 2012 are:

  • Population Services International, which markets abortion drugs in the developing world;
  • CARE International, which distributes contraceptives, including the abortifacient “morning-after pill,” partners with the illegal-abortion group Marie Stopes International, and called on Congress in 2009 to fund abortions abroad by overturning the Mexico City policy;
  • Save the Children, which promotes the abortifacient “morning-after pill” and has urged that teenagers be given access to abortion without parental consent.

According to CRS’ IRS filings, 86% of its domestic grants went to organizations that promote contraceptives, often in addition to other evils such as abortion or homosexuality.


In response to Archbishop Naumann’s question, Bishop Kicanas defended the organization’s partnerships with groups opposed to Catholic moral teaching while insisting they do “extremely extensive vetting.”

“Humanitarian assistance is very different than assistance here in the United States and the partnerships that need to be formed in order to do one’s work,” said the bishop. “In order to do humanitarian work, it’s necessary to work with other major international organizations. Sadly, most of those organizations do not hold or carry out the teachings of the Church as we understand them.”

That reality is “sad” and “disappointing,” he said, but “nevertheless it’s important in order to do humanitarian work around the world, that we partner with organizations that sometimes are not in keeping with our teaching.”

He stressed that CRS partners with such groups “only on projects that are clearly within the bounds of our teaching,” and they “make sure that those funds are not fungible.”

“What’s been suggested is that we make clearer to people why we enter into partnerships and with whom we enter into partnerships, for what purposes we enter into partnerships, so that Catholics understand that CRS is not partnering with anyone to do work that is contrary to our teaching,” he added.

At the beginning of the question period on CRS, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Sante Fe criticized what he called “unfair and untrue” attacks on the organization and thanked Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the USCCB’s president, for coming to its defense.

“These criticisms have been terribly unfair and have been checked out very carefully so that we know that we’re on the right track in terms of the work that we do for the poor of the Third World,” he said.

“We can be very proud of the work that CRS does. I refer to it as the crown jewel of American Catholic generosity,” he added.

Bishop Kicanas responded in agreement with Sheehan, saying, “CRS knows its Catholicity, is faithful to its Catholicity and represents our Catholic Church with distinction.”

Bishop Edward Burns of Juneau noted that a large percentage of Catholic Relief Services’ funds are raised through government grants. “I just wondered if continuing the tactic of increasing the amount that we receive strictly through donations might help reduce some of the bad press,” he said.

In response, Dr. Woo said CRS “would like to reduce the percentage of government money” it receives, but then defended its partnership with the government.

“The role of the federal government in CRS’ life over these seventy years, it has always been a part,” she said. “From the day we started bringing refugees out of Europe, we received government money. And it’s really the practice of the Church around the world.”

She mentioned Germany, where Church funding comes through the government, as well as the funding received in the U.S. by Catholic hospitals and charter schools. 

CRS believes that “the government should help the poor, they have a responsibility,” she said. “Catholics, to the extent that the government doesn’t provide all the services, but does it through different agencies, we believe that the Catholics should have a share of that funding.”