Catholic Relief Services, an organization of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a pro-life organization dedicated to preserving the sacredness and dignity of human life from conception to natural death. Every aspect of our work is to help life flourish. We are resolute in our commitment to the Church and its teaching.
Over the past months, CRS has been the target of a coordinated series of attacks, condemning aspects of our work, our partners, professional associations, and even some of our employees. We want to be clear that we are open to and welcome correction, presented to us by people and organizations who offer it in the spirit of Christian charity and with the intention of helping us to live the Gospel mission of serving the poorest of the poor around the world. In substance and tone, these recent unrelenting attacks are not helpful. They attempt to cause division in the Body of Christ. This is harmful to the Church and to the pro-life cause.
It is true that CRS works with groups which do not share our Catholic values. We employ non-Catholics as well as Catholics. We belong to coalitions which extend the reach of services to the poor often in remote areas where we do not operate. We are members of professional associations so as to obtain information and technological advances so that we are best prepared to serve those who are in our care. When these associations offer programs which run contrary to Church teachings, we do not participate. Our membership in these coalitions gives us a platform to present effective methods and procedures that demonstrate the efficacy of Catholic approaches to health and family planning. These are our opportunities to make space in the public for the Catholic viewpoint and to witness to our faith.
Learn how CRS is advancing the Church’s mission around the world by reading our document Catholic Teaching in Action or by going to Faith Counts, which provides a visual and statistical summary of our work.
For our supporters who have questions, here are some of our responses to the recent criticism of our work:
CRS’ Work with Other Organizations
Like many Catholic organizations that engage with the wider secular world, CRS sometimes works with organizations that hold positions contrary to Catholic teachings. Among these are the United States government and the United Nations. We see this work as a positive and powerful aspect of our witness to our Catholic faith, as we bring our Catholic outlook and values in dialogue with a variety of people and groups who otherwise would not be exposed to them. We have seen positive results from this engagement, such as Natural Family Planning being considered by other organizations, and our Abstinence and Be Faithful approach to HIV prevention gaining respect in the wider health community.
We only work with such partners on programs that are consistent with Church teaching. To ensure that we are following Church teaching, we seek the advice of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and other Catholic ethical experts. Our board and leaders set our policies and practices in light of this guidance and Catholic moral teaching. We clearly state this on our web site. Find responses to questions raised about CRS’ relationship to CARE, the CORE Group, MEDiCAM, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and our partners in Mexico.
CRS hires a diverse staff to provide the highest levels of professional services to the poor around the world. Although not all of our staff are Catholic, they do receive, as part of their orientation, instruction on Catholic teaching and its manifestation in our work. Our staff carries out the work of CRS with excellence and compassion while adhering to the tenets of Catholic teaching. We also see this as a powerful part of our Catholic witness, as we expose employees, who may have previously worked in agencies that engaged in objectionable practices, to the Catholic way of doing humanitarian work. Find responses to questions raised about specific members of our staff.
CRS Resources and Materials
Over the past few years, CRS has produced thousands of documents related to our work, some of which tell our story for a general audience and many others of which are more technical and are aimed at a specialized professional audience. These are written by technical experts on our staff or consultants. All of these documents go through a review process, but sometimes mistakes slip by an editor reading hundreds of pages of text. When that happens, we want to hear about it and correct it.
We were recently made aware of a document on HIV prevention among drug users in Vietnam that contained some unacceptable references to condoms. That document was taken out of circulation. To be thorough, we are reviewing all of our documents that mention condoms and have temporarily removed them from the website while we conduct this review to ensure that any additional mistakes are rectified immediately. Some of those documents, particularly those produced prior to the revision of our HIV guidelines last year, contain language related to condoms that was permitted at the time, but which is no longer permitted under revised guidelines developed with the USCCB in our ongoing effort to ensure that we are fully consistent with Church teaching. Under these guidelines, some CRS documents will continue to mention condoms: that is, they will give scientifically accurate information about condoms (including failure rates) as part of an explanation that abstinence and fidelity are the best methods for avoiding infection and preventing transmission of the virus. Find responses to questions raised about specific documents.