The Two Masks of Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services is back in the news, this time for charges related to a sex ed program it implemented for the federal government in Kenya. Since such headlines are no longer surprising, some background may be helpful before considering this most recent case.

In trying to understand the ongoing controversy regarding “the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States,” there are two primary ways one might err. The first would be to deny that Catholic Relief Services does an incredible amount of good in bringing aid to the poor around the world. The second would be to argue that because CRS does so much good work, good Catholics must look away when questions are raised about how some of its work is done, and with whom CRS partners to do this work.

Indeed, by the light of the Church’s moral and social doctrine, it matters every bit how CRS’s good work is done. In late January CRS announced, somewhat quietly, that the organization has launched a new course in Catholic identity for all CRS employees, revised guidelines for CRS managers and directors on working with other organizations, and a new “Advisory Committee on Catholic Identity, or ACCI, to serve as a sounding board for the understanding and application of moral theology broadly across the agency.”

These promising developments are likely an effort to bridge the odd but unmistakable divide between how CRS’s mission and its fundraising divisions treat the Faith that motivates their work. Those of us who receive CRS’s fundraising pitches (this writer is a former donor) or who have visited CRS’s website in the last few years are likely to see a clear identification with the Church. On the mission delivery and secular communications side of the organization, however, CRS takes a different tack: It apparently takes pride in not sharing the Gospel and in not preferentially hiring Catholics to do the Catholic charity’s work, and it partners with organizations who together spend billions annually on immoral, and often coercive, means of population control.

CRS’s critics and supporters alike should welcome the faith-related policy developments, though those who have followed CRS’s statements over the last few years might wonder why such measures were necessary. This may be why almost no one has heard about the new policies—they amount to a tacit admission that there are problems, despite many public statements to the contrary from CRS. Even with this announcement, however, CRS has further steps to take toward accountability, which include publicly correcting its seriously flawed statements explaining away its problematic activities and questioning the motives of their critics, which they did with frustrating regularity.

Though the organization I represent, Human Life International, was not the most vocal of CRS’s critics (the majority of our efforts were in private meetings), our reputation has been harmed by CRS’s attacks on the motives of those—including American Life League, Population Research Institute, and now the Lepanto Institute—who brought their concerns to the public after private outreach failed to reach a satisfactory outcome. And since our most recent requests to meet and discuss problems with proper authorities have not been successful, we make our concerns public here and call for a correction on the record even as we welcome CRS’s commitment to renew its policies and Catholic identity.

Good Work, Strange Policies
Catholic Relief Services has rightly been recognized by many as an excellent provider of humanitarian assistance, often in very precarious and dynamic situations. Serving persecuted Christians in the Middle East, typhoon victims in the Philippines, and displaced families all over the developing world, CRS workers courageously perform corporal works of mercy for those most in need. CRS does this work with somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 employees and contractors working in as many as 90 countries at a given time, and with an annual budget that ranges between 600 million and 900 million dollars annually (823 million in 2011, 701 million in 2012, just over 600 million in 2013).

If your response here is to wonder how it could be possible to count that many nickels and dimes piled into “rice bowls” every year, you needn’t worry: In 2013 (a typical year, percentagewise), only around 3 percent of CRS’s revenue came from Catholics in the pews via the annual collection and rice bowl campaign. 70 percent of its revenue and donated services came from the federal government and another 10 percent or so came from private foundations that, while not listed in the latest published financial reports, in the past has included organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The remainder primarily comes from investment revenue and other standard fundraising such as mailings and events.

Although CEO Carolyn Woo’s $460,000 annual salary (2013) places her safely within the top 1 percent of earners nationally, she at least worked hard for her compensation. What is harder to understand is why, two years after his departure, former CEO Ken Hackett was in 2013 still being paid $469,000 by CRS, ostensibly as remedy for previous “undercompensation.”

Now this might seem like a lot of money for a Catholic charity to give a person who no longer works for the organization, but before we judge, we must realize that in his last full year of employment with CRS (2010), Mr. Hackett made only $380,000.

Many readers will recognize the name: in 2013 Mr. Hackett was appointed ambassador to the Vatican of the most inarguably pro-abortion and pro-same-sex-“marriage” administration in the history of the United States—and arguably the one most hostile to religious freedom. Mr. Hackett, who is often credited with modernizing and growing Catholic Relief Services as its CEO for over two decades, set the charity on its current course as a majority-federal-funded NGO with the magnanimity to overlook the problematic missions of many of its funders and grant recipients.

Questionable remuneration policies aside, it is unclear why more people don’t find perplexing the fact that for every dollar given by Catholics in the pews, CRS annually receives more than 20 from the federal government, and three from private foundations, many of who don’t simply disagree with the Church on her moral and social doctrine, but who spend billions forwarding their worldview. Those of us who work in the field of international pro-life missionary work actually find this fact troubling: CRS receives the vast majority of its very large annual budget from a government and from private organizations that together spend billions annually suppressing fertility in the developing world, and who argue that this longstanding and well known injustice is actually a moral imperative of the development and aid industry. That these organizations can honestly claim longstanding and positive relationships with the Catholic Church undermines the Church’s just criticisms of their unjust assaults on the poor, causing scandal and confusion when Catholics such as those with HLI point out who is paying so much money to stop poor women from having children.

While one cannot in fairness assume that CRS collectively shares the corrupt philosophy of those who fund the majority of its work, is it really unreasonable to ask what compromises, if any, might be necessary in order to keep their funders happy?

Proud Not to Evangelize

We assist people of all backgrounds and religions and we do not attempt to engage in discussions of faith. We’re proud of that. We like to say that we assist everybody because we’re Catholic, we don’t assist people to become Catholic. — CRS spokesman George O’Keefe

Embedded not too deeply in Mr. O’Keefe’s explication of CRS’s policy of non-evangelization is a false dichotomy: In order to conduct charitable service one must either set aside her faith altogether or she must require of the recipient of charity some religious purity test. But surely there is an entire range of other possibilities, isn’t there? The person who, as Pope Benedict XVI envisioned in Deus Caritas est, sees her charitable work as a vocation, participates fully in the sacramental life of the Church and through ongoing orthodox formation in social and moral doctrine can surely serve a brother or sister of any faith or none at all with eyes of love, with the hands of Christ, without demanding conversion or pretending as if the Gospel was somehow off limits.

