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CRS Refutes Inaccurate Accusations, Part 1

July 20, 2012 by

Earlier this week, the pro-life website LifeSiteNews published an article critical of Catholic Relief Services that contained inaccurate and incomplete information about our relationship with the humanitarian agency CARE, specifically for $5.3 million CRS gave to CARE for use in collaborative anti-poverty programming in Central America and Africa. We would like to correct the record by providing this important information, which was not included in the article:

Catholic Relief Services, in communion with the Church, strictly upholds Catholic moral teaching. All of the CRS programs and all of the funds used by CRS are entirely consistent with Church teaching. Faithfulness to Church teaching always has been and always will be our policy. CRS is not in agreement with CARE’s policy on contraception because we do not support any positions that would be in violation of Catholic teaching on human dignity and the sanctity of human life.

CRS always has taken very seriously decisions we make about the groups with which we collaborate or form partnerships to ensure that we are not violating the Church teachings. We do not fund, support or participate in any programming or advocacy that is not in line with Church teaching, including artificial birth control.

These concerns about grants and partnerships, including the concerns over CARE, were raised to CRS last year. The agency undertook a thorough review of all partnerships together with Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC). After careful review, their report came to three main conclusions:

1. None of the grants listed constitutes support of or involvement in immoral activities.

2. None of the funding from CRS was fungible. That is, there is little to no risk of the grant funds being used either (i) for purposes outside those outlined in the grant request or (ii) for freeing up money in the receiving organization for immoral purposes by virtue of their having received the grant from CRS.

3. The NCBC found that there could be a risk of scandal over such partnerships if people become confused and wrongly assume that CRS was endorsing a partner’s position on other issues. To avoid any misunderstanding, such as the Lifesite news article, CRS worked with the Bishops and the NCBC to address this risk through internal and external communications on our work, and continues to do so. This is spelled out in a statement posted below our Mission Statement on our website, titled The Catholic Values of CRS:

The $5.3 million in question was used by CARE for water and sanitation programs in four Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), for food and nutrition programs, as well as water and sanitation in Madagascar; and for food and nutrition programs in Zimbabwe.

CRS does promote abstinence and Natural Family Planning as embraced by the Church. You can find more details at



  1. Brandon Vogt says:

    Thanks for clearly filling in the rest of the story!

    The fact that CRS sought moral guidance *last year* from the commendable National Catholic Bioethics Center, even before this controversy arose, should speak volumes to critics about CRS’s commitment to the Church’s moral teachings.

    I hope now the LifeSite authors and commenters, many of whom accused the bishops of heresy and CRS of murder, will retract their charges and issue an apology.

  2. Mark Mariska says:

    While I appreciate Mr. Rivera’s attempt to set the record straight about CRS’s involvement with CARE, I do not believe that he made a convincing case.

    After reading LifeSiteNews’ article, I researched every point by not only reviewing the cited information, but by going beyond. I also sought out the financial information on CRS and CARE, and looked into not only the programs that CARE is involved in, but also with whom they partner.

    How CARE conducts it’s business and who it works with reveals their true intentions far beyond what they publicly list. Not only should a look into the “Family Planning Programs” give CRS pause, but so too should some of the Foundations & individuals that fund CARE. There are several who are either highly critical of the Catholic church or vehemently opposed to the Church’s teachings.

    If CRS is “not in agreement with CARE’s policy on contraception”, then why give them any funding?

    CRS should not affiliate itself with ANY organization that provides services contrary to Church teaching, whether the money goes to those programs or not.

    CRS may not directly, “fund, support or participate in any programming or advocacy that is not in line with Church teaching, including artificial birth control”, but I would argue that it most certainly DOES free up resources to be used in that regard despite the conclusion reached by the NCBC. How can it not? Once the money is given, CRS has no control or claim over any program that CARE wishes to fund with the other donations that can now be used elsewhere.

    It would be like me giving money to a poor individual for food who happens to have an immoral addiction. Once they use the money to buy food, it frees up any other resources they have to continue the habit that I find objectionable.

    CRS may be able to perform verbal gymnastics to provide answers to the concerns raised by LifeSiteNews, but it makes for terrible publicity in the light of the USCCB’s fight over the HHS Mandate. The same morally wrong services that the current administration is trying to impose on the American Catholic church, are the same ones that CRS directly or indirectly makes possible abroad.

    How can I, as a faithful Catholic, continue to financially support CRS while at the same time back our Bishop’s efforts to block the HHS Mandate?

    I am sure that there are plenty of other Catholic entities and organizations that are true to the faith and worthy of our charity besides the “nonsectarian” organization that is “not affiliated with any particular religion or belief system”. (quoted from CARE’s FAQ page)

    Pope Benedict said it best when he was a Cardinal, “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”

    With that in mind, I can no longer support CRS. After many years as loyal supporters, my wife and I are withdrawing our monthly donation until there is a complete audit and accounting of where the money goes and CRS no longer directly or indirectly gives money to organizations that go against Church teaching.

