The US Catholic Bishops have felt compelled to once again step into a public relations fray and defend a venerable Catholic agency against an attack from self-appointed Catholic gadflies, primarily LifeSiteNews and the Population Research Institute.
These often internet-based entities, which are sustained by donations that are often driven by media campaigns, in recent years have frequently alleged that major Catholic advocacy and humanitarian efforts are supporting — unknowingly or otherwise — community empowerment, economic development or humanitarian relief agencies which may issue statements, join coalitions or engage in direct service which are contrary to Catholic doctrine, most often related to birth control or same sex marriage.
The usual target for such groups, which have turned defending Catholic orthodoxy into an internet-powered cottage industry, has been the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and its mission to support political and economic empowerment among the nation’s low-income communities. Over the past year, however, they have branched out and now include staff members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and even the venerable Catholic Relief Services.
Criticism of CRS at LifeSiteNews accelerated last year after the 2012 cancellation of a printing contract between CRS and a company owned and run by the family of American Life League founder Judie Brown. The league is the primary sponsor of LifeSiteNews.
Speaking to media last week, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the USCCB, expressed some exasperation with the relentlessness of the critics of CRS and other large-scale and complex Catholic operations.
According to Cardinal Dolan, CRS staff and individual bishops have tried to respond to the concerns raised by the critical groups.
'I 've got to be honest with you,' he added. 'With particular groups we’re tempted to get so frustrated that we say, "They are never going to be happy."
'They don’t trust us; they don’t believe us. They seem to think that the best thing they can do is criticize. And we sometimes shrug and say all we can do is tell you we have listened to you…we have look into [these allegations] scrupulously; we are trying our best and we are convinced that we act in complete consonance with Catholic teaching.'
While CRS President and CEO Carolyn Woo has told the bishops that no agency is perfect, she said the agency tries to respond to concerns as they are raised and assured the bishops, according to Cardinal Dolan, that the agency’s principles are clear and its accountability is vigorous. 'I don’t know what more we can ask for,' Cardinal Dolan said.
FULL STORY US bishops defend Catholic Relief Services