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Catholic Relief Services, Judas, and Mammon

In the 16th Chapter of Luke, Our Blessed Lord gives a parable of an unjust steward, and concludes: “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  One example of this dichotomy is richly exemplified in the person of Judas Iscariot.  In the 12th chapter of John, Judas decries Mary’s generous act of pouring out precious oils over Our Lord’s feet saying that the oils could have been sold for 30 day’s wages and given to the poor.  But, as St. John tells us, “He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.”  Judas was one of our Lord’s hand-picked apostles.  He had a chance to serve Him, but instead served his own pocketbook, even to the point of selling the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver.  But even in the act of betrayal, Judas expressed affection for our Lord with a Kiss.  In fact, both St. Matthew and St. Mark use the word “kataphilein” to describe the kiss, indicating that it was a very passionate or intense kiss.  And just as our Lord said in Luke 16 that no servant can have two masters, hating the one and loving the other, Judas hated our Lord with his betrayal, loving his money instead.

Mammon by George Frederick Watts

For nearly a decade now, Catholic Relief Services has been embroiled in a series of cascading scandals related to its projects.  And despite CRS’s consistent claim of innocence and protests of loyalty to the Catholic Church, time and again, CRS is routinely discovered to be involved in some way with the promotion or the distribution of abortifacient contraception and condoms.  Most recently, according to a 58 page report published this past October by the Lepanto Institute, CRS was found to have participated in the distribution of over 2.25 million units of abortifacient contraception and condoms in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Of course, CRS issued its standard and predictable formula of “deny the charges, offer a paltry explanation and attack the messenger.”  But it’s pretty hard to dismiss the evidence.  Four years of inventory reports show that CRS received and distributed artificial contraception, like Depo-Provera, IUDs, condoms, oral contraceptives, and even surgical sterilization kits.  Below is just one example (taken from the First Quarter Report for Year Three of Project AXxes) among many:

The Lepanto Institute’s comprehensive 58 page report on this situation can be read in full on their website.  Suffice it to say, the evidence merits a much closer look than CRS was willing to give it.

Nearly three weeks prior to the Lepanto Institute’s publication of this report, Archbishop Coakley, CRS’s former chairman of the board of directors, sent a letter to his brother bishops claiming that the forthcoming report would “lack a relationship with the truth.”  Attempting to back up this assertion, Abp. Coakley included two letters of support: one from the Catholic conference of bishops in Kenya and the other from the Catholic Conference of bishops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Not only are these two letters identical, indicating that they were written by the same person, but they were obtained well before the report was published, so they couldn’t have been used as evidence against the Lepanto Institute’s report.  And yet, Abp. Coakley said:

“As evidence, we have already received letters of support (below) from the Kenyan bishops and the bishops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who are aware that Hichborn has been digging into CRS’s work in their countries … As always, when we receive the latest report CRS will investigate thoroughly.”

So, Abp. Coakley admitted that he didn’t have the report, but said that the report would “lack a relationship with the truth” and provided two identical letters … representing bishops who had also not seen the report … as evidence that the report was going to be false.  The similarity of the two letters indicates that they have the same author, begging a host of additional questions.

Below are the two letters from the respective African bishops’ conferences provided by Abp. Coakley.  We’ve underlined the identical portions.

Abp. Coakley closed his letter to his brother bishops by asking them to respond to concerns, even while in ignorance of the contents of the report, in full support of CRS.  He said:

“If you receive any inquiries after Mr. Hichborn’s report, we would ask that you reply with expressions of confidence in CRS and assurance that CRS has systems and processes in place to ensure fidelity to its Catholic identity and to look into and address any concerns.”

Attacking the veracity of an unknown report while providing pre-fabricated letters of support from individuals who are equally ignorant of the report, all in an attempt to solicit support from others, are not the actions of an innocent party.

But then again … how innocent can CRS actually be?  Problems have been surfacing about CRS’s activities for nearly a decade.  In 2008, respected theologian Germain Grisez wrote an article about CRS’ distribution of a flipchart that promoted condom use.  Then Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was the chairman of CRS at that time, initially defended both the flipchart and CRS’s policy on giving full and accurate information on condoms as a part of its programming.  However, after a review and some public pressure, Abp. Dolan was forced to end CRS’s distribution of the flipchart and amend its policy regarding condoms.  You can read about that in his correspondence with Grisez, here.

What’s intriguing is Abp. Dolan’s reversal on the flipchart.  In reading the correspondence between Abp. Dolan and Grisez, Grisez indicated that he did not believe the letter Abp. Dolan sent to his brother bishops to have actually been penned by him, but by an executive at CRS.  In other words, it is entirely possible, as with the case regarding Project AXxes described above, that the letter was sent in ignorance of the facts.

