Catholic Relief Services Denies then Admits Guilt in Congo Contraception Program
Catholic Relief Services has offered its response to our report, and in predictable fashion CRS offers nothing of substance, denies any wrong-doing, and hides admission of its own guilt within the text of its rebuff. In essence, CRS’s response boils down to these basic points:
- CRS suggests that all of this could have been cleared up had we presented our concerns to them first.
- CRS admits that the documentation does indeed show that CRS was involved in the contraception-distributing programs of Project AXXes.
- CRS admits that contraception was indeed delivered throughout the project area for which it was responsible.
- CRS denies having had anything to do with the contraception-distribution or promotion, and as evidence, calls in a statement from the president of the organization it worked with on the project.
- CRS provides a statement of support from the Bishops’ Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo as evidence of its fidelity to the Catholic Church in that region.
We’ll address the first point right away. What CRS is truly complaining about here is that it didn’t have ample time to orchestrate another cover-up. The last time we provided information to Catholic Relief Services in advance of releasing a report, they used it to contact PEPFAR in order to have the public record changed so as to give the appearance that CRS had not implemented a contraception-promoting program called Healthy Choices II. (See our report, CRS, PEPFAR, and the Cover-Up) CRS claimed that it was mistakenly identified with the project and had PEPFAR change the public record on its behalf. Once again, CRS is claiming it was mistakenly identified with a contraception-promoting program and has asked an outside agency to take the fall. Until CRS shows itself to be more interested in addressing authentic concerns from faithful Catholics than in making excuses, we see no reason to provide advanced warning. And given the pre-gamed response to a report it had not yet seen (see Life Site News’ report here), attempting to poison the well among the bishops against it, it seems that our concerns continue to be well founded.
Overall, what Catholic Relief Services is asking Catholics to do is deny what they can see with their own eyes (four years’ worth of inventory and narrative reports showing CRS intimately involved in the distribution of abortifacient contraception) and simply accept its denial. While CRS doesn’t even attempt to dispute what the reports say, it categorically denies the accuracy of the reports themselves, offering as evidence a quoted portion of a letter from the president of IMA World Health.
The fact of the matter is that the inventory reports indicate that CRS received the contraception, which was indeed distributed throughout health zones under CRS’s responsibility. But hidden in CRS’s denial is an outright admission of guilt. Here’s what CRS said:
The contraceptives in question were delivered to the geographic area where CRS worked but it was IMA World Health – not CRS – who “provided an alternative mechanism for the training, storage and distribution of contraceptive products.”
First of all, the wording here is very odd, because if IMA is providing an “alternative mechanism” for the contraception, not CRS, then CRS is implicating itself. But, if we were to concede for a moment (we are NOT conceding this point) that CRS did not actually handle the contraceptives in question, CRS is still admitting here that it willingly permitted the contraception to be distributed throughout its project area. IMA made it very clear at the outset of the project that the promotion and distribution of contraception was one of the primary purposes of AXxes.
Page 1 of the document titled, “AXxes Project Description,” which was published at the outset of the project, says:
Activities will focus on: (1) increase contraceptive security, (2) promote and provide a mix of contraceptive methods, including natural (e.g., SDM 14and LAM) and modern (e.g., pills, IUD, condoms, etc), (3) promote birth spacing (rather than limiting births) as an entry point for service delivery, (4) ensure that all outreach messages incorporate and involve men, (5) explore partnering and/or collaborating more comprehensively with UNFPA in the provision of family planning services, especially in hard-to-reach areas affected by conflict, (6) provide appropriate screening for and treatment/referral of sexually infections (STls), (7) provide synergies with HI V/AIDS programming, such as incorporating family planning services into PMTCT and VCT programs, (8) promote community-based activities that include messages for parents about birth spacing and behavior change.
What this means is that CRS knew fully well that contraception would be integral to Project AXxes, and for CRS to admit that contraception was distributed throughout its project area, what CRS is saying is that it signed on as a willing participant in a program that would distribute contraception throughout the area for which CRS was responsible.
Even more to the point, page 14 of the First Quarterly Report for Year 3 of Project AXxes says that in the region of CRS’s health zones, “AXxes is the first partner to develop PF (family planning) programs,” which means that it was through CRS’s participation in AXxes that contraception was first introduced to these people.
