Alfred Rotondaro, Chairman of the Board at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, wrote the following letter in which he defends the U.S. Catholic Bishop's international charity organization, Catholic Relief Services.

Before and during World War II, Joseph Stalin was responsible for truly horrific atrocities. The forced collectivization in the early 1930s left hundreds of thousands murdered and millions more dead from starvation. The ideological purges later in the decade inflicted terror throughout Russian society. At the start of the Second World War, Stalin ordered the murder of 22,000 Polish officers, policemen and members of the intelligentsia at Katyn. He thought nothing of exposing millions of Soviet citizens to the cruelties of war if it helped to preserve his power. Stalin was, by all accounts, one of the worst human monsters in history.

Stalin was also our ally. The movements of U.S. troops were coordinated to help Stalin’s armies. Our tax dollars paid for war materials that were shipped to Russia. At Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, Stalin was greeted as a hero and comrade by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Roosevelt and Churchill – and later Truman and Attlee – knew about Stalin’s atrocities. But, when the yet worse monster in history, Adolf Hitler, invaded the USSR in June 1941, Stalin became the ally first of the UK and then, after Pearl Harbor, of the US. When someone asked Churchill how he of all people, with his long and fierce opposition to communism, could embrace Stalin, he replied, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

In our time, extreme poverty is the great monster of history and conscientious Catholics should be willing to work hand-in-glove with almost anyone who shares our commitment to alleviating the suffering of the very poor. But, a small group of self-appointed Inquisitors has decided that efforts to help the poor should only be undertaken with groups that share Catholic moral theology. To be clear, secular aid agencies seeking to help the poor can in no way be equated with Stalin! That is not the point. The point is that Catholics should not be overly concerned about the moral niceties of those with whom they work when the vitally important work of alleviating poverty is being undertaken. Yet, in an article published this week at Crisis magazine, Stephen Phalen, of Human Life International, produces a lot of sound and fury to indict Catholic Relief Services but, in the end, his denunciations sound to me like precisely the kind of modern day Pharisees Pope Francis is so consistently warning us against.

Catholic Relief Services, the international charity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, alleviates the suffering of poor people every day. I remember when the earthquake hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, I was listening to an NPR story. They interviewed a relief agency that said they were dispatching relief workers as soon as they could get flights to the island. Then, the interviewer spoke to someone from CRS who began, “We are trying to establish contact with the 300 CRS staffers who are already on the ground.” Additionally, CRS is one of the few relief agencies that has a partner throughout the world in the local churches: CRS is the least likely of all aid agencies to perpetrate “ideological colonization,” and without the work of CRS, millions of faithful Catholics might only have recourse to aid efforts that do not cohere with Catholic moral teaching.  

The work of CRS is funded by the pennies of American Catholics – Operation Rice Bowl is going on right now, as it does every Lent – as well as from government contracts for specific tasks. CRS’ work is overseen by a board of bishops, clergy and laity, led by the Most Rev. Paul Coakley, the Archbishop of Oklahoma City. It is hard to imagine any aspect of the life of the Church in the U.S. of which we can all be more proud.

Groups like Human Life International, the American Life League and the Lepanto Institute have made a career out of attacking CRS and the U.S. bishops’ domestic anti-poverty arm, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). We at CACG stand with both CRS and CCHD in their important work on behalf of the poor. We also hope more bishops will stand up to these moralistic bullies who attack CRS and CCHD the way Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico did when some upset Catholics in his state tried to spread calumnies against that state’s anti-poverty efforts."

”As your bishop, I do not take lightly to the efforts of anyone driving a wedge between my flock and me, as this ad attempts to do,” Bishop Cantu wrote in an op-ed. “The shepherd protects the flock from wolves, and I will try to do so no matter what shape or form they take. I will not be bullied into compromising the legitimate work of social justice of the church or allowing someone to lead the flock astray.”   

At CACG, we are prepared to stand up to the bullies too. We are willing to defend the work of CRS and CCHD. We hope our members will take the time to help these important charitable agencies. And let your pastor and your bishop know that you expect them to stand up to the bullies too. 

Yours truly,

Fred Rotondaro

Chairman of the Board, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good