Amid the resignation of a vice presidential employee in a same-sex civil marriage, Catholic Relief Services reiterated its commitment to both Catholic identity and respect for all people as children of God.

Catholic Relief Services employee Rick Estridge worked at the agency for 16 years, most recently as Vice President for Overseas Finance. Estridge “held a technical finance position that did not involve mission-related decisions. Because of that, CRS did not require that position to be held by a Catholic, and Mr. Estridge is not Catholic,” said Catholic Relief Services June 3.

“He entered into a same-sex civil marriage two years ago when doing so became legal in Maryland. Because of the stress this situation has caused Mr. Estridge and his family, he has made the decision to leave CRS.”  

According to public records from the Clerk of Circuit Court for the City of Baltimore, Maryland, published in April by the Lepanto Institute, Estridge entered into a civil same-sex marriage with his partner, William Gorestas on April 4, 2013. The institute said that Estridge had also been publicly championing gay marriage on his Facebook page, though both his LinkedIn and Facebook accounts were later disabled. Estridge announced June 3 that he had decided to resign from CRS.

“This is the right decision for me, and I thank CRS' leadership for providing me with the space to make this determination during this difficult time,” he said in a public statement. “I continue to have full faith in CRS' leadership and the organization as a whole. I thank my team and the global finance community for their hard work and dedication and have every belief that they will continue to serve with excellence.”

A Catholic Relief Services statement provided to CNA June 3 said that the agency “respects Mr. Estridge’s decision and thanks him for his service.” The organization emphasized that it has “close ties to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and our Catholic identity is at the heart of our mission.”

CRS is the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops' conference. “We are resolute in our commitment to the Church and all its teachings, and we work in countless ways to support marriage and family life,” the group stated. “Our Board of Directors and executives regularly review programs, policies and practices to ensure that these uphold our Catholic identity, as we remain true to our mission of caring for those in greatest need at the forefront of the Church’s engagement with the world.”

Catholic Relief Services also expressed its “strong objection to these types of attacks and the tactics of the groups which launch them.” It noted that the critique published online had public broadcast Estridge’s home address.

“As a Catholic agency, CRS is committed to treating all people with the respect and compassion they deserve as children of God,” the agency said. “We detest hurtful campaigns that do not build up, but undermine, individuals and Church agencies carrying out the mission of bringing the love of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering.”

The Lepanto Institute and related groups have previously accused CRS of facilitating contraception in developing nations and advocating behavior contrary to Church teaching. The U.S. bishops have investigated and rejected these accusations on several occasions, stressing their confidence in the organization’s Catholic identity and the safeguards put in place to ensure that identity.