Catholic Relief Services has worked for decades with the government of the United States in bringing lifesaving humanitarian aid to millions of impoverished people around the world. CRS is the largest private distributor of U.S. food aid, which has helped generations of children receive the nutrition they need to thrive. There are numerous success stories of children who later became leaders in education, government, health care and humanitarian work who grew up on hot lunches provided by CRS through U.S. food aid.
Periodically, questions are raised about whether it is acceptable for Catholic humanitarian organizations to accept government funds given the fact that the government also funds family planning programs. Those questions emerged once again with the release of Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter, “On the Service of Charity,” released in December 2012. In an interview with Catholic News Service in December 2012, Msgr. Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, attempted to clear up any confusion.
Msgr. Dal Toso states that, for projects and programs that conform to Catholic teaching, Pope Benedict’s apostolic letter would not prevent agencies like CRS “from taking money from national or local governments that fund, promote or permit practices condemned by the church, such as abortion or contraception” (Catholic News Service, 12/6/2012).
Church teaching holds that both governments and the Church have an important role to play in responding to poverty and promoting the common good, a key tenet of Catholic social teaching, and that Catholics hasve a responsibility as citizens and taxpayers to support those roles and actively participate in civic life.
It is the task of the state to provide for the defense and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Just as in the time of primitive capitalism the state had the duty of defending the basic rights of workers, so now, with the new capitalism, the state and all of society have the duty of defending those collective goods which, among others, constitute the essential framework for the legitimate pursuit of personal goals on the part of each individual. (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus 40)