Moral Theologian Calls on Bishops to Withdraw Support from Catholic Relief Services

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Last Wednesday, the Lepanto Institute and Population Research Institute published an explosive report proving that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is advancing gravely sinful ideologies in Africa.  If you missed the press conference (be warned, it contains material NOT suitable for children), and have not yet read the report, you can do both by clicking the link here.

During the press conference, renowned Catholic moral theologian, Dr. Christian Brugger, stated that he supports the recommendation indicated in the conclusion of the report that the bishops – both individually and collectively – should withdraw their support for CRS “in the absence of any salutary change.”  Individual findings in the report, obtained through official documents and in-person interviews, show that CRS:

  • In its own documents, promoted condoms and masturbation to vulnerable people as young as 11.
  • Financially supported an abortion promoting organization called RENATA.
  • Created health referral networks that include contraception providers.
  • Participated in public events intended to introduce vulnerable people to various types of contraception.
  • Incorporated graphic comprehensive sexual education programs into its projects.
  • Implemented contraception-pushing DREAMS project in multiple African countries.

Dr. Brugger holds a Masters degree in moral theology, a Masters in moral philosophy, a Masters in Christian Ethics, and a Doctorate in Philosophy.  In 2007 he also taught as an adjunct professor of bioethics for the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America and became the Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, D.C. On that organization’s website, he publishes a bi-monthly article in bioethics.


In July 2008, Brugger became an Associate Professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado.  In 2010 he was awarded the J. Francis Stafford Chair of Moral Theology, the first endowed chair in the seminary’s history. He serves as a bioethical advisor to the bishops of Denver and to the Denver chapter of the Catholic Medical Association.  He is also a member of the board of directors of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

Dr. Brugger is well known and well-respected in Catholic circles and his comments on our highly documented report regarding Catholic Relief Services carries a lot of weight.  Here is his brief statement regarding our report:

“This report seems to establish beyond reasonable doubt clear examples of five expressions of grave evil-doing.  The first – CRS is the primary agent of evil-doing in as much as its own public literature explicitly promotes masturbation, including to children.

Two – CRS formally cooperates in others’ grave evil-doing in as much as it publicly endorses, refers to, and financially supports organizations that actively and very publicly promote direct abortion, contraception, and masturbation.

Three – in other cases, which are arguably instances of material cooperation, CRS’s close working relationship with organizations that promote evil poses a very substantial risk of grave scandal.  It’s cooperation makes serious wrong-doing seem less serious, and hence makes the choice for evil-doing much easier, and leads vulnerable people to conclude that bad acts are good.

Four – CRS’s evil-doing badly undermines the credibility of the Church’s witness to the Gospel in Africa.  As an apostolate of the Catholic Church, its first purpose should be the advancement of the teaching of Jesus through its unique mission to care for the poor.  CRS’s promotion of abortion, masturbation, and contraception violate Jesus’s very serious admonitions to protect human life, guard the souls of his little ones, and uphold the chastity of the marriage bed.  Despite the good works that CRS performs in Africa, when people see that good co-mingled with evil-doing, they are likely to conclude that the Church is hypocritical in its definitive moral teachings on life and sex; or that it wrongly teaches that abortion, contraception, and masturbation are gravely evil, and/or that grave sin is not so serious.  If the Church cannot be trusted to teach the truth on matters pertaining to the fifth and sixth commandments, how can it be trusted to teach truth on other matters pertaining to salvation: for example, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the reality of Heaven and Hell, and the necessity of the Church for salvation.

And five – Catholics who financially support CRS, rather than other secular aid organizations, do so because they believe that its relief services are marked by something distinctively Catholic.  By engaging in wrong-doing in the ways just mentioned, CRS acts unjustly to those donors by misrepresenting itself as “Catholic.”

I would just end by saying that I support the report’s recommendation to the bishops of the United States that in the absence of salutary change, the bishops both individually and collectively should withdraw their support from Catholic Relief Services.”

The Lepanto Institute is calling on Catholics to write to their bishops, asking them to formally withdraw all support from Catholic Relief Services until CRS is forbidden from receiving federal funding, forbidden from collaborating with abortion and contraception peddlers, and a thorough independent third-party moral review of all of its projects is conducted.  Click here to find the mailing address for your bishop.

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