About Catholic Relief Services, Brandon Vogt reminds us…

that while “the good” isn’t “the perfect”  (in the midst of a fallen world), that doesn’t mean it’s the embodiment of all evil either. Nor does that make it the aider and abettor of evil anymore than the Church is as a whole.

What follows is from his post entitled Compassion vs. CARE: A Defense of Catholic Relief Services.

 Food, Water, and…Contraception?

Last week, I had the great pleasure of visiting the headquarters of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Baltimore. I was there to give a couple of talks on new media and to help the staff communicate better. Even though I worked with Catholic Relief Services on several projects before, including the computer lab we built in Mombasa, Kenya, the visit was honestly surprising.

Some people accuse CRS of ignoring their Catholic identity—of forgetting the ‘C’ in their name. Yet what I found during my visit was a bubbling, definite sense of Catholic mission. The group seemed not just interested in mere philanthropy; they were clearly driven by their Catholic roots. Everything from the conversations, to the wall furnishings, to the beautiful on-site chapel reflected that.

I also sensed a strong excitement over the new President, Dr. Carolyn Woo, whom many of the staff credited with reinvigorating this specifically-Catholic identity.

So upon returning home, I was surprised to find an alarming article at LifeSiteNews titled “U.S. bishops’ relief agency gives $5.3 million to major contraception-providing charity.” The article seemed to clash with my recent experience, and it raised serious concerns about CRS’s Catholic identity:

CRS, ‘the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops” has recently given millions to an organization that doles out contraceptives, including abortifacient ‘emergency contraception.’

The most recent CRS annual returns (2010) indicate that the largest CRS grant—$5.3 million—went to CARE, an international “relief and development organization,” that actively promotes and provides contraceptives for women in developing countries, and supports pro-abortion groups and legislation.

In no uncertain terms, the article implied that CRS supported the twin evils of contraception and abortion through their partnership with CARE—and did so using donations from faithful Catholics. The article also quoted Dr. William Marshner, founding professor of theology at Christendom College. He described CRS’ funding of CARE as “ghastly” and said “obviously this expenditure of funds on the part of Catholic Relief Services is an immoral use of the money.”

However the alarms rang loudest in the article’s comment boxes. CRS hand’t even responded before commenters accused them, and the bishops who oversee CRS, of being “heretics”, “communists”, “homosexuals”, and complicit in murder among other charges.

Go read the rest of Brandon’s insightful, and wise, defense of CRS.

Big surprise there, huh? What with the combox Inquisition riding in with guns blazing, shouting “when will the bishops ever learn?!,” etc.,  while completely forgetting that the world is a very complex (and don’t forget “fallen”) place where words like fungible actually mean something, and good can still be accomplished through mankind and his agencies.

That’s something God has known all along. He accomplishes great things through us, despite the bickering amongst the siblings.

  • Andy

    I really think that sometimes the combox Catholic purists (though I am sure it is everywhere) are looking for scandal. They seem to thrive on finding scandal and holding other up for ridicule. I do not understand this – we are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and so on. We are called to bring witness to the world – how do we do that if we don’t interact wit the world? None of us is perfect and no group that I know of is perfect – we have to do the best we can with what we have. Maybe a little charity and a little humility might help along the way. I am glad that CRS was able to support the neediest without having the funds used for abortion or contraception. It shows that we can all work together and eventually come to see each other as valuable and worthy. THis is the first step in true evangelization.

  • Carlos

    Whatever organization that support abortion,contraception is not Catholic and it’s evil. Lord Jesus Christ son of God,have mercy on us.
    Better to give the money directly to the poor.

  • Tim H

    Praise God! Thank you, Frank.

  • Tim H

    Where I differ with Brandon, however, is on his judgment of CCHD. Everything he says about this CRS incident applies equally well to the campaign to demonize CCHD. It is revealing that he has to turn to Human Events to try to slime them. (e.g. see: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/06/for-a-buck-this-conservative-publication-sells-out-its-own/240093/)

  • Bill Russell