BALTIMORE, Sept. 18, 2013 ( – A moral theologian at a leading Catholic college has expressed grave concerns about Catholic Relief Services’ funding of Population Services International, a major pro-abortion group.

In an interview with, Dr. William Marshner, a founding member of Christendom College’s theology department and an expert in moral theology, said PSI is a “dangerous organization.”

“One would be perhaps better advised to give it no assistance of any kind. Follow the advice of the local bishops,” he said on Sept. 11th.

Image reported July 18th that CRS was in the midst of giving a $2.7 million grant to PSI as part of a malaria project in Guinea supported by the Global Fund. To further its mission of population control, PSI markets abortion drugs in the developing world and networks and trains local providers to offer “safe abortion.” 

The news sparked strong reactions from pro-life leaders who were outraged that the Church was funding one of its own great enemies in the battle to protect the unborn.

But CRS has strongly defended the grant on its website, and the U.S. Bishops Conference’s administrative committee issued a response to critics last week saying that CRS “fully conforms with Catholic teaching.”

Dr. Marshner had previously addressed the Catholic Relief Services controversy in an article in the National Catholic Register on Aug. 30th. However, when LifeSiteNews spoke with the professor, he said when the Register interviewed him he did not have a full sense of how integral population control and abortion are to PSI’s work.

In that article he had explained that, according to Catholic moral theology, in some circumstances a Catholic organization can work with problematic groups, “if there is no choice about the organization through which to work, and your money has strings attached to it — that it can’t be used for this, that and the other thing — and you prudentially have some accounting to make sure of that.”

The comments were made in light of CRS’ indications that the Global Fund required them to work through PSI as a condition of their grant for the malaria project, and the Catholic agency’s contention that PSI’s contract was structured such that the funds were not fungible.

Dr. Marshner also told said he was not aware of the fact that population control groups like PSI use legitimate health issues to gain access and credibility for their anti-life activities.

PSI has explicitly stated that its “reproductive health” work is “deeply intertwined” with its work on malaria. “Integrated programs also offer many opportunities to reach target audiences,” they wrote in a program description for USAID.

“The issue with PSI that intrigued me was, I was told that no other groups have access to these jungle populations, who are getting these malaria nets,” Marshner told LifeSiteNews. “If you can’t get into those places except through this channel then you have to make sure your money is so attached with strings that they can’t put it into their general fund, that they can’t use it for an evil purpose.”

“I was consulted about the purely moral question, I was not asked about prudential questions or political questions,” he continued. “I didn’t know the history of PSI taking up the malaria issue. I didn’t know that asking for their help in that way would be opening up a Pandora’s box to get them into place to spread their evil wares.”

“If I were asked again about the whole issue, I’d say consult the local bishops and follow their advice,” he added. “This [PSI] is a dangerous organization. One would be perhaps better advised to give it no assistance of any kind. Follow the advice of the local bishops.”

In the Aug. 30th Register article, CRS’ own leadership seemed themselves to admit that the criticisms from pro-life groups were well founded. As the Register reported:

CRS officials — including Bishop Gerald Kicanas, current CRS chairman, and Bishop Mansour — confirmed to the Register that the accusations over PSI in Guinea have caused CRS to reconsider any future relationship with PSI.

[Schuyler Thorup, CRS executive vice president for overseas operations,] explained that neither CRS nor the Guinea bishops’ conference were aware of PSI’s abortion-related activities at the time of the Global Fund grant.

“We’re now looking at that more carefully,” Bishop Mansour said.

LifeSiteNews interviewed Dr. Marshner in 2012 about a $5.3 million grant CRS gave to the pro-abortion group CARE. At the time, the professor called the grant “ghastly” and an “immoral use of the money.”

He also strongly criticized a CRS policy that allows them to fund abortion advocacy groups so long as the “preponderance” of the group’s work is in other areas. “This is like saying that we will fund an organization that does 50 or fewer assassinations a year, but not one that will commit 50 or more assassinations a year,” he said.


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