By Michael Hichborn, Lepanto Institute
Last week, the Lepanto Institute published an article regarding the funding practices of Catholic Relief Services. In the article, we indicated the regular granting of funds provided by Catholic Relief Services to organizations that distribute contraception, perform surgical sterilizations and commit abortions.
Last week, Catholic Relief Services responded to our article by complaining that:
Every misleading message included in the latest Lepanto posting has been thoroughly reviewed by CRS staff, as well as bishops and moral theologians. So it is disappointing and disturbing that this group continues to repeat the same discredited claims and mislead the faithful in an attempt to breed discontent and distract from the wonderful work Catholics are accomplishing around the world.
The problem is that CRS has not “discredited” the facts we have continued to present, but instead maintains a firm defense of its funding practices. Worse still is that it refuses to address the very real concerns of faithful, pew-sitting Catholics who are upset and scandalized that an official agency of the Catholic bishops would willfully provide funding to organizations that are well-documented to be fighting poverty by eliminating children.
Until the last couple of years, CRS’s tax form 990’s included a list of domestic organizations receiving CRS grants (issued as “pass-through” grants from the US government). But for Fiscal Year 2013 and 2014, which are the latest tax forms available, the funding is not listed. The Lepanto Institute contacted CRS about it and was told that changes to the IRS code no longer required the listing of such grants. In the “spirit of transparency,” the Lepanto Institute requested the latest list, and CRS obliged. In the coming weeks, we will be publishing profiles on the various abortion and contraception providing organizations CRS has been funding, and the first such group we will focus on is Africare.
According to the list provided to us by CRS, Africare received $1,286,882 from CRS in Fiscal Year 2014.
Africare bills itself as “a leading non-governmental organization (NGO) committed to addressing African development and policy issues by working in partnership with African people to build sustainable, healthy and productive communities.” The sad thing is that what Africare considers “health” includes the distribution of condoms and the increased use of modern contraception.
For instance, according to Africare’s 2014 Annual Report, Africare indicates that one of its programs in Liberia reached nearly 4,000 individuals with the promotion of contraception through what it called “Contraception Day Campaigns.” The purpose of these “Contraception Day Campaigns” was to educate women on the methods, availability, and use of modern contraception so as to increase the contraceptive prevalence rate in those areas.
Even worse, though, in 2009 Africare indicated that the most popular contraceptive methods obtained from Africare clinics included oral contraceptive pills, contraceptive injections, and condoms. Slide 6 of this slide show presentation titled, “Family Planning as a Basic Life Saving Skill: Lessons from Africare’s program in rural Liberia“ provides the data.
At the end of Africare’s Women’s Initiative for Sex Education and Economic Empowerment (WISE) program, which ran in Nigeria from 2004-2009, Africare reported as one of its “stand out results” that it was able to increase the use of condoms from 68% to 82%.
Our complete profile of Africare can be read by clicking the link here.
What’s most interesting about CRS’s grant to Africare is that while CRS (the official overseas relief and development agency of the USCCB) is defending its grants to organizations such as this, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (the official domestic anti-poverty agency of the USCCB) claims to refuse to provide such funding to similar agencies. In other words, there seems to be a double standard in the way the USCCB handles its granting programs. CRS defends its funds to organizations that dispense contraception, perform surgical sterilizations, and commit abortions … while the CCHD actually has a stated rule that it will NOT provide funding for organizations that act against Catholic moral teaching. On its Frequently Asked Questions page, the CCHD states very specifically that if grantees violate Catholic moral teachings, its grant will be revoked:
CCHD requires of each grantee the highest standards of accountability and conformity with the moral teaching of the Catholic Church. If a group commits offenses against Catholic moral teaching, or undermines the Church’s defense of the unborn or her promotion of the family, a grant qualification is rescinded.
As an example of this grant guideline in practice, after Michael Hichborn and others proved to the CCHD in 2011 that one of its grantees was actively distributing condoms, CCHD cut funding to that organization. Now, getting the CCHD to admit that any of its grantees is doing anything against Church teaching is like pulling teeth from a hippopotamus, however this example of CCHD’s rule in practice stands in stark contrast to CRS’s adamant refusal to deny funding to similar … and worse … organizations.
The question that must be addressed is, “Why is there a double standard in how CCHD issues grants and how CRS issues grants?” It’s either morally permissible for both or it is morally wrong for both. But it can’t be right for one and wrong for the other.
In 2013, while working for American Life League, Hichborn asked this very question in a video report titled, “Contraception Relief Services.”
Consistent with the vast majority of its other responses, CRS issued a statement that only touches upon the question without really answering it. After soft-peddling the issue at hand by referring to organizations that are actively working to eliminate children from impoverished areas as those who “disagree with us,” CRS claims that there is only one set of rules, but applied differently with regard to CRS and CCHD. CRS then points to its review practices and never really answers the question, “Why is CCHD holding grantees to the ‘highest standards’ of ‘conformity to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, while CRS doesn’t?” Here is how CRS addressed the question:
ALL [American Life League] claims that the US bishops have one set of rules for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and another for CRS, when it comes to giving grants to organizations whose activities are not fully in line with Church doctrine. There is only one set of rules—Catholic teaching on cooperation with those who disagree with us. However, this does not mean that this teaching leads to the same actions in all situations. To ensure that we apply this teaching and act appropriately, for several years CRS staff and board have been consulting with moral theologians and have been regularly reviewing how we apply this teaching to our decisions.
Telling folks that there is a large-scale review process in place does nothing to address the apparent contradiction between CCHD’s grants and CRS’s grants. While CCHD doesn’t really adhere too well to its own rule, at least it has a rule in place. CRS, on the other hand, is unwilling to even entertain such a standard. But considering that CRS receives approximately 70% of its annual revenue from the Federal government, the reason for the disparity is easy to grasp; If CRS was no longer allowed to provide funding to organizations that push abortion, contraception and sterilization, it would be extremely difficult for it to receive nearly half-a-billion dollars in annual government grants.
Again … the Lepanto Institute is suggesting that faithful Catholics politely refrain from the Rice Bowl collection by dropping the note below into the box instead. Just click the image and print the page.
CCI Editor’s note: Michael Hichborn will be the featured speaker at the Catholic Citizens Forum Luncheon on March 11, 2016. Save the date and plan to attend! For reservations call Maureen at 708-352-5834.