Maybe we should cut Mr. O’Keefe some slack: At the time he was speaking to a reporter for CNN’s “Belief” blog, not to CRS donors.

In fact, as a federal grant recipient, CRS cannot preferentially hire Catholics (never mind Catholics who know and abide by the Church’s social and moral doctrine) for the majority of its projects, even for positions where moral decisions are paramount. So one is left to ask: in what sense, exactly, is an organization whose public funding dwarfs its Catholic funding, and which cannot preferentially hire Catholics, practicing uniquely and authentically Catholic charity? Isn’t this exactly the recipe for compromise of Catholic identity that the Church has warned about since at least Blessed Paul VI?

Her activity, forgetful of all spiritual and religious preoccupation, would become initiatives of the political or social order. But if this were so, the Church would lose her fundamental meaning. (Evangeli nuntiandi 32)

The Church has always set a much higher bar than simply doing humanitarian work as an NGO, and every one of Blessed Paul VI’s successors has become more emphatic about this clear premise over the years. Although the clearest theological expression of this truth is in the second section of Pope Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas est, the most emphatic of the recent pontiffs has certainly been Pope Francis, who has said at least three times that the Catholic Church “is not an NGO!” The Holy Father was clearly not saying that the Church cannot provide organized service to those most in need—he was saying, they have been saying, that the Church does this essential work differently than other humanitarian enterprises.

Frankly, one cannot deny this basic truth of the Church’s social doctrine any more than he can deny that Catholic Relief Services has consistently, explicitly rejected the premise in policy while embracing it in its Catholic-directed public relations and marketing materials.

This is the divide inside CRS. To insist, as a matter of policy and a concession to its majority funders, that the primary charitable agency of the Catholic Church in the United States not proclaim the Gospel as she serves the poor, while ensuring that the majority of those actually implementing projects are not Catholic, is to concede in a clear and dramatic way that the work being done is in no way distinctly Catholic. And to claim, as CRS has several times, that their good work is still in some important (but undefined) way authentically Catholic is to beg the question: then what development work isn’t, and how specifically is CRS truly different from those doing good work who are clearly not Catholic?

In responding to such questions in the past, CRS has rather defensively pointed to certain pages on its website that outline its Catholic beliefs or to articles by its leadership in Catholic media. This is all fine, but in this era of omnipresent video and unrestricted access to online publications, is there still not a single instance of CRS’s experts making the case for what the Catholic Church calls “authentic, integral human development” in industry journals and other forums that reject Catholic social and moral doctrine? That is, when even your funders publicly claim that abortion and contraception are “pillars of human development,” where is that article or video directly challenging this destructive error in the secular venues of the development industry?

We anxiously await this first, though one would think obvious, public demonstration of Catholic authenticity outside the Catholic bubble. Nor is this some merely theological distinction for those “rigid” and “uncompassionate” theologians who still bother to insist that the Church’s praxis must not contradict her doctrine. The practical consequences of CRS’s policy of restricting its Catholic identity to its own website, fundraising appeals and other safe venues go beyond its failure to publicly confront the evils of its partners in the development industry.

Spinning Partnerships
The donor who wants to know where CRS spends its grant money may be satisfied by the published annual report, which highlights a couple of worthwhile sounding projects from the regions where CRS works. But if she wants to see where exactly the dollars went, she will have to make an extra effort. CRS’s grantees are not listed in its published financial reports, nor even in its most recent 990 forms, which list hundreds of individual projects by region and category (education, HIV, etc.), but oddly leave blank the fields for funded organizations. This wasn’t always the case—it was a decision made after critics challenged CRS on a series of grants given to organizations that promote abortion and contraception as “reproductive health.” A look at a few of these challenges may help one understand this particular change in CRS policy.

CRS is (or was, it is difficult to say) a dues-paying member of MEDiCAM, a consortium of various organizations who work together to fight HIV/AIDS and improve ”reproductive health.” In 2012, critics pointed out that a CRS staff representative was on the MEDiCAM steering committee that created a paper that, among other problematic recommendations, advocated for “more training on abortion skill to health providers.” It is not clear whether CRS’s representative on the MEDiCAM committee, Dr. Sok Pun, who was known to promote contraception before working with CRS, completed the course on Catholic doctrine that CRS requires of all of its employees. In response to the revelations, CRS oddly omitted any reference to its staff member participating in the drafting of the problematic document, claimed that the only risk was one of “scandal” (misrepresenting its critics’ charges), and argued that its “critical work [in Cambodia] would be hampered if we did not belong” to the organization. Perhaps so, but at the very least one would expect a position statement from CRS separating itself from the obviously destructive recommendations. Until critics raised the issues, there was on the record only CRS’s credit on the committee, and fungible dues paid to an organization that consistently argues for increased access to abortion.

In 2012 it also came to light that CRS paid dues for its membership in COREgroup, another collection of organizations whose concern is reproductive and child health, in which CRS’s employees have held positions on the board of directors and its HIV/AIDS Working Group. You won’t be surprised at this point to learn that COREgroup, like every single other secular group of its kind in the world, promotes contraception as an essential element of “family planning.” When concerns were raised, CRS’s response again said more about its own philosophy than what it did with the group. With characteristic and strategic understatement, CRS acknowledged that other COREgroup members “do not uphold all tenets of Catholic teaching,” glossing over the fact that the group itself collectively promotes contraception. Its literal cooperation in this essential aspect of COREgroup’s work through paying of fungible dues shouldn’t be seen as a problem, but rather as “a means of demonstrating faithfulness to Catholic teaching.” CRS is still a dues-paying member of COREgroup, according to the group’s web site.

There was quite a stir in 2008 when CRS was forced to admit that it was promoting condom use in Zambia when moral philosopher Germain Grisesz made the charge publicly. After admitting the error, CRS—in the same statement—said that it “doesn’t promote condoms.” But when CRS was found again in 2012 to be the publisher of several documents that promoted condom use, CRS thanked LifeSiteNews for making them aware of “a document” that did not conform to its policy of not promoting condoms, then proceeded to delete all seven problematic documents from its websites.

