More Boston Controversies: Chick-fil-A and Catholic Relief Services

August 5, 2012

The Boston Archdiocese has remained silent for yet another week on the Chick-fil-A fracas.  Nothing in the Friday edition of The Boston Pilot, and nothing on Cardinal Sean’s Blog updated Friday evening. Sources tell BCI that Fr. Bryan Hehir advised the Cardinal not to say anything, and the Cardinal listened. (The argument in the past from Fr. Hehir on similar matters has been, “we do not want to alienate our ally, ___, by speaking out.”)  At this point, we can assume the Cardinal intends to say and do nothing.

Instead, on Cardinal Seans’ blog, we see in the past week the Cardinal traveled to Puerto Rico for matters that had nothing to do with Boston (3 photo opps), and then attended a Jesuit education conference at Boston College (8 photos). BCI was hoping that the Jesuits spent time at their conference discussing how they should follow in the footsteps of St. Edmund Campion, (24 January 1540 – 1 December 1581), an English Roman Catholic martyr and Jesuit priest. Campion was conducting an underground Catholic ministry in officially Protestant England during the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth, was arrested by priest hunters for being a Catholic priest, and was then convicted of high treason, and hanged, drawn and quartered for his faith.  But we understand Campion and his willingness to die defending his Catholic faith was not on the agenda.

We are not sure why attending this event and blogging about it was a more important use of time for Cardinal O’Malley than fulfilling his canonical responsibility to teach, sanctify and govern–which would, at a basic level, have meant issuing a statement about Church teaching, religious freedom, and why Mayor Menino was wrong to criticize Chick-fil-A and threaten to block them from opening in Boston.

Then there is the Catholic Relief Services controversy.  This weekend, Boston parishes are all asked to take a second collection for Catholic Relief Services:

This week’s second collection for Catholic Relief Services supports emergency relief, human development, and peace initiatives in 99 countries around the world, where nearly half the population lives on less than $2.00 a day. The collection funds the ministries of five Catholic Church organizations: Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), Social Development and World Peace (SDWP), and The Holy Father’s Relief Fund. For more information, please visit

Sounds like a good cause at first pass, until you realize that Catholic Relief Service’s top grant recipient, CARE, promotes contraception, and CARE’s president publicly promotes abortion.

As described at Catholic Culture, “at issue is a CRS grant of $5,380,466 to CARE, a humanitarian agency that integrates contraception into its emergency and relief efforts. Catholic Relief Services’ newly-released tax return states that the purpose of the grant was for “emergency”; CRS later stated that the grant was “used by CARE for water and sanitation programs in four Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), for food and nutrition programs, as well as water and sanitation in Madagascar; and for food and nutrition programs in Zimbabwe.”

Following a LifeSiteNews report, CRS said that a recent investigation of similar grants conducted by the National Catholic Bioethics Center found that

“none of the funding from CRS was fungible. That is, there is little to no risk of the grant funds being used either (i) for purposes outside those outlined in the grant request or (ii) for freeing up money in the receiving organization for immoral purposes by virtue of their having received the grant from CRS. The NCBC found that there could be a risk of scandal over such partnerships if people become confused and wrongly assume that CRS was endorsing a partner’s position on other issues.”

But then, after the CRS statement was released acknowledging the NCBC review, Dr. Haas came out with his own additional clarification saying said that the proposed grant to CARE was “of grave concern to me” and he then quoted from the comments he had submitted to the CRS board:

On the anniversary of Roe v Wade in 2009 [CARE CEO Helen Gayle] called on President Obama to rescind the Mexico City Policy and fund abortions abroad. She issued this call on the very day hundreds of thousands of pro-life demonstrators including many bishops called for the reversal of Roe v Wade. Her testimony and statement are both posted on the website of CARE.

Even though the grants going to CARE are for very laudable and indeed life-saving initiatives, I believe that these very strong public positions taken by the President of CARE in complete opposition to the policies and positions of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops would certainly give rise to legitimate theological scandal if not confusion as to why the bishops would fund such an organization.

