A Virginia affiliate of Catholic Charities is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for helping a 16-year-old Guatemalan girl be fit with a contraceptive device and obtain an abortion, in possible violation of Virginia law and in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Catholic faith.
A story in the Washington Times reveals that four employees of Commonwealth Catholic Charities, Richmond (CCR) have been fired and one supervisor with the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services agency has been suspended, according to the Times’ federal sources and a secret April 19 letter written by three bishops to the 350 bishops of the United States.
Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City and Bishop Michael P. Driscoll of Boise, Idaho wrote the two page letter after a federal investigation was requested on April 23. The letter was publicized in the Catholic weekly The Wanderer.
The letter and other sources show that an unnamed Guatemalan girl, who already has one child, had been fitted with a contraceptive device provided by CCR members two months before the January 18 abortion. According to the Washington Times, CCR members signed the consent form required for a minor to have an abortion and also arranged her transportation to and from the abortion clinic.
Virginia law forbids a social worker form signing a parental consent form for an abortion. The law requires that at least one parent, grandparent or adult sibling give consent.
The Guatemalan girl, whose parents are missing, was a ward of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The department provides $7.6 million each year in contracts with the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for foster care of immigrant children. The USCCB subcontracts services through agencies like Commonwealth Catholic Charities.
"These federal funds are awarded with the clear purpose of caring for unaccompanied minors here from other countries," stated Health and Human Services spokesman Kenneth Wolfe, according to the Washington Times. "To that end, we were surprised and disappointed to learn of a chapter of Catholic Charities using this funding to facilitate a minor procuring an abortion."
Wolfe said that the case has been referred to HHS Inspector General Timothy Menke because it might have violated Virginia law and contradicts federal policy.
The HHS has requested the USCCB take “several corrective actions,” Wolfe said, “in order to prevent this type of abuse from happening again.”
“Our agency is one that supports human life, and we take that responsibility seriously,” Wolfe said.
In the letter from Bishops DiLorenzo, Wester, and Driscoll to other bishops in the USCCB, they wrote “Some members of the MRS staff were not sufficiently aware of church teaching and [USCCB] policy regarding these matters to take stronger and more appropriate actions.”
"This incident is a most regrettable stain on the record of excellence in the work both of MRS and of Catholic Charities," their letter said, according to the Washington Times.
The bishops also wrote that all MRS staff will receive training on "the primacy of Catholic teachings and beliefs as they impact their work or professional ethics ... to assure that such unacceptable incidents never happen again."
Catholic teaching condemns deliberate abortion and deliberate use of contraception as sins. In the case of abortion, anyone who obtains or knowingly helps someone obtain an abortion is automatically excommunicated.
A Monday statement from the Alexandria-based Catholic Charities USA blamed Bishop DiLorenzo for the incident, according to the Washington Times. The statement noted that CCR, which is a member of the Catholic Charities USA social service network, is incorporated under the leadership of the Diocese of Richmond, with the bishop serving on its board.
CNA attempted to contact the Diocese of Richmond for comment but none was available by press time.