This is extremely problematic because what CRS admitted to is what moral theologians call proximate material cooperation with evil. According to moral theology, there are nine ways to share in the guilt of another’s sin:
- Praise or flattery
- Being a partner in the sin
- Defending the evil done
Again, if we were to concede that CRS did not actually handle the contraception as it claims (we do not), CRS is still guilty of two of these means of participating in the sin of contraception distribution. In CRS’s response, it admitted to giving its consent, and also by (ostensibly) remaining silent about the contraception distributed in the area under its control. Because of this, CRS is guilty of proximate material cooperation with evil … and it knows it.
Consider this: by agreeing to participate in Project AXxes, CRS had to agree to allow contraception to be distributed among the people under its responsibility. For a moment, read again the quote from the “AXxes Project Description” document and exchange the word “contraception” with “the sexual trafficking of 8 year old girls.” In fact, read CRS’s defense again, and exchange the word “contraception” with “abortion.”
If Project AXxes had told CRS that the sex trafficking of 8 year old girls or the performance of abortions would be integral to the “success” of the project, would CRS have agreed to be a participant?
We hope not. So, why would CRS be so cavalier about participating in a project whose end is the spread of contraception? The only conclusion to draw is that CRS does not believe the distribution of contraception to be gravely evil.
But there’s another way in which CRS admitted guilt. In its response, CRS said:
CRS did provide natural family planning as part of Project AXxes with the distribution of cycle beads, as befits a Catholic organization working to improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and their young children.
So, CRS is admitting to implementing the NFP programs of Project AXxes. Keep in mind that AXxes made it very clear that the spread of contraception and the permeation of the “message” of family planning would run throughout the entire project. What AXxes said about the NFP programs was that it was being used as a stepping-stone to introducing women to contraception. Page 8 of the final report for Project AXxes says:
Moreover, the inclusion of MAMA and MAO [NFP programs] in both counseling and reporting serve to introduce the important concept of family planning and to integrate reproductive health care services at the facility level. Nearly every woman is counseled on MAMA postpartum, and then at her six month visit she is given options for other methods of family planning—a normal step from natural to modern methods.
There is no way that CRS didn’t know that Project AXxes was using the NFP programs to promote contraception. Because of this, CRS is guilty of way number seven in participating in the sin of another, “Being a partner in the sin.” By agreeing to allow contraception to be dispensed in its program area, by remaining silent about the contraception that was being distributed, and by providing an introductory mechanism to the evil of contraception, CRS fully admits its own guilt in the distribution of contraceptives … even IF it didn’t actually dirty its hands with the contraceptives themselves.
But, there’s more.
CRS directly contradicts itself in its own response. On the one hand, CRS claims that the problem comes from
unclear wording in a report prepared by another organization that did not understand how important absolute clarity on this point is to CRS.” But the letter from IMA president Richard Santos says, “In reality, CRS was very clear with all parties that it would not engage in any activities that were contrary to Catholic teaching and that it would not promote such activities to its local Catholic partners.”
If CRS was so clear, then how did IMA “not understand” the importance of clarity? Furthermore, if this was such a big sticking point, then how did this error not get corrected in over four years of reporting?
CRS went on to claim that the Congolese bishops “support” the claim by the president of IMA World Health that CRS was “very clear with all parties that it would not engage in any activities that were contrary to Catholic teaching.” CRS said:
The Conference of Congolese Bishops (CENCO) supports this. In a letter provided to CRS on September 29, 2016, they state: “The CENCO stands behind the work of Catholic Relief Services, with whom we have partnered for more than 40 years. The work of CRS has always been faithful to Catholic teaching and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Since the bishops in the Congo had not obtained a copy of the report on CRS, and the letter CRS obtained from the Congolese bishops is dated September 29 … a full 19 days before our report was published … how could the statement from the CENO be about our report at all? In fact, According to a leaked letter provided by Life Site News, CRS obtained a statement from the bishops conference of Kenya as well.
The letter from the Conference of Bishops in Kenya and the letter from the Conference of Bishops in Congo are IDENTICAL. Except for particular, identifying information, the two letters match, word for word. This means that they were written by the same source: CRS. This also means that CRS provided a form letter to both conferences, asked them to fill out the letters and send them back. In no way can this be admitted as evidence against what was illustrated in our report. But CRS is trying to pass it off as if it is.