At a certain point, one begins to notice a pattern: CRS’s public statements always seem to misrepresent the charges, they defend themselves against charges that haven’t been made, and make claims that only raise more questions, assuming (sadly, with good reason) that most will not look into the charges for themselves. This strategy, if it can be called a strategy, is perhaps most clear in how it handled questions raised about its relationship with CARE International.

CARE’s president urged President Obama in 2009 to revoke the Mexico City Policy (which prevents funding groups that promote abortion abroad). CARE consistently and openly supports all “reproductive rights,” but nowhere more than in its commitment to the Gates Foundation-led Family Planning 2020 (a 4.6 billion dollar effort to get 120 million poor women in Africa and Asia to start using long acting reversible contraceptives by the year 2020). Having given 5.3 million dollars to the contraception- and abortion-promoting organization in 2010 and 13.8 million in 2012, a CRS spokesman explained that the funded projects themselves were worthy (indeed, one project was for water treatment), and they “mitigate the risk of scandal by ensuring that our Catholic identity is very clear in the way we present ourselves, including on the home page of our website, which has a section that responds to questions about our partnerships like those raised by Lifesite News,” he added.

In response to criticism of the 2009 CARE grant, the widely respected National Catholic Bioethics Center performed an analysis of the grant, finding that there was little or no risk of material cooperation with evil, since the funds given were sequestered for the intended purpose. It was also determined by the NCBC that because of CARE’s consistent advocacy for abortion and contraception, that scandal would be “unavoidable,” and that if CRS were to keep working with CARE, it must publicly distance itself from CARE’s advocacy of abortion and contraception. CRS added language to its website indicating its pride in its Catholic identity, but no public condemnation of CARE’s position was ever issued in a place where CARE would have to deal with it.

Is CRS still funding the legitimate projects of CARE and others who promote abortion and contraception as a boon for “women’s health?” In response to a reporter’s recent inquiry, CRS published a partial list of its 2013 partners—those grantees based in the United States—and CARE International is mentioned as having again received over 7 million dollars from the Catholic agency. Apparently still on the list also is Population Services International (PSI), a population control group that hires and trains abortionists among its efforts as an abortion and contraception marketing company. PSI learned in the late 1980s that adding legitimate projects like malaria prevention programs would help its image. Of course, PSI admits, its anti-malaria efforts give it an opportunity to promote “reproductive health,” which includes abortion and contraception. The CRS grant was for an anti-malaria program.

One would think that the last people on earth that a Catholic agency would want to lead a malaria prevention program is one that admits that is uses inroads gained through malaria prevention to promote abortion. But CRS stands by this decision, arguing that they were “instructed by the donor to work with PSI in Guinea,” the donor being the (very pro-contraception, anti-HIV organization) Global Fund. So it’s not like CRS had a choice in the matter, and regardless, they took measures to ensure that in this case PSI did not promote abortion, like PSI does everywhere else they work. What happens when the grant is over and PSI is now seen as a health authority and partner of the Catholic Church by several new partners and communities? Apparently that’s not CRS’s problem.

This is where CRS’s denials most clearly exhibit a disconnect with the reality of the modern development and aid industry. CARE, PSI and many other CRS partners don’t simply fail to (note CRS’s wording here) “uphold all tenets of Catholic teaching,” but together spend hundreds of millions to stop poor women from having children, often through abortion. Except for CRS and a very small handful of players, the entire industry has accepted the “overpopulation” premise, and now integrate immoral and unethical population control measures with what would often seem to be the most worthy projects. The Church has known for decades that this is exactly how they get poor countries to accept population control—by hiding the bad within the good! This is why CRS’s grossly inadequate denials and explanations of its many problems cause as much concern as the revelations of the problems themselves.

One also can no longer find which private foundations fund CRS on its published financial documents. In previous years, this list included groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—the single largest funder and promoter of contraception (including abortifacient methods) in the world.

Last Verse, Same as the First
When CRS watchdog Michael Hichborn (then with American Life League, now with the Lepanto Institute) last summer privately presented evidence to CRS of problems with a series of federally funded sex education programs CRS implemented in Kenya, the charity’s Baltimore leadership contacted its partners in Kenya to investigate. The CRS investigation, of course, concluded that the charges were baseless: Apparently all of the official federal grant reports—from the initial grant request all the way through implementation report—incorrectly showed that CRS applied for and won the grant in question, then implemented, tracked, and later revised the programs that included promotion of contraception and other problematic elements. So, at CRS’ request, their federal funders changed the documents to remove mention of the problematic programs.

This has already been a very long article, so you are invited to fact check the report on the matter published by Population Research Institute, which covers in exhaustive detail why CRS’s denial is so utterly improbable. The mathematical probability of all of the government and partner documents being in error is, shall we say, remote, so it is remarkable and disconcerting that CRS was actually able to get its federal partners to change the grant documents online, without noting the changes in the documents. When the PRI/Lepanto report was disseminated, CRS hastily issued another denial, this one again misrepresenting the charges made against them and containing claims that undermine previous CRS statements, especially the new admission that CRS did in fact implement Healthy Choices 2, a project that CRS had removed from its federal partners’ reports on CRS work (see here), since its inclusion as part of the SAIDA project had been an “error.”

Next Steps
It was predicted because it was predictable. When around 75 percent of a Catholic organization’s funding comes from those who not only happen to disagree with the Church on certain issues, but who spend billions pursuing ends that are hostile to Catholic doctrine and to true human flourishing, problems will ensue. This rather obvious point is why Pope Benedict XVI issued his 2012 motu proprio, On the Service of Charity, which added to Canon Law provisions related to bishops’ management of charities that operate under their authority. With what one would think is a fairly clear directive in article 10, paragraph 3, the Holy Father sought to bring to an end a longstanding wrong turn for certain Catholic charities:

In particular, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that charitable agencies dependent upon him do not receive financial support from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to Church teaching. Similarly, lest scandal be given to the faithful, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that these charitable agencies do not accept contributions for initiatives whose ends, or the means used to pursue them, are not in conformity with the Church’s teaching.