In my opinion because CARE is so well known and so high profile and because the advocacy of abortion has been so strong and public and in such opposition to the position of the bishops, scandal would be unavoidable.

“It would be different if [Gayle] weren’t so public about her opposition to the moral teaching in this area, and I said I had grave reservations about this whole thing going forward without the question of the scandal being addressed,” Haas recalled

What happened in the end?  Scandal.

LifeSiteNews responded with this editorial:

What happens when CARE undertakes these great ventures with the poor in all these countries with money from the US Bishops?

Naturally the poor who are served food and water are grateful—to the contraception-pushing group CARE. So when CARE comes back to those same poor people with contraceptives and suggestions for ‘safe and legal’ abortion, the poor will be receptive to the nefarious suggestions thanks to the goodwill CARE built up with these folks doing good projects with the cash supplied by the US Bishops.

Beyond that, there are many good pro-life and Christian groups in those nations who could go to them to do humanitarian work which does not include abortion promotion and distribution of contraception. Can the US Bishops not direct their multiple millions of dollars to these worthy organizations rather than CARE?

Finally, as Christendom College’s Dr. William Luckey noted in a conversation about the CRS grant to CARE, there is no way we would be having these kinds of debates if CRS had been dealing with a white supremacist group.

“We wouldn’t go near them. Even though they did charitable work, they might have schools for poor white kids all over the country, which would be basically a good thing. We wouldn’t even touch them. The scandal would be so bad. The outcry would be so bad,” he said.

Remember that Dr. John Haas, whom CRS consulted on the grant to CARE, warned CRS: “In my opinion because CARE is so well known and so high profile and because the advocacy of abortion has been so strong and public and in such opposition to the position of the bishops, scandal would be unavoidable.”

And for the Catholic Church, abortion is at least as evil as racism.


In addition to all of the above CRS has painted themselves as above reproach regarding their activities. And with just a little research, that can be shown to be false.

In their first public response to LifeSiteNews, CRS adamantly defended the $5.3 million grant to CARE stating, “We do not fund, support or participate in any programming or advocacy that is not in line with Church teaching, including artificial birth control.”

However, LifeSiteNews has discovered that CRS is a member of the CORE Group, and according to the CORE Group’s explanation of dues, CRS appears to pay $3,000 in annual membership fees.  In addition to being a dues-paying member, CRS is represented on CORE Group’s board of directors by employee Mary Hennigan, and co-chairs CORE Group’s “working group” on HIV/AIDS through CRS employee Shannon Senefeld.

The CORE Group is a major advocate for the spread of birth control.

BCI urges readers to support your parish in the first collection, and instead of giving to CRS in the second collection this weekend, take any planned CRS contribution and use that to increase what you give your parish in the first collection.

In the meantime, pray for courage for Cardinal O’Malley–yet again. Last November, during the ad limina visit to Rome, Cardinal O’Malley preached the following:

Peter’s love for the Lord brought him to Rome, the cardinal said, but — according to legend — as persecution grew Peter decided to flee again. Leaving the city, he saw the risen Lord and asked him, “Quo vadis?” (“Where are you going?”), and Jesus replied he was going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter renewed his faith and returned to the city where he met a martyr’s death.

“Each of us has gone through a ‘quo vadis’ moment or two in our vocation as bishops,” the cardinal said. “Hopefully, our being together at the tomb of Peter and close to Benedict will renew us in our generosity, courage and faith in following Jesus up close so that we can say with all our hearts what Peter said, ‘Lord you know all things. You know that I love you.'”

The Chick-fil-A and CRS situations are yet more “Quo vadis?” moments for Cardinal O’Malley, and his silence gives the perception that he tacitly agrees with the secular forces at play and is fleeing, rather than following Jesus up close.  What do you think?

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