WASHINGTON (RNS) U.S. Catholic bishops rebuked conservative critics of Catholic Relief Services, flatly denying charges the group has wavered in its commitment to church teachings on contraception and abortion.

Farmers and war widows tend peanut plants in Uganda. The seeds were provided by Catholic Relief Services as religious leaders of all stripes take the lead in promoting reconciliation in the war-torn country. Religion News Service photo courtesy Debbie DeVoe/CRS

Farmers and war widows tend peanut plants in Uganda. The seeds were provided by Catholic Relief Services as religious leaders of all stripes take the lead in promoting reconciliation in the war-torn country. Religion News Service photo courtesy Debbie DeVoe/CRS

The defense of the international relief agency came in a strongly worded statement released on the first day of the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ administrative committee Wednesday (Sept. 11).

“The U.S. Catholic bishops stand firmly behind CRS in its commitment to promote and defend human dignity and the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception until natural death, and at every moment in between,” the bishops said in a statement.

The humanitarian agency has tried to fend off a coordinated attack by conservative critics who charge it works too closely with groups that support family planning policies.

CRS served more than 100 million people in 91 countries last year, promoting education and relieving poverty — an “extraordinary witness to the Gospel of life,” the bishops said.

Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. operations with CRS, said the bishops’ endorsement buoyed the organization.

“Many members of our staff globally have expressed deep gratitude that the bishops have publicly affirmed their support for our work on their behalf,” Rosenhauer said.

On the same day the bishops released their statement, LifeSiteNews called for the bishops to dissolve CRS, citing a recently released report from the Population Research Institute, an anti-abortion, nonprofit research group. Among other accusations, the report charges that CRS staff in Madagascar undermined local bishops and funded organizations that support contraception and abortion — charges CRS denied.

Critics have also taken issue with CRS management of a grant from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to supply bed nets for an anti-malaria project in Guinea. CRS distributed the funds to groups selected by the Global Fund, including Population Services International, an organization that supports contraception.

CRS said that the funds for PSI were clearly designated for malaria prevention and that CRS does not support projects involving contraception or abortion.

“Catholic values and teaching are the guideposts that direct our paths to bring God’s love to those in greatest need,” CRS has stated in response to its critics.


  1. Naturally the bishops are going to rebuke those who challenge them about inflicting their notions of faith and morals onto others who have a right to use the hospitals or other “Catholic Charities” facilities managed by the church but paid for with public dollars. It’s long past the time when those services should no longer be referred to as “Catholic Charities” because they are neither Catholic nor charitable–no more so, for instance, than any other hospitals or orphanages that also exist because of public support.

    Even “Catholic” food pantries obtain lots of public funding to support their operations. It’s the traditional arrogance of the Catholic Church to presume it can force everyone to think, believe, and act according to its strictures. One must ask, in what enterprises would the church involve itself if it could not use those enterprises for forceful evangelization? The Catholic Church still has not outgrown its monarchical attitude when it ruled Europe, led crusades against the Muslims, and conducted the tyrannical Inquisitions against its own people.

    Francis! Where are you when we need you so desperately. Make your rulings, call another council, and then get out of the way and let national groups of bishops, dioceses, and parishes manage their own affairs.

  2. While the Catholic bishops and other Catholic groups fight over aspects of faith, morals, and practices among themselves, again, it is important for all these groups to recognize that the so-called “extraordinary witness to the Gospel of life” they claim to represent is not a witness to life when they ignore known and proper preventions of the spread of AIDS or other STDs even if that prevention means contraception to avoid the death, illness, or harm to life of sexual partners–married or unmarried.

    The U.S. Catholic bishops and their suppliant groups act as if the bishops hold a royal status and all others owe and are obliged to pay obeisance to that status. These “fights,” of course, are caused by different interpretations of values and practices. Bishops do not deserve to have their episcopal rings kissed by anyone. That is outmoded royalty, and bishops are not royal. We have no royalty–except possibly the Koch brothers and their ilk.

    Saddest of all is that neither the bishops nor any of these Catholic groups who are fighting over their differeing interpretations of faith, morals, or practices are really performing their so-called “Gospel of life” on their own dime. They could not even exist, much less do what they are doing without the money of others. That includes government money, big time.

    All this shows so clearly the can of worms that has been historically suffered every single time religion and politics, church and government, sleep in the same bed. The framers of our Constitution recognized that. They knew their history. And the very first clause of their very first amendment to their constitutional work was to require the separation of church and state.

    Now, we must still convince all the radical, uncaring parts of the present Republican Party that separation is absolutely valuable and seriously helping those in genuine need is a value that deserves representation in our laws and budgets–but, without mingling religion and government. It is good for individuals and for the whole body politic no matter how religious or non-religious anyone may be.

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