This is now in Canon Law, yet it is not clear that it has been implemented, for reasons that are not entirely clear. As a reason for the delay in enforcement some point to a “clarification” issued soon after the release of the document, in which a secretary for Cor Unum said that the Holy Father did not intend “institutions” to refer to governments or private institutions whose opposition to the Church was not apparent in its statutes.

One finds this claim odd, since this interpretation would allow funding from some of the worst organizations in the world, few of whom state their worst practices in their statutes, rendering the passage basically meaningless. But in lieu of a further and more authoritative clarification, this is where things stand.

Again we must affirm that it is beyond question that CRS does a great deal of good work, often in very difficult circumstances. They undoubtedly have many staff who are passionate about doing good work and their significant effort to ensure that CRS’s Catholic identity is evident in ways beyond its fundraising and communications departments should be welcomed by all.

In justice it is also necessary, however, not simply to pursue internal policy changes, but to publicly acknowledge why such changes were necessary, including a good faith effort to correct problematic statements that remain on the record, and to apologize for questioning the motives and integrity of those who risked their reputations by publicly challenging CRS after private outreach proved fruitless. I am sure that such an effort would be met with a response of optimism for the direction CRS is taking, and would go far toward bringing together groups who should be working together to stand against the Culture of Death, and to build a Culture of Life.

Stephen Phelan


Stephen Phelan is the Director of Mission Communications at Human Life International.

  • ForChristAlone

    “…how it could be possible to count that many nickels and dimes piled into “rice bowls” every year, you needn’t worry: In 2013 (a typical year, percentagewise), only around 3 percent of CRS’s revenue came from Catholics in the pews via the annual collection and rice bowl campaign. 70 percent of its revenue and donated services came from the federal government and another 10 percent or so came from private foundations that, while not listed in the latest published financial reports, in the past has included organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. ”

    When will Catholics come to their senses and force – yes, force – CRS to dissolve? Why? Because they are NOT a Catholic agency and haven’t been for quite some time. This is the fault of the bishops who have allowed various USCCB agencies (to wit, CCHD) to expand over time and with little or no oversight. CRS and like minded agencies have been hijacking the Church for decades and Catholics are asleep at the wheel.

    If nothing else, because of their funding, CRS is an agency of the Federal Government. Let’s end this incestuous relationship now. But it will take balls on the part of our bishops to finally do something about this crap.

  • William Murphy

    CRS is plainly an extreme example of a phenomenon which we in England have seen with phoney charities. Several well known “charities” in Britain take public money. Obviously, by that very fact, they instantly cease to be charities, even if they retain the fig leaf of charitable status in law.

    The whole point of charitable giving is that it is done voluntarily. Once you start taking state money, you are accepting money extorted by law from citizens.

    Worse still, state funding is far more influential than even a very wealthy donor’s lavish gifts. The state has access to far more funds than any individual, controls the patronage and cooperation of its numerous agencies and enjoys massive coercive power. The sort of lavishly paid CEOs who run large “charities” will be far more influenced by 5% of government funding than 95% of private citizen funding.

    So by “donating” 5% of an organisation’s funding, a state effectively controls 100% of its expenditure and policies. Any genuine donations from private individuals become simply voluntary tax money. And a charity’s most precious asset, its independence, vanishes like a puff of smoke.

    And, if the government provides over half of CRS’ income, the church becomes simply a voluntary tax collector by passing the plate around.

    • Seamrog

      A thousand times, THIS.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      The payment of tithes was a legal obligation for over a thousand years, beginning with an ordinance made by Charlemagne as King of the Franks, in a general assembly of his Estates, spiritual and temporal, in 778-779. The ordinance was in the following terms : “Concerning tithes, it is ordained that every man give his tithe, and that they be dispensed according to the bishop’s commandment.”

      A Capitular for Saxony in 789 appointed tithes to be paid out of all public property, and that all men, “whether noble, or gentle, or of lower degree,” should “give according to God’s commandment, to the churches and priests, of their substance and labour : as God has given to each Christian, so ought he to repay a part to God.”’

      A Capitular of 800 made the payment of tithes universal within the fiscal domain of the whole Frankish kingdom. We are told the reading of this Capitular was interrupted by loud and repeated shouts from Pope Leo IV and the assembled clergy of “Life and victory to our ever-august Emperor!”

      From this time onwards, therefore, we may say the civil law superseded any merely spiritual admonitions as to the payment of tithes. Their payment was no longer a religious duty alone; it was a legal obligation, enforceable by the laws of the civil head of Christendom.

      • William Murphy

        Thanks so much, Michael. If a modern government insisted that everyone paid x% of his or her income to the clergy, I am sure the clergy would respond with cheers even louder than those in 800. In fact, the German Government does something similar with its church tax, but citizens can declare their withdrawal from a church and avoid the tax.

      • Michael S.

        The whole picture must be presented. The Catholic Church had a strong and direct moral AND political influence on the government equal to that of the nobles. Today…..not so much. Therefore, the notion that this historical reference is somehow pertinent to the situation that the article is addressing is lacking in analogical weight. Somehow the term “taxation without representation” rings a bell.

        • Jim H.

          Today, the United States Federal Government often goes out of its way to defy the moral teaching of the Catholic Church. This is why forced taxation as a form of “charity” is immoral.

  • Eamonn McKeown

    Repealing the 16th Amendment is my fantasy solution to such things. Alas.

    • People have no idea what damage that assault on subsidiarity that action wrought on the states, municipalities, the Church, the family, voluntary and fraternal organizaions and the family.

      • ForChristAlone

        A priest on the take with CRS gave a day-long presentation recently in our diocese which was nothing short of an apologetic for CRS. Besides the usual “social justice” crap these people endlessly spout, there was (as you might have already imagined) tremendous effort expended on the topic of solidarity. And guess what, not a single mention of subsidiarity. CRS amounts to a bunch of frauds getting rich in the “poverty industry” (not unlike the leftists currently in power who have perfected the model). The fact that Ms Woo makes more than $400,000 is an ecclesial disgrace. Why, not even Pope Francis makes that much money and he’s the head of a Church with over a billion people.

