Catholic Relief Services misses the point
by Patrick B. Craine
August 29, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In the last year, the Holy Father has begun a painstaking effort to reform the Caritas network to ensure the world’s Catholic aid organizations are fully living out their Catholic identity. They’ve even gone so far as to remove the head of Caritas Internationalis. In this effort, the Vatican has strongly emphasized a need to recover the evangelical purpose of the Church’s charitable works.
But how we can expect these organizations to be agents of evangelization – bearers of the Gospel – when they send workers into the field who disagree with fundamental Gospel teachings?
Last week, LifeSiteNews released a report raising concerns about several employees of Catholic Relief Services who have had strong ties to pro-abortion and pro-contraception organizations.
CRS responded in a press release on Saturday. They emphasize that each of the four employees we named have “abided by Church teaching” while on the job for CRS.
But doesn’t that miss the point? Do any of these employees actually believe Church teaching?
In response to pro-lifers’ concerns about CRS’ relationships with pro-abortion organizations – such as their $5.3 million grant to CARE – CRS has argued that these relationships are important to ensure there’s a “Catholic voice” at the table.
But how can CRS be a “Catholic voice” at the table if their representatives are advocates of abortion or population control?
None of the employees we named were secretarial or administrative – each in some way is on the ground representing the U.S. Bishops’ development arm and implementing its programs.
One of them was Dr. Amy Ellis, who joined CRS after three years at the pro-abortion, population-control group Population Services International. In our report we stated that Ellis gave a presentation on “global contraceptive needs” at a conference in Senegal in 2011 while she was employed by CRS. We’re grateful that CRS has now clarified that Ellis did not attend that conference, though they still acknowledge that she contributed to the paper. We’re sorry for the error and have corrected it, though we would have appreciated the clarification before running the story had they responded to our request for comment.
CRS also confirmed that Ellis represented them at the Women Deliver conference in May 2012. Of course, it’s not intrinsically problematic that CRS would send a representative to a pro-abortion conference like Women Deliver. In fact, LifeSiteNews sent a reporter to that very conference in 2010.
But it becomes scandalous when the person you’re sending as your representative has herself advocated population control, was hired directly from a pro-abortion “relief” organization, and then is sitting at a table discussing “maternal and reproductive health” with Marie Stopes and Planned Parenthood.
CRS also responded to concerns about Charisse Glassman, who was convicted in the fall after ramming her car into a crowd of pro-lifers at the March for Life in January 2011. CRS defends itself by emphasizing that they gave Glassman “the presumption of innocence” and say she resigned in July 2011 before the case went to trial.
But that’s all beside the point. We’re not concerned by the fact that Glassman was kept on as she faced what were then unproven criminal charges. Our concern is that CRS employed someone who is so adverse to the pro-life cause that she not only rammed her car into a crowd of pro-lifers, but reportedly laughed while doing it. It’s not the criminal act that was the issue, but the animus to Catholic teaching that the act represented.
Sadly, it seems CRS has completely missed the point of our investigations. In an internal e-mail to CRS leaders sent by communications rep Jim Stipe, LifeSiteNews is accused of “spearhead[ing] a series of attacks against CRS.” “These attacks are intended to discredit CRS and mobilize their base against us,” he writes.
But it’s never been our intention to “attack” or “discredit” CRS, or the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, or Canada’s Development & Peace, or any other Catholic organization we’ve reported on.
In each of these cases we’ve taken pains to bring the concerns to the organization before going public, and even held the articles for weeks in some cases. We would much rather the issues be fixed, or the organization reformed, without the spotlight and controversy. But when it’s clear the issues will not be resolved, we have no choice but to take them public – to shine some light on the darkness.
We’re pleased to hear CRS’ assertion that all of its employees “adhere to Church principles and teaching” while on the job. But is that the best we can do – that development workers simply not oppose Church teaching when contentious issues arise? Would we not rather that they actively propose the Church’s perennial wisdom in these areas?
If it truly believes Pope Paul VI’s prophetic warnings about the destruction wrought by contraception in families and societies, for example, how could a Catholic development organization not make it a key aim to actively counter the massively-funded contraceptive effort? But instead they align themselves with its advocates – groups like CARE.
In promoting the dignity of the human person in the Third World, as CRS aims to do, a Catholic aid organization cannot reduce the person to her physical needs, divorced somehow from her moral and spiritual needs. The Church’s moral teachings and her evangelistic mission are integral to her development efforts.
This was one of the most crucial emphases of Caritas in Veritate. As Pope Benedict wrote, both Humanae Vitae and Evangelii Nuntiandi, though lacking a “direct link to social doctrine,” are “highly important for delineating the fully human meaning of the development that the Church proposes.”
The Church’s moral teachings are not fundamentally a restraint on the Church’s work in the social sphere, but an impetus. They are not something merely to be “adhered” to, but believed and put into action.