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News September 11, 2013

Support for Catholic Relief Services: A Statement of the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the U.S. bishops' overseas humanitarian aid agency, is deeply committed "to Church teaching in fulfilling its mission of mercy," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee said in a September 11 statement the first day of its annual fall meeting in Washington.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), established in 1943, is the international humanitarian agency of the bishops of the United States. Last year, CRS served more than 100 million people in 91 countries. Through CRS, the Catholic Church in the United States helps the poorest of the poor around the world in response to the call of the Gospel, based on the teachings of the Church and following the example of our Holy Father. Its service around the world makes us all proud.

Sadly, in recent weeks some groups have raised questions about this extraordinary witness to the Gospel of life.  They have raised allegations about CRS’ adherence to Church teaching and its identity as a Catholic institution.

In light of this, and based on thorough investigations into the concerns, we wish to assure the Catholic faithful that CRS fully and faithfully adheres to Church teaching in fulfilling its mission of mercy.  In particular:

  • It is and has been CRS’ policy never to distribute or promote artificial contraceptives or abortifacients or to promote abortion.

  • All of CRS’ life-saving work to provide food and clean water, to fight malaria and other diseases, to promote education, and to help the poor find ways to support themselves and their families fully conforms with Catholic teaching.

  • CRS has a very strong training program for all of its nearly 5,000 staff around the world. In 2012, it expanded this program to include an agency-wide tutorial, "Protecting Life”, that informs staff of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life, contraception and abortion and explains CRS’ requirement that they uphold this teaching in their work.

  • CRS has a careful vetting system to ensure that its activities and partnerships with other groups or governments are forms of cooperation that do not violate Catholic teaching. As CRS’ work necessitates collaboration with a broad network of partners in complex environments with a regularly changing focus, this system is constantly reviewed and updated. The agency welcomes questions and concerns offered in a spirit of Christian charity. If any weaknesses or problems are found assessment and action are undertaken to correct the problem.

  • CRS represents the Catholic community of the U.S. at the invitation and with the support of local Church leaders in 91 countries around the world. CRS’ activities must be acceptable to those local Churches, follow their policies and the policies of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. If questions or concerns are raised by the local Church in any of the countries served, they are addressed and resolved.

We want to make it clear that those making these public critiques, albeit, we hope, in good faith, do not speak for the Catholic Church and we advise the Catholic faithful to exercise caution and consult the CRS website for clarification before endorsing or giving credence to the groups’ critiques.  At the same time, we do urge the Catholic faithful to continue to support Catholic Relief Services.  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.