        CRS does good work – just like UNICEF, Susan B Komen, The International Red Cross. But they are NOT Catholic.

        • “tremendous effort expended on the topic of solidarity. And guess what, not a single mention of subsidiarity.”

          We are again reminded that heresy isn’t the absence of truth, but its exagerration.

        • GG

          As is said if one only emphasizes one part of a truth, and is silent on the other parts, then one turns the truth into a lie.

  • Dick Prudlo

    My parish gives nothing to CRS, and that is too much

  • Don

    A very interesting article. My wife left her protestant church some years ago because it spent money like CRS and didn’t wish to evangelize . . . because if might offend people. Where ever there is money to be had and a conscience to be relieved of any guilt . . .

  • FrankW

    There are far too many Catholics, including many clerics, who believe that supporting government legislation to help the poor constitutes fulfilling one’s duty as a Catholic to minster to the needy. This has led to disastrous results, including those we have seen in the last few years where many Catholic organizations welcomed the concept of government control over the health insurance and health care services, only to be bitten later when they realize that this same government is ready to force them into violating their religious beliefs or be fined out of existence.

    How much more of this is necessary before Catholic organizations (and the Catholic Church in the US) realize that they MUST sever their ties with the government completely, regardless of how much money that will cost them, if they wish to maintain faithfulness to the Catholic Church?

    As for CRS, this article reminds me once again of why I have always lacked enthusiasm for them. Yes, they do much good, but it is also apparent that label “Catholic” does not mean what it should to their organization. They either need to disband completely, or drop the label “Catholic”.

    • “There are far too many Catholics, including many clerics, who believe that supporting government legislation to help the poor constitutes fulfilling one’s duty as a Catholic to minster to the needy. ”
      And doing so without ever questioning the authenticity, efficacy or efficiency of these programs.

      • Jim H.

        They are essentially Pagans, when they reject the core Church teachings on Life when they support a government who goes out of its way to defy, undermine and attack the Church.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    CRS is NOT a Catholic organization if most ifs money is SEIZED by the federal government in the form of taxes. The magnificent religious (so often women) who ran immense and unapologetically Catholic international charities are gone gone gone.

    • pbecke

      I think they mean, ‘catholic’ with a small ‘c’. But seemingly a duplicitous recourse in the context..

      Gates’ tie-up with Monsanto, Novartis and the abortifacient contraceptives in Africa should set every alarm bell ringing.

  • Mongo

    CRS typifies the situation evolving when substantial funding emanates from organizations hostile to Church Doctrine, in the name of much more effectively effecting Charity with the largesse coming their way. The price is too high, the evil implicit in the funding from and cooperation with these agencies outweighing the good otherwise done. It’s a hard teat to relinquish, funding so very much of what comprises Catholic Charity’s otherwise licit and moral – good – efforts. This support comes with fishhooks which are very difficult to remove once dependence on them has become routine, indeed essential to otherwise good Charitable efforts. The price is too high as are, apparently, the salaries of the major officials of the organization.

  • St JD George

    This was very timely Stephen and I thank you for your informative article. I had not researched and was unaware of the politics behind the mission at CRS. Our Parish does participate and we were dutifully collecting change to contribute. Makes me sad and I plan to take up with my Pastor. It touches on a theme in Anthony Esolen’s book about the spirit of charitable giving – when it ceases being personal and becomes impersonal by just handing over hard earned cash for someone else to administer, problems start to arise due to others motives and agendas masked as “doing good” – especially when this administration is involved. The mission should be to evangelize first, or at least equally, and certainly not never. A nourished soul will seek life, a lifeless soul is a corpse.

  • Myshkin

    I emailed the Population Research Institute report on CRS to two of our diocesan priests about 3 weeks ago. No response from them, and our Bishop proceeded to write up CRS in our Diocesan newspaper for all the good work that they do. The collection went ahead as though nothing wrong is going on. As for contacting the Bishop? Gave up on that tactic years ago — I can’t recall ever receiving so much as an acknowledgment of receipt of my letters — whether U.S. Postal mail, or email. I suspect that the Chancery officials are all on board with every anti-Catholic program out there and never show the letters to the Bishops; or that, worse, the Bishops themselves don’t care or themselves are traitors.

    • Veritas

      Steve over at PRI seems to have the Third World bishops on board, and the’ve verified some of the anti-Church doings by CRS. You’d think there would be some communication between our bishops and them.

      • Perhaps Cardinal Kasper’s antipathy toward the Africans isn’t unique.
        I hope in my lifetime, a very orthodox African becomes Pope. It will be fun to watch all of the Kasperite heads explode.

        • Atilla The Possum

          The sight of Kasper et al ‘s heads exploding would be something for sore eyes to see!

    • ForChristAlone

      As a once-insider at the diocesan level, you are sadly correct. No one bucks the bishop and the first rule is “Don’t tell me anything that could be upsetting.”

      If anyone thinks that the scandal of homosexual abuse of teenagers was as bad as it gets, you simply do not know anything about the use of money inside the Church. If you did… well….it’s just better that the laity not know what’s going on. Just keep in your mind the image of Christ tossing out the moneychangers.

  • GG

    I am sure many factors are at play here, but is this not simply one more example of so-called Catholics who really do not believe in truth? Like every other recent example, communion for adulterers, active homosexuals, contraception, etc. people say yes the Church is against those things but on some level they think hey that is not really that bad. The bar is set so low only murder is considered important and not every type of murder at that.

    They do not care if condoms or whatever are involved because the higher good to them is some other thing.

  • John

    I am and have been a supporter of CRS and have obviously failed to exercise due diligence with respect to this agency. I am particularly upset to learn of the level of public funding. What are the alternatives? Who is providing both material aid and looking after the needs of the soul and is not compromised by government money or private funders with motives that contradict the teaching of the Church?

    • FrankW

      Perhaps Food for the Poor?

      • John

        Thanks, FrankW. I’ll check them out.

