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Scandal Redux: Catholic Relief Services Edition

For those who haven’t been watching, there’s another scandal brewing in the Catholic Church — this time with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the promotion of some very un-Catholic things.

The good folks over at Life Site News just uncovered a rather unsettling relationship between CRS and an organization called the CORE Group, but there seems to be more to the story than a simple working relationship.

Two weeks ago, Life Site News revealed that CRS gave a $5.3 million grant to a pro-abortion, pro-contraception, and pro-homosexual organization known as CARE.   It’s bad enough that CRS has been so rigidly defensive about giving large sums of money to such a vicious enemy of The Church, but far worse than that is the fact that every argument CRS presented totally collapses in the light of its relationship with the CORE Group.

In short, CRS claims that the money granted to CARE was not “fungible,” so it couldn’t have been used to fund birth control; the money came from the government, so Catholic funds didn’t go to CARE; CRS does not support or participate in CARE’s birth control promoting programs.  John Rivera, CRS’s communications director summed it up by saying, “We do not fund, support or participate in any programming or advocacy that is not in line with Church teaching, including artificial birth control.”

According to the information provided by Life Site News, CRS’s statement is completely untrue.

Catholic Relief Services is a dues-paying member of the CORE Group.  In addition to that, CRS’s senior technical advisor in nutrition, Mary Hennigan, is on the board of the CORE Group and CRS’s Global Director of Health and HIV, Dr. Shannon Senfeld co-chairs the CORE Group’s “working group” on HIV/AIDS.

Why is this a problem?  Because the CORE Group itself heavily promotes birth control, which means that Catholic donations to CRS went to pay for the membership in this organization (this IS fungible).

Sadly, there’s more.

According to the CORE Group’s description of its board of directors,

The CORE Group Board of Directors is the governing body of the organization and is dedicated to advancing CORE Group’s mission, values, strategies, goals, priorities, and policies.

As a member of the “governing body” of CORE Group, CRS’s senior technical advisor in nutrition would be a part of the decision-making for the organization, including philosophies, policies, and projects.  And one of those projects is a working group on “Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health,” which actively promotes contraception.

In fact, nearly 50% of CORE Groups budget for fiscal year 2011 went toward “family planning” and “Maternal and Child Health,” (MCH) and its MCH programs are specifically designed to be integrated with “family planning.”

It’s bad enough that CRS is paying its own money into an organization that so heavily promotes birth control to poor people in third world countries, and with board member oversight of the organization, CRS cannot claim ignorance.

But the saddest and most shocking aspect of this whole thing is found in a single document on the CORE Group’s website.  CORE Group produced a document titled, “Improving Access To and Use of Quality: Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) Services,” through its HIV/AIDS working group, which is co-chaired by CRS’s Global Director of Health and HIV.

Not only was this document produced through a project that CRS had direct oversight for, but the acknowledgements identify two CRS employees, Rolando Figueroa, Regional Technical Advisor for the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office and Kristin Weinhauer, HIV/AIDS Technical Advisor, as having reviewed the document.  Just take a look at the document is all about.

Page 21 says, “Prevention services can offer male or female condoms, advice about how to negotiate safer sex, etc.”

Page 39 says, “Safer sex. A client who tests negative should be counseled on how to stay negative. The counselor should remind the client about the various risk behaviors for HIV and explain about safer sex, the use of condoms, and how to negotiate safer sex with one’s partner.”

Page 55 under the heading “A Few Recommendations,” says, “HIV prevention education. In wider programming, increase public awareness about condom use and sexual behavior change, especially among the reproductive age group.”

Page 57 says, “Youth VCT also needs to be integrated into youth-friendly contraception and reproductive health services, including diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.”

Page 58 says, “As noted above, young people are especially vulnerable to HIV, for a number of reasons:

  • limited knowledge of sexuality, reproductive health, and contraception
  • cannot afford condoms or are denied them by retail outlets or clinics

Page 60 says, “the following issues should be addressed and/or given special emphasis when counseling young people:  the proper use of a condom.”

There is no doubt, in this situation, Catholic Relief Services is funding a staunchly pro-birth control organization with its own money, it has direct oversight of the entire organization through its board membership, and it specifically oversaw the publication of a document promoting condom use.  None of the defenses it used regarding CARE apply here at all.  And if CRS is so intimately connected with this birth control providing organization, where else is it doing things it claims it doesn’t?

So why does this squabble over “birth control” matter to non-Catholics?  Because once again, we have a presumably Catholic institution doing some very un-Catholic things.  The scandals run fairly high — the funding of left-wing groups under the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the heretical “Nuns on the Bus” grand tour around America, and revelations that CCHD funding went to train then-community organizer Barack Obama back in 1986 — politically divisive efforts, all performed in the name of the Catholic Church.

Faithful Catholics — as well as their priests and bishops — are aware of the problem and have been for years.  Doing something about it is a bit trickier than a business boardroom.  But as Richard John Neuhaus so eloquently put it regarding yet another scandal tarnishing the reputation of the Catholic Church in America:

Fidelity, fidelity, fidelity!

Wise words regarding what it means to be a Christian in public life, especially at a time when so many seem to desire compromise, abrogation, and self.

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