BALTIMORE, November 19, 2013 ( – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has appointed a new chairman of the board for Catholic Relief Services. The appointment comes at the same time as the organization grapples with its funding policies in the wake of revelations that it has been funneling millions of dollars to pro-abortion and pro-contraception organizations.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona is stepping down after completing his three-year term. He will be replaced by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, who has served on CRS’ board of directors since 2012.

Coakley was appointed by the USCCB’s new president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, according to the conference’s press release.


During his tenure, Bishop Kicanas strongly defended CRS against criticism by pro-life groups.

At the U.S. Bishops general assembly last week, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann suggested the organization adopt similar funding guidelines as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which bars funding to any group that “advocates or acts in opposition to fundamental Catholic social and moral teaching.”

In reply, Bishop Kicanas defended the organization’s current practice and insisted they do “extremely extensive vetting.”

“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.”

While “sad” and “disappointing,” he said, “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.”

At the same time, 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.”

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,” and partners with the illegal-abortion group Marie Stopes International. It 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.

At its general assembly, the USCCB elected three bishops to CRS’ board: Bishop Cirilo Flores of San Diego, California, who begins his first term in January; as well as Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse, Wisconsin and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, who will serve their second terms.

Two bishops will be leaving CRS’ board: Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City and Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Archbishop Coakley is known as a strong defender of the right to life. In 2009, he joined the chorus of more than 80 bishops who criticized the University of Notre Dame over its decision to honour President Obama despite his strong advocacy for abortion.

In 2007, Archbishop Coakley told LifeSiteNews that the scandal over Catholic politicians endorsing abortion has reached the point where often a bishop’s “only choice” is to refuse them Communion.