    • lifeknight

      “Who is providing both material aid and looking after the needs of the soul and is not compromised by government money or private funders with motives that contradict the teaching of the Church?”
      I DO have an answer—A healthcare charity I administer (as a volunteer). We take NO government funding or insurance. We have NO employees. All volunteers sign an oath to follow Catholic teaching regarding pro-life/pro-family Magisterial teachings. We are 100% Catholic…..NO contraceptives, NFP only. We are small (4000 patients a year). Seriously, it is a hard road out there, but we are in our 20th year of service. We have never compromised our beliefs. Ever. We are part of the Kenedy book—an official 501 c 3
      Of course, we need money……
      La Clinica Guadalupana, Inc., 1020 Lakeview Road, Clearwater, FL. 33756

      Hoping not to be banned for posting this! Yes, we do serve many “undocumented” as well as “documented” American persons. NO Obamacare.

    • Jim H.

      Caritas International. Aid to the Church in Need. Bishop Gassian Fund for Sudan.

  • Dion F Kendrick

    Another proof of the Limbaugh axiom that Liberals are Liberals first.

  • As bad as this is, it brings up another problems:

    1.) It’s not unique. The so-called Catholic Campaign for Human Development is another such animal. It has been going on a long. long time.

    2.) The pervasiveness of these scandalous sorts of expenditures brings up a rather unpleasant question, that their access to pewsitters comes with either the explicit or tacit approval of the hierarchy. Does that means they either approve of these actions, accept them as inseperable collateral or are ignorant of them. I’m not sure which state of nature is more indicting.

    It tells the average Catholic that the presence of an envelope alongside the normal parish suppport envelope dedicated to some outside organization cannot be trusted as having been properly vetted by the hierarchy, and instead of just reaching into my pocket, I have to conduct my own review (caveat donor?) to see that the contributions are used wisely and in some reasonable conformity with the stated purpose, not squandered on something thoroughly unrelated to the stated purpose. Quite frankly, I’m not doing that. Let the parasites get jobs like the rest of us.

    It’s time that the Bishops who so frequently comment on government budgets (while leading their Diocese into bankruptcy), realize they are financial illiterates who need green eyeshades to remove the tint from their rose-colored glasses. In all those millions of dollars under the control of the USCCB, there needed to be a Pacioli Department.

    After Cardinal Pell gets done doing just that with the Vatican Bank and Cardinal Marx (yes, that Cardinal Marx), there’s a job waiting for him stateside.

    • Phil Ferguson

      I called CRS and deleted my contribution to them. I was very clear to them why. As George Weigel said of laymen, CRS is often in its workings nothing but “baptized pagans.”

  • Magdalen

    What I want to know is why EWTN continues to support CRS? At least they did in 2014.

    • Patti Day

      It seems to me that I just saw/heard a commercial spot on EWTN for CRS. Perhaps like me, they believed this issue was settled and that CRS was no longer involved in funding/teaching programs that are not in concert with Catholic teaching. Pardon me Lord, but to whom should we go?

      • To expect giant pots of money not to attract parasites is to open a jar of honey in a field and not expect ants and flies.

        • Atilla The Possum


    • Atilla The Possum

      EWTN is now dancing to the tune of the Bishop’s Conference of the United States.
      In other words, they surrendered their backbone and fail to maintain independence to question the US bishops (such as Dolan etc.) about their shenanigans that go against Church Teaching and become lousy freeloaders instead … on the backs of the faithful who give their Widow’s Mite on the collection plate every week!
      Whilst Dolan was playing May Queen yesterday, Archbishop Cordelione is battening down the hatches against heretics and hypocrites who are railing against his vision for true Catholic education. Boy, do I wish he was my bishop when I was at school!
      The Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales also have a hand in what I call the Church of Nice Weekly i.e. The Catholic Universe. Talk about journalism with as much bite as a toothless piranha! It’s pathetic.

      • InHisGlory

        Sorry to go off topic, however, your mention of Archbishop Cordelione caught my attention. Please, everyone, keep him in your prayers! If you can, please send a note of support as well:

        The Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco
        Archdiocese of San Francisco
        1 Peter Yorke Way
        San Francisco, CA 94109

        Your Excellency,

        Archbishop Cordileone has a difficult task at hand in addressing the requirement of teachers in the Catholic high schools of the Archdiocese to live by the teachings of the church.

        • Atilla The Possum

          On the contrary, you are completely ON TOPIC! Thanks for enclosing the address, too!
          It breaks my heart and makes me incandescent with rage to think that Dolan, Wuerl and Kasper etc. are freeloading the faithful and busy playing at bishops … whilst Cordileone, Paprocki and other good bishops and clerics not just in the US but the world over are fighting tooth nail and everything they have for Holy Mother Church and The Magisterium!
          Holy Cross of Jesus Christ – be his shield!
          O Mary Conceived Without Sin pray for us who have recourse to thee and for those who have not recourse to thee – especially for the enemies within and outside of the Church – and for those who are commended to thee.
          Saint Michael the Archangel, defend Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in this time of battle against the wickedness and snares of the devil!

  • jrj119

    Unfortunately, this same pattern of defensiveness and denial seems to pervade a number of organizations under the auspices of the USCCB. Look at the CCHD and you will see similar antics. The good Bishops are much too trusting, it would seem, of their underlings. “Progressivism,” “liberalism,” whatever you want to call it (either political or theological) runs rampant among the staffs of the USCCB and numerous Chanceries across the country.

  • jacobum

    CRS, CCHD et al are really NGO’s in “Catholic” name wrappers. It’s the secular golden rule. “He who has the gold makes the rules”. During the 30’s the Bishops essentially outsourced the funding for the corporal works of mercy while retaining management and allocation rights. For this, they delivered the “Catholic Vote” to primarily the Democrat Party. All was warm and fuzzy until the DP went totally secular and “Godless”. Now the AmChurch is caught in the perfect storm of their own making and soldified by
    (a) the creation of a man-centered religion by the liberal/modernist/progressive disaster of Vat2;
    (b) the rapidly aging and declining attendance due to the destruction of belief therefrom and thereafter;
    (c) the tacit acceptance of contraception
    (d) the less than vigorous opposition to abortion and SSM
    (e) the loss of moral credibility due to the ongoing priest pederasty scandals
    (f) all exacerbated by the “There’s No Sin” and “No one goes to hell” attitude of the “Church of Nice”
    (g) the fully predictable demographic disaster caused by contraception and abortion.
    (h) supposedly intelligent adults having forgotten or ignored basic math by fostering, allowing, and/or promoting the “entitlement mentality” of getting “something for nothing” rather than the proposition that “if you don’t work, you don’t eat”
    In effect “subsidiarity” was replaced by NGO funding and Checkbook Catholicism led by politicians rather than Shepherds. One need look no further than Cdl Dolan as the poster boy for “Retreater-In-Chief”. Yesterday’s St Patricks Day disgrace perfectly displays everything that has gone wrong in the Church over the last 50+ years. As is so typical of the “in denial and tone deaf” ….the self-destruction was celebrated with a parade…..while on the way straight to hell….led by a Prince of the Church with smiles, bands and beers.
    Lord have mercy on us. Mary protect us and your Son’s Church