    • John Rivera says:

      Dear Mr. Mariska,

      First I would like to thank you and your wife for your support of CRS over the years. Your regular monthly donations have enabled us to provide lifesaving help to the poorest of the poor around the world, including providing food, agricultural assistance, clean water and health services for mothers and young children that ensure families can live in better circumstances.

      We regret that you will no longer be contributing to our work. We deeply value supporters like you. But we respect your opinion. If I may, could I just clarify our position? First, I respect the fact that you don’t want us to have any relationship whatsoever with an organization that engages in activity not in accordance with Church teaching. But our work with CARE and other organizations is clearly permitted under Church teaching. In the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s audit of our work, it found that none of the grants provided by CRS constitutes support of or involvement in immoral activities. In the terminology of moral theology, there is no formal cooperation with evil, although there might be legitimate remote mediate material cooperation with evil, which is allowed according to the teaching of the Church for a strong justifying cause, in this case, it is delivering food or clean water to populations which could not be accomplished otherwise.

      Another example is that we sometimes work with the UN to accomplish our mission, as does the Vatican, which maintains permanent observer status at the UN and maintains a Permanent Observer Mission, currently led by Archbishop Francis Chulikatt.

      God bless you and your family, Fr. Mariska.

      John Rivera

  3. Bonnie Rodgers says:

    Dear John, Thank you for your insightful clarification. Every Catholic organization would be delighted if other organizations adhered to our teachings. Further, we must be vigilant, as I see that CRS was, that we do not support activities which violate our moral teachings. I am convinced that CRS was vigilant in this case and we cannot deny the good and necessary work of providing clean water and sanitation facilities in Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), along with funding for food and nutrition programs, water and sanitation in Madagascar; and for food/nutrition programs in Zimbabwe.
    Thank you.

  4. Maria Barrientos says:

    Thank you for clarification but I do agree with Mark Mariska. CRS must and should stop funding any agency that DO NOT agree with our church teachings. If funding is given, it is beyond CRS how it is spent/appropriated. CARE can even argue that no funding was allocated to contraception but STILL, if we fund CARE, CRS is STILL indirectly telling us Catholics that they are okay with the vision and mission of CARE. As Catholics, we don’t even to the slightest arguement. I do believe that the bishops are busy but it is our responsibility as Catholics to adhere to church magisterium. We have to stand up as Catholics. Bishops can not preach against contraception and on their behind people intrusted with allocating scare resources are not adhering to church teaching. Why give non-Catholics an idea that we do not have a solid understanding of the church teaching.

    • Lewis Tillis says:

      It is very hard to say that the funds given to CARE are not fungible. Of course they are because they really do free up other funds for use in other programs. Saying otherwise, but offering no proff, is insulting to our intelligence.

  5. John Beutler says:

    Years ago, I stopped donating to United Way because they told me that, even if I designated what my donation would be spent on, that would free up their regular funds for their anti-life activities that I opposed. This is exactly how CARE keeps funding anti-life organizations and immoral activities by using the millions from CRS to free up their regular funds for anti-life organizations and immoral activities. Why not cut off CARE completely and find or create alternative organizations that totally support Catholic teaching and the culture of life?

  6. James says:

    Dear CRS, it’s always bad business to “partner” with those who oppose your beliefs. Just look at the CARE website. They use the loaded term “family planning” frequently and that’s what I call a “clue”. I’ve donated much and now question the CRS’ judgment to not undermine our faith with my money.

  7. Zita Bennett says:

    This has been a troubling issue for many of faithful Catholics who support CRS. It is easy for us to criticize but most of us do not know or have a full understanding of what CRS does or who they must work with to get their job done. Some are saying that there are many charitable organizations that CRS could fund (to carry out the work of bringing water and sanitation, provide food and programs for nutrition) that do not also provide services for artificial contraception and abortion services. I’m just wondering how CRS would respond to that claim. Are there really many charitable organizations that do not provide services that are contrary to the teachings of the Church that CRS could work with that could provide the equivalent of work that is being done through CARE? As for me, I have no reason to doubt the committment of CRS to be faithful to the teachings of the Church as they carry out their mission.

  8. Deborah says:

    I am sorry, but this sounds exactly like the problems the Catholic Campaign for Human Development had and still has. I can not give any more of my money to Catholic organizations that fund other organizations that promote contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage…no mater what the CRS or CCHD intentions are! It’s just like giving money to Susan G. Komen who gives grants to Planned Parenthood supposedly to do breast exams….the trouble is PP does not do mammograms and they can use the money any way they want. This is just crazy. Sorry CRS I won’t be contributing.

  9. Will says:

    I give to CRS via my Parish every year and sometimes direct. It is time for every agency that claims to be with Holy Mother Church to stop working against her and siding with evil. If CRS is working against the Church, then I will stop giving and try to get everyone I know to stop supporting what can only be called a name only catholic agency…

  10. […] postings on its website July 20 and July 24, the U.S. bishops’ international development and relief agency explained […]