The bishops of the United States created Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as an agency for the charitable activities of the US Catholic Church in foreign countries. In 1986, CRS began an HIV/AIDS program. Part of the stated policy of that program is to supply full and accurate information about condoms but not to promote their use. CRS forbids putting its name and logo on materials conveying the information it supplies about condoms.Â
It seems to me that the Catholic Church—and its agencies—can rightly engage in activities only insofar as they are an appropriate part of the Church’s apostolate, and that activities from which the Church and her agencies must distance themselves cannot pertain to her apostolate. Moreover, I investigated the information that CRS is supplying, and found that some of it clearly seems to promote their use. It seemed to me that the bishops ought to investigate this agency. After reflection, I judged that publicizing what I had found would strengthen the hand of Archbishop Dolan—who became Chair of the CRS Board only last November—in leading the Board, and the NCCB as a whole, in carryout out the needed investigation.Â
I therefore wrote an article that is appearing in the April issue of Catholic World Report. You may find the article and the CRS documents on which it is based on the magazine’s website: http://www.ignatius.com/Magazines/CWR/Â
My argument does not presuppose or imply that promoting condom use is intrinsically immoral, nor am I asserting that CRS’s activities are at odds with Catholic teaching about condom use. My argument is that providing information from which one must distance oneself cannot manifest Jesus’ love of his brothers and sisters and cannot help those who receive the information to meet Jesus, learn what he offers us fallen humans, and respond to his gospel and his love. If I am right, the responsible CRS officials are betraying not only the bishops but the entire Catholic Church in the United States, donors to CRS who intend their contributions to be used in a charitable apostolate, those who ought to benefit from that apostolate, those pressed into complicity, and, above all, Jesus himself.Â
Some bishops’ failure to take firm and prompt action needlessly escalated a few clerics’ and religious men’s seduction of minors into a disaster. Please pray that the US bishops act promptly and firmly to prevent another, similar disaster. If you can encourage Archbishop Dolan or any other US bishop to fulfill his responsibilities in this matter, please do so.