    • Atilla The Possum

      Yes, indeed. Cardinal Showboat aka Dolan has ignored thousands of people and more who have pleaded with him to stand down from leading the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York.
      Cdl Dolan would still be rambunctious and overbearing if he was waving at the Pyramids as he sails by … being in denial (= the Nile) or buck stupid as he is!
      The disgusting way he and his honchos treated Church Militant’s Michael Voris and his cameraman yesterday (when Voris and Co were respectfully and measuredly asking the Cardinal a simple question) said it all! It was like seeing an investigative reporter being physically and verbally abused by cowboy builders who have been exposed as ripping off vulnerable people.
      In a roundabout way, it may as well have been the case on 5th Avenue.
      The wheels of the Dolan bandwagon will eventually come off – in God’s good time and in spectacular fashion; to many, it will be a shock but, to those of us who are on to this rickety jalopy, it will be a case of ‘we told him so, but he put his fingers in his ears and went la-la-la-la’

      • John Albertson

        In New York”Cardinal Showboat” is commonly called “Cardinal Cheesehead” for the times he has worn a “cheesehead” hat – once even at Mass.

        • Atilla The Possum

          Oh, aye! *ROFLMHO* Thanks for that.
          So I wasn’t seeing things after all. Is he called ”Cheesehead” in New York as a term of affection or is it regarded as a mickey-take (insult)? I would wager the latter …
          Actually, I thought someone ”photoshopped” the cheese wedge hat in question onto that over-inflated bonce of his. I think it was taken whilst preaching a homily!
          Didn’t he used to be a bishop in Wisconsin … the Dairy State (I’m writing from the UK), if I’m not mistaken – hence the cheese reference?
          I’d hate to think what hat he would choose to wear if a particular state in the US was famous for producing the most toilets, prosthetic supports, cat litter or fertiliser for roses!
          My sister and I watched him on the news over here on St. Patrick’s Day evening and she asked me: ”Is that some bloke dressed up as a cardinal?” and I replied: ‘I wish it were true but no. He’s Cardinal Dolan – Archbishop of New York’.
          I call him ‘Cardinal Showboat’ because he can’t resist a camera or a publicity opportunity and making a holy show of himself at the same time! He’d be more at home on ”America’s Got Talent” or at a comedy club.

          • John Albertson

            Genuine picture – not photo shopped.

            • Atilla The Possum

              I mean, he celebrated Mass … wearing THAT!?
              If anyone turned up at Mass elsewhere wearing a hat like that, no self-respecting priest or senior cleric would tolerate such a disrespectful attitude in God’s House.
              In the supposedly tolerant, liberal Netherlands, a priest was rollicked by his bishop for decking out his church orange = the colours of the national soccer team for the World Cup! Needless to say, the team lost after playing a filthy game with Spain.
              Like I said (now written much better with a calmer head), I’d hate to think if Dolan was chosen to be bishop of a diocese in a state/county/city/country which is famous for manufacturing toilets, prosthetic supports, cat litter, rose fertiliser …
              Well, where I live in the UK, we have a major soccer team called Manchester United and their nickname is ‘The Red Devils’ …. can you imagine Dolan wearing – oh! Perish the thought!
              Thankfully, only the Church of England has an actual Diocese of Manchester … the area of Greater Manchester has 3 Catholic diocese: Salford, Shrewsbury and some areas covered by the Archdiocese of Liverpool!
              Only the Almighty knows the answer to this question but we mere faithful must have a right to ask … how did Dolan get into seminary in the first place? Picking the locks? Showing his ”holy” side?
              God Help America!

              • John200

                And the followup questions: Once Dolan got into seminary, how did he get through to ordination?… how did he manage to remain in the priesthood?… how did he become a bishop?

                What is this man doing here? (Major Hochstetter, Hogan’s Heroes)

                • Atilla The Possum

                  Yes, indeed. More questions than answers, eh!
                  Dolan is by no means the first person who has prompted more questions than answers of this kind… and, by Jove, he won’t be the last!
                  Hypothetical answers to how Dolan got where he is in the first place include the following:
                  Your guess is as good as mine; the answer is as mysterious as where Glen Miller ended up after the fog; he blagged it with that fatal ‘charm’ and that bombastic, gregariousness mingled with superciliousness; he bullied his fellow seminarians; he grinned it; he charmed the cross off an asses back; he was considered too noisy and disruptive for the Trappists … he had it with digging holes on the freeway and preferred to dig holes for himself as a priest…

  • TomD

    Much as in Catholic higher education, many Catholic social service agencies have become increasingly secularized. Their mission today is less Catholic and more secular.

    These agencies, just as with their educational counterparts, embrace those elements of Catholic teaching which they see as compatible with their secular mission, often interpreting these Catholic teachings through a secular filter; those elements of Catholic teaching which conflict with their secular mission, they simply reject.

  • Ruth Rocker

    And this is why my husband and I stopped donating funds to CRS. Until/unless they disassociate themselves from people and/or organizations which are not only Christian in nature, but actively work to undermine or destroy the Church, all good Catholics of conscience should cease donations. There are other, fully Catholic charities that could better use/disburse the money.

  • Wake Up

    Great article. So what’s the better alternative for Catholics seeking to donate money to international charities?

    • James Stagg

      May I please suggest the “smaller” charities, like Hands Together:

      We have a Haiti Project at our parish which existed before the massive earthquake in Haiti. We work with and through Hands Together, since they have a presence in Haiti.

