WASHINGTON, D.C. — Catholic Relief Services received a vote of confidence from the Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops following allegations that educational materials and webpages produced by the agency’s partners in Africa included practices that are contrary to church teaching.
“The humanitarian relief efforts of CRS are grounded in the loving teachings of the Catholic Church. CRS stands in firm defense of life. Criticisms to the contrary should not detract from the powerful impact your donations have on the lives of otherwise forgotten suffering populations,” committee members said in a statement released March 17.
“We have confidence in the thorough vetting system utilized by CRS by which complaints are investigated and corrective action taken, if necessary. CRS works alongside other relief agencies that may not share our teaching. In these instances, CRS keeps its work distinct,” the statement said.
Executive Committee members are conference officers. They are Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president; Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, vice president; Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, secretary; and Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, treasurer.
CRS has been the subject of three critical reports since March 3 by Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute.
Hichborn has alleged in his first report that a project operating in Africa affiliated with CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas development and relief agency, promotes the use and distribution of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy.
In subsequent reports, Hichborn accused CRS of operating a website containing materials that were contrary to church teaching on contraception and that another agency working in Cameroon sent teenage girls to clinics for sexual and reproductive health services.
In response to the first report, CRS said it was reviewing the allegations. As of March 17, the agency has not responded to the other reports.
“CRS has, in the past, discovered errors, taken them extremely seriously and corrected them immediately. Should we discover any such inconsistencies with Catholic teaching, CRS will take immediate corrective action,” the agency said in referencing “a recent report” without naming the Lepanto Institute following the first report.
The CRS statement noted that it regularly participates in humanitarian initiatives with “a wide range of groups,” including other Catholic institutions, faith communities, governments and secular institutions in an effort to deliver much-needed services around the world.
“Although some positions and practices of these institutions are not always consistent with the full range of Catholic teaching, CRS’ association with them is always and only focused on activities that are fully consistent with Catholic teaching,” said CRS, which has its headquarters in Baltimore.
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