Last week, the Lepanto Institute published a report showing that the Salesian Missions received federal funding for the implementation of a program called Life Choices. A few days later, the Salesian Missions published a statement denying the entire report without addressing any of the facts. The statement reads as if it was lifted from the Catholic Relief Services “denial of wrong-doing playbook,” as it follows the same model: 1) Declare that they take all concerns seriously, 2) Deny any wrongdoing without addressing the facts, 3) Accuse the reporting party of malicious intent, 4) Fill the page with the organization’s good works. In part, the Salesian Missions statement says (our comments in red):
Allegations that programs we support are not in adherence with this are investigated. Salesian Missions has concluded these claims are without merit, as with many other claims made by this organization. (if the claims are without merit, then the Salesian Missions should have no problem illustrating how the information contained in the report is false.)
Salesian Missions is not alone in being the target of false claims from “reports” published by critics with a sole purpose to launch misleading attacks. (still no actual rebuttal. Please explain where the report is either false or misleading) We join the Vatican and other respected Catholic organizations who, like us, have been attacked in this manner — and who, like us, are tirelessly dedicated to doing work that helps people in need. We join them in standing up to ongoing false allegations that seek to damage our work.
While it is important that we respond in some way, it is more important that we not let our energy and focus be compromised, because it is needed elsewhere. (In other words, “we’re not going to address the facts in the report.”) The work that is done by more than 30,000 Salesian missionaries around the globe saves lives and provides hope to millions of children in some of the poorest places on the planet. We are saddened that any attempts would be made to attack the work being done by not only these missionaries but thousands of local staff, in places like Africa which is plagued with unrest and disease.
Let’s review the facts of the report:
- Documents from both USAID (page 72 of this document) and PEPFAR (page 259 of this document) show that the Salesian Missions received government funding, beginning in 2005, in order to implement the Life Choices program.
- USAID and PEPFAR both indicate that the money received by the Salesian Missions included the promotion of condom use.
- The Salesian Missions website confirms the reception of USAID and PEPFAR funding for the implementation of the life choices program in Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania.
- Documents obtained from the Salesian Life Choices program in South Africa (Youth Friendly HIV Counseling and Testing manual and Manual for Peer-Educators Grade 9) all include promotion of condom use and more.
- The Salesian Life Choices for South Africa website indicates that it was started in 2005 by the Salesian Order through grants from PEPFAR and USAID.
In order for the statement by the Salesian Missions to be true, then the USAID and PEPFAR statements that Life Choices included condom promotion must be false and the manuals listed on the Salesian Life Choices website must be false. But there’s more to this story which was not included in the initial report.
After the first report on the Salesian Missions was published last week, the Salesian Life Choices website closed public access to the program manuals we cited. Here is what the resources page looked like prior to publication of our report:
And here is what the resources page looks like now:
Just as a note, if the Salesian Missions is innocent of the facts we have presented, then there should be no need to hide the information mentioned in our report. But attempting to cover-up the facts we’ve previously presented isn’t even the worst of it.
The Salesian Life Choices program distributed over 100,000 condoms to kids in 2008!
In March of 2010, a document titled, “KNOW YOUR HIV PREVENTION RESPONSE (KYR) ANALYSIS REPORT FOR COMPONENT 3: WESTERN CAPE PROVINCIAL REPORT” was published by several government agencies. The acknowledgements section on page four of this document gives a “special thank you” to the non-profit and non-government organizations that provided researchers with the requested information:
This review of HIV prevention policies and programmes was researched and compiled by a team of researchers from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Health Policy Initiative (HPI), under the guidance and direction of the United Nations AIDS Programmes (UNAIDS), the World Bank and the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC). Acknowledgement is also expressed to programme implementers who provided participated in the national workshop in providing relevant contact details of HIV programmes and interventions in the nine provinces. To the government departments and the non-profit organisations, private and non-governmental organisations in the Western Cape, a special thank you is extended to these organisations for providing the researchers with the necessary information requested.
This is to say that all areas where statistics and organization-based information was provided directly by the organization sited in the document. Page 14 of the document verifies this fact. Page 14 provides a table of organizations that participated in the study, and the years for which data was collected. The table includes Salesian Life Choices and gives data for years 2006, 2007, and 2008.
On the same page, the document indicates that the information collected from the Salesian Life Choices came in the form of both worksheets and annual reports: “Besides the worksheets that were completed, organizations also submitted annual reports where additional data was extracted by the researchers for the purpose of the study.”
This is all important to establish because this shows that the information indicated in this report came directly from the organizational source. In short, what this report says about the Salesian Missions came directly from the Salesian Missions itself.
Page 24 of the report gives a chart for the number of condoms that were distributed to children age 15-19 for the year 2008. The chart indicates that the Salesian Life Choices was responsible for nearly half of all condoms distributed to children that year, and then says, “For the year 2008, Salesian Life Choices distributed 114,546 condoms to in-school youth.”
The next chart on the same page shows that Salesian Life Choices distributed hundreds of condoms to “Most-At-Risk-Populations” (people in prisons and young women 20-24 years old).
Page 55 of this document is the beginning of Appendix D, “Summary of Partner Activities in Western Cape PEPFAR (US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Activities in Western Cape Province, FY 2009). Under this appendix, on page 67, the entry “Salesian Missions” is an explanation of the Life Choices program, including this statement:
“Life Choices also run programs with the stakeholders in their lives – teachers and parents. Each year Life Choices chooses different themes in order to ensure that youth aged 10 -14 delay sexual debut, older youth 15 -24 practice secondary abstinence and those who are sexually active stay faithful to one partner, know their HIV status and are given full information on consistent and correct use of condoms.”
And just in case this information isn’t enough to confirm the condom-promoting elements of the Salesian life Choices program founded by the Salesian Missions in South Africa, this video from 2006 should remove all doubt.
This video was produced by the Salesian Life Choices program, and at the very end of the video is this screen which says, “A project of the Salesians of Don Bosco,” while accompanying the logo of the Salesian Order.
At 3 minutes at 3 seconds in the video, the camera pans down a list of risky behaviors, and included in the list is “sex without a condom.”