And yet, there’s still more to consider.
For instance, CRS completely ignores the fact that its own medical coordinator, Dr. Janvier Barhobagayana, mentions the “family planning” component in a video interview and later discusses how the use of contraception has “shown improvements,” in a USAID newsletter interview. (see page 14 of our report for specifics) If CRS was not a part of the contraception element, how would he know? And if CRS had taken issue with the contraception element, why would he characterize the increased use of contraceptives as “an improvement?”
Now … back to CRS’s claim that the inventory reports wrongly identify CRS as participating in the distribution of contraception. For one thing, the administrative manual for Project AXxes provides very clear and precise instructions for how inventory reports are to be conducted. Specifically, page 6 says:
I.M.A. will assure general coordination of the project in part through its general headquarters in the USA and in part through Kinshasa by means of their country representative and consultants as well as the staff of I.M.A./ECC.
The technical, planning and implementing agent along with the four implementing partners, CRS, WVI, Merlin and ECC, will be doing the field work at the district level.
In other words, IMA is conducting the project from afar, while CRS is responsible for what goes on in its area. Furthermore, page 13 of the manual says that each implementing agency (which includes CRS) is responsible for hiring a Project Manager, Administrative Manager, Accountant, and a Manager of Logistical Operations. This is important because on page 19 specifies that the aforementioned individuals hired by the implementing agencies would be the ones conducting quarterly visual inventory reports, and signing off on them each time such reports are completed. Page 18 says:
A physical inventory of the equipment and supplies will be done quarterly. This is to insure that all the equipment and supplies accounted for are indeed physically present. The inventory will be carried out by a team composed, according their level, of the administrator/manager of the project, the logistician and another member of the team. A report, duly signed by the members of the inventory team and the manager of the stock, must confirm the inventory.
This means that the inventory reports identified as CRS’ would have to have been signed off by CRS’ team, which is why they were accounted in the quarterly and annual reports under CRS’ name. And on page 1, the manual says that CRS was presented with a list of all the materials involved in its portion of the project and establishes where each item is to be sent. This means that at the outset of the project, CRS would have known how many health centers and hospitals under its responsibility would be supplied with contraception.
One last point. On page 55 of the First Year Annual Report is a chart outlining a site visit from the Ministry of Health and the Institute of Reproductive Health intended to “supervise family planning activities at CRS” sites. The stated reason for the visit was to ensure that after the dispatching of family planning commodities, “the commodities were distributed correctly.” To that point, the ONLY family planning commodities to be dispatched were depo-provera shots, oral contraceptives, IUDs and condoms, and page 8 of the Second Quarterly Report for Year 1 shows that they were sent to CRS’s coordination office. There were no cycle beads delivered at that time, so the reason for the visit HAD to be contraception.
- CRS claims that it had nothing to do with the distribution of contraception, but all of the official reports on the project say otherwise. Because of the detailed and fact-checking procedures outlined in the procedures manual for the project and the evidence found in the annual and quarterly reports, it is unreasonable to believe that this was a mere clerical error.
- CRS admits proximate, material cooperation in a grave moral evil. Regardless of whether one accepts CRS’s explanation or not, CRS admits that it participated in a program intent on the distribution of contraception, and permitted … with full knowledge … the distribution of said contraception into areas for which it was responsible. Furthermore, by implementing the natural family planning aspect of Project AXxes, knowing that it would be used to introduce women to artificial contraception, CRS was a willing accomplice to the wicked ends of Project AXxes.
- CRS obtained letters of support from the Bishops’ conferences of Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo prior to publication of our report on Project AXxes, meaning these conferences had no knowledge of the project when they sent CRS the letters of support. CRS then attempted to use those letters as evidence against the report, when in fact, they had nothing to do with the report at all. Also, the two letters were identical, showing that CRS had written the letters for these conferences.
- CRS ignores the testimony of its own medical coordinator, whose statements about contraception and family planning show a participation on CRS’ part in the contraceptive aspect of Project AXxes.
Once again, CRS’s response to well-documented facts is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Until CRS is forbidden from accepting money from organizations whose ends are at odds with Catholic teaching, as Pope Benedict XVI decreed in 2012, this problem will not be resolved.