Launch of new encyclical by head of Catholic agency accused of funding contraception shows urgent need for reaffirmation of Humanae Vitae

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Carolyn Y. Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, speaks during news conference to present Pope Francis' encyclical on environment

Carolyn Woo, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), spoke yesterday at the Vatican as a member of the panel that presented the papal encyclical Laudato Si to the world’s media. Woo was invited by the Vatican despite longstanding and frequently expressed concerns that the CRS is involved in funding contraception and abortion worldwide.

Research carried out by the American Life League (ALL) alleges that “86 percent of CRS’ grants to domestic groups in 2012 went to groups that promote contraceptives, in addition to, in some cases, other evils such as abortion, the abortifacient ‘morning-after pill,’ and homosexuality. In 2013, the Catholic aid organization gave a $2.7 million grant to Population Services International, which markets a ‘Safe Abort Kit’ in developing countries.” (Source).

The ALL report asserts the following:

“The evidence supports that the problems are real and exhibit a clear and present danger of grave scandal. According to CRS’ IRS Form 990 for FY 2012, CRS granted over $75 million to 47 different organizations based in the United States. This report documents that $64,656,809 went to 23 organizations that promote practices and policies contrary to Catholic moral teaching. This represents 86 percent of CRS’ domestic grants for 2012. These offenses include:

• the facilitation, promotion, and in some cases, direct commission of abortion;

• dispensing and promoting all forms of modern contraception, including abortifacient drugs and devices;

• facilitating, promoting, and in some cases, direct commission of male and female sterilization.

To be clear, CRS is providing funding and partnering with organizations that directly subvert Catholic moral teaching. The activities of the CRS grantees detailed in this report are not due to coalitions, associations, or tenuous relationships—they are performed directly by CRS grantees. In all cases, these activities represent the focus of these agencies, and in many instances, they are the preponderance of the grantees’ work. This large collection of evidence demonstrates systemic problems at Catholic Relief Services.”

The vice-president of CRS responsible for overseas finance entered into a “marriage” with his male partner in April 2013. When asked about the “civil gay marriage,” Woo is reported to have said that CRS is “working through this” and that so-called same-sex marriage is a “very complex issue.”

The presence of Woo at the press conference further highlights the danger noted yesterday by Voice of the Family that the lack of a clear defense of Catholic teaching on contraception in the new papal encyclical leaves Catholics vulnerable in the face of renewed efforts to control or reduce population growth, despite brief references in the document rejecting population control as a means of tackling environmental problems (c.f Laudato Si, No. 50).

In his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI stressed the central importance of the Church’s understanding of human sexuality to her social doctrine. He wrote in paragraph 15:

“The Encyclical Humanae Vitae emphasizes both the unitive and the procreative meaning of sexuality, thereby locating at the foundation of society the married couple, man and woman, who accept one another mutually, in distinction and in complementarity: a couple, therefore, that is open to life. This is not a question of purely individual morality: Humanae Vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that ‘a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.'”

Neither Humanae Vitae nor Evangelium Vitae are cited in Laudato Si.

A workshop will be held in the Vatican from 13-15 November 2015 this year to discuss deploying “children as agents of change” in pursuit of “sustainable development”. Some of these workshops will be run by leading opponents of Catholic teaching, such as Jeffrey Sachs, drafter of pro-abortion sustainable development goals. These draft goals, which pose a serious threat to vulnerable human life worldwide, are under consideration by the United Nations at the same time as Sachs plays an increasingly prominent role in the Vatican.

In the light of such developments a clear restatement of the unchangeable teaching of the Church on contraception and the nature of the sexual act, as found in the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae , has never been more necessary.

“Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”

(Humanae Vitae, No. 15)