      There are probably many “small” but effective charities at work internationally, but it is hard work checking them out. Sometimes you can rely on Charity Navigator ratings, but they do not identify organizations as particularly Catholic.

      If you wish to contribute to good solid Catholic charities, check out the national Catholic Charities for the US; they did outstanding support of the Diocese of Biloxi in recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Their money rebuilt personal homes FIRST, regardless of color or creed, on a first-come basis. Another US group that is truly Gospel-based is the Glenmary group.

      Bless you for your contributions!

      • ForChristAlone

        Stay away from Catholic Charities USA. They are staffed by the same kind sof people as are at CRS – big government types, leftist “catholics” Take my word for it from personal experience.

        • James Stagg

          My personal experience with the national group is obviously different than yours. They made a magnificent and innovative difference on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

        • That’s been my experience as well, very much a Charity Inc enterprise – CC in Fort Worth TX is located in some Taj Mahal like structure more befitting a corporate HQ.

    • ForChristAlone

      Take a look at the Family Missions Company:
      Also, look to donating to those Catholic colleges faithful to the magisterium on the Newmann List such as Christendom. CRS is awash in the blood money of pagans so…if you donate to your parish, some of that money goes to your diocese. The diocese then sends some of that money to the USCCB. And then, you guessed it, the USCCB, helps fund CRS and the salary of Ms Woo to the tune of $450,000

  • George

    I would appreciate a word from the USCCB on this- since a link to CRS is on their home page.

    • ForChristAlone

      more than just a link…CRS is under the direct auspices of USCCB…multiple bishops sit on their board….the usual suspects…but we’ve come to expect this from our feckless episcopacy

      • pbecke

        Let’s hope Cardinal Pell purges them both.

        • Atilla The Possum

          … And then some! AMEN!

  • III J

    In simplest terms – “If you take the King’s coin, you are the King’s man”. CRS chooses to be in bed with the spawn of Satan. I have chosen, years ago, to never give those corrupt workers of iniquity a penny.

  • Marie

    This is why I don’t give any money to CRS. They have to get these obsenities under control.There is no excuse for allowing money to go to population control.

  • John Albertson

    He who pays the piper calls the tune. With CRS in the back pocket of the government, it would be interesting to know how many of their paid staffs voted for Obama.

    • If my experience with CC is any indication, probably +80%.

  • Joan Weber

    What is known about Cross Catholic International?

    • Antonia

      It’s a joint Catholic-Protestant organization (lookup Cross International then lookup Cross Catholic International), but this had been completely undeclared in all the info I’d gathered about them, which I think it’s weird. They have two separate websites for their Protestant and Catholic “versions,” with no stated connections between them. Why don’t they explain this? After being disappointed with CRS, I’m looking for an effective, truly and fully CATHOLIC charity to help those who are living in serious poverty. I did just a bit of digging on the internet about Cross Int’l and decided this was not a good alternative to CRS for our family’s donations. I’m considering Aid to the Church in Need…

  • Great read.

    Along with Catholic Charities and the CCHD, CRS is part of my Unholy Trinity of secular-humanists masquerading as ‘Catholic’.

    Catholic Charities is especially bad – for the most part they don’t hire Catholics, don’t serve Catholic demographics and don’t represent traditionally Catholic ideas but, comes the time to solicit contributions, you can bet your bottom dollar – well, whatever dollar you have left after they’re done with you – that they’re as Catholic as Fulton J Sheen.

    • Atilla The Possum

      How absolutely true. I’m fed up with England and Wales’ CAFOD (Catholic Association For Overseas Development) spending money, hand over fist, on printing out envelopes for such things as Family Fast Day etc. and the Pope’s own charity – Aid To The Church In Need – doesn’t get as much publicity and awareness in the Parish Bulletins as CAFOD … and their needs are pretty urgent and they are compliant with Church Teaching (before you say ‘well, duh?’, it is clear that some charities that call themselves ‘Catholic’ are so far from being such they should be arrested for breaching the Trades Descriptions Act!).
      I’m not sure if CAFOD is on the same ”take” as CCHD or CRS, though they are part of the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales (’nuff said).
      I refuse to stuff these envelopes with my Widow’s Mite, just because they are put under my nose! ACN gets it instead. As for helping Third World Countries, I find ethical shopping preferable.

      • Whenever the annual CCHD collection comes around at my local parish I take care to pen a small note explaining my objections to their ‘mission’ and throw it in the second collection basket.

        I enthusiastically recommend this to every traditional Catholic – it’s a very simple way to express your dissatisfaction with this nonsense.

        • Atilla The Possum

          What a great idea!
          If enough parishioners take up your initiative, it is hoped that it will make the parish priest take time to research the facts for himself … what are the odds that, in Church of Nice parishes, these envelopes will end up in the recycling? One or two, perhaps, but if enough people do this then questions must be asked as to ”why?” this is happening… then see the bishops try to wriggle out of THAT ONE!

  • Ann Hessenius

    Throwing out my Rice Bowl tonight!!!!!!!

  • henhill

    I too worked for Catholic CHarities in two different diocese, and concur it is a sham-Catholic organization. I left for the pagans because I had a better sense of where I stood. Catholic CHarities: their God is money- preying for LOTS!

  • Antonia

    Thank you for your great research and balanced reports on CRS, which have been invaluable to our family. I’ve been most disappointed in CRS’s lack of concern and seriousness about the major tenets of Catholicism, and in their very insulting dismissal of their critics. Thanks again for taking the heat in order to bring the truth to light.

  • BXVI

    And today we learn of yet another mask CRS has been wearing. A high level official who flaunts the Church’s teaching by “marrying” his same-sex partner and openly opposing the Church’s teachings concerning sexuality on social media. And all the high-level executives at CRS must be considered accomplices in this crime, since it us unfathomable that they did not know. We are not talking here about someone with same-sex attraction trying in goodwill to live out the faith (a la, “Who am I to judge?”). No, we are talking about someone openly, flagrantly, living in a homosexual marriage while holding a senior VP position at one of the largest Catholic charities in the world.