As LifeSiteNews has reported on the disappointing funding practices at Catholic development agencies, we have noticed a recurring pattern in the responses from the bishops’ conferences. First, the conference issues a statement flatly denying the allegations. Then, perhaps a year or more later, after it becomes clear that the criticisms are undeniable and will not go away, they announce a reform of the agency.
Unfortunately, we’ve found that this call for reform from the conference has tended to come without a frank admission of the previous problems or a retraction of the strong criticism levied against the Catholics who raised concern. As a result, the reform may not be as thorough as needed.
We have observed this pattern with both the Canadian bishops’ Development & Peace and the U.S. Bishops’ domestic anti-poverty arm, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It now appears that the first phase of the cycle has begun with Catholic Relief Services. Let’s hope we get to the second phase, the reform.
On Sept. 11th, the administrative committee of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference issued a puzzling statement affirming their full support for CRS, which is the USCCB’s official foreign relief agency.
The committee stated that after “thorough investigations” they wanted “to assure the Catholic faithful that CRS fully and faithfully adheres to Church teaching in fulfilling its mission of mercy.” CRS uses a “careful vetting system” that is “constantly reviewed and updated” to be sure that all of its grants are in accord with Catholic teaching, the statement added.
The USCCB’s response came two weeks after the Population Research Institute published a 119-page report with strong evidence indicating CRS was promoting contraceptives and abortifacients in Madagascar, and nearly two months after LifeSiteNews revealed CRS had given Population Services International (PSI), an abortion-marketing firm, a $2.7 million grant as part of an anti-malaria project in Guinea.
According to the USCCB’s administrative committee, however, “all of CRS’ life-saving work … fully conforms with Catholic teaching.”
The same day as the USCCB statement, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, underscored it at a press conference and expressed frustration with CRS’ critics. The Cardinal said: “We sometimes shrug and say, ‘All we can do is tell you that we've listened to you, we have looked into this scrupulously, we're trying our best, and we are convinced that we acted in complete consonance with Catholic teaching.’”
Another bishop at the press conference accused the reports of “nitpicking.”
The USCCB’s reaction is puzzling because, though it was clearly intended to discredit the recent criticisms against CRS, two bishops on CRS’ own board of directors recently admitted there was cause for criticism. While CRS has strongly defended its grant to PSI in press releases on its website, an Aug. 30th article by the National Catholic Register included the following lines:
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.
If we are to believe that CRS really was not aware of PSI’s pro-abortion activities, then it would appear from these lines that CRS’ vetting system is not nearly as careful as the bishops’ committee suggests.
PSI openly admits its abortion work right on its own website. Evidence of its abortion activities can be found in mere minutes by simple Google searches. For any discerning Catholic, the very name Population Services International is enough to tip them off that there is some pretty nefarious activities going on. If the group’s pro-abortion activities would have really made a difference to CRS, how could they not have taken five minutes to look into it?
Secondly, in defending CRS here, the bishops are allowing a clear double standard within their own offices. After exposes by pro-life groups on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the bishops launched a reform of CCHD that included adopting the following policy:
No group that advocates or acts in opposition to fundamental Catholic social and moral teaching is eligible for or will receive CCHD funding.
CCHD policy bars not only pro-abortion groups from receiving funding, but groups that violate any Catholic moral teaching, including the promotion of contraception. Yet the USCCB’s administrative committee is giving CRS a pass on a group that markets abortion drugs to the poor.
Catholics are inclined by nature to trust their bishops, who the Church teaches to be successors of the Apostles by the will of Christ. But the faithful nevertheless have a duty to raise concern when scandal threatens the Church.
Despite the current denials, we hope the pattern continues and a reform of CRS is coming. We pray, moreover, that it will be as thorough as needed so that the Church’s development efforts can get on with the authentic promotion of human dignity to which it is called throughout the world.