But this continues to be the situation at CRS.  Even while CRS’s name and logo did not appear on the flipchart in question in 2008, it did appear on the teacher’s manual CRS used from 2006-2011.  According to an old CRS webpage, 30,000 adolescents and 90,000 secondary beneficiaries had been exposed to Windows of Hope (WoH) by the time the project ended in December of 2011.  In the image below of the WoH teacher’s manual, you can clearly see CRS’s name and logo, as well as the address for CRS’s office in Sierra Leone.

Bear in mind that this program was provided to children aged 8-12, and that the program was being implemented by an agency of the Catholic Church.  On page 174, the teacher is instructed to conduct an HIV puppet show where a puppet representing the HIV virus tells the kids:

Virus: There is another way to keep me outside of a person’s body. Some people use a condom. A condom is a rubber tube that is put on a man’s penis before having sex. If a condom is used correctly, it keeps the fluids from the penis and vagina from mixing and this way keeps ME out of THEIR bodies. Remember that condoms are not always safe, as they may break during sexual intercourse. And if someone has HIV in his or her body, he/she might transmit the HIV to his/her partner. Do you understand?

Remember, this program ended in 2011 … three years after Abp. Dolan said that the policy on CRS’s provision of condom information was revised.

But that’s not the only condom-promoting program published under CRS’s own logo and name.  In 2012, CRS produced the following video, plugging its program “We Stop AIDS.”  According to the video, at that time, over 18,000 people had already been exposed to the “We Stop AIDS” program.

On page 32 of the facilitator’s guide for We Stop AIDS, under the heading “How does one protect oneself from HIV infection?” the CRS-published document gives the “A, B, Cs” of protection.  The manual says:

The best known protections from infection are called “A” for Abstinence, “B” for “Be Faithful” and “C” for Condom.

Abstinence means not having sexual intercourse.

Be Faithful means having sexual intercourse only with one’s partner and no one else. Being faithful means that both partners are consistently faithful to each other.

A condom is a rubberized thin sheath that goes over the penis of a man, forming a barrier between him and his sexual partner. The virus, which is in the semen and female sexual fluids, cannot pass through this sheath. Condoms are 80-90% effective when used consistently and correctly.

On page 45, with CRS’s logo right at the top, is “Activity 5: BLOCKING THE SPREAD OF HIV.”  The drawing in the lower left corner for this activity includes a box of condoms.

Remember, these are CRS’s OWN publications … not some third party publication that CRS may or may not have used when implementing its government-funded programs.

From the condom-promoting flipchart discovered by Germain Grisez to the condom-promoting documents produced by CRS, it’s pretty clear that CRS is intimately involved in the promotion of condoms.  And when an organization takes no issue with promoting condoms, it’s not a big step to promoting other forms of artificial contraception.

Last year, the Lepanto Institute and Population Research Institute published the results of a joint-investigation into a CRS-led program called Support and Assistance to Indigenous Implementing Agencies (SAIDIA).  What was discovered through this investigation were government documents showing that CRS had implemented a program called Healthy Choices II.  Healthy Choices II (HC II) was a government-sponsored “Evidence-Informed Behavioral Intervention” that was fraught with the promotion of all forms of contraception.  In fact, out of 255 pages for the HC II manual, condom use is mentioned 335 times on 101 pages and contraception is mentioned 52 times on 15 pages.  This image is included among the materials used in HC II.

Not only was it reported in official government documents that CRS had implemented HC II, but Caritas of Nyeri specifically stated that HC II was being implemented by CRS and that its intended goal was to promote “protected sexual intercourse/safe sex” and to “provide knowledge and skills on current and consistent condom use.”

Of course, CRS denied any wrong-doing.  In fact, after CRS was provided with the government document indicating that it had implemented HC II, but not told that HC II facilitator’s manuals were found at CRS implementation sites, CRS’s response was to collaborate with a government agency to have the public record changed.  In an official letter from Abp. Coakley’s communications director regarding CRS and HC II:

“In the Kenya Operational Plan Report FY 2012, PEPFAR suggested that CRS was involved in activities engaged in by some other PEPFAR partners (e.g. condom promotion) that are in violation of Church teaching.

This was not the case.  CRS met with PEPFAR in Nairobi a few months ago and PEPFAR apologized for its error and has since corrected the report.”

The end result was that PEPFAR scrubbed all references to HC II with regard to CRS’s project from the public record.  Below is an image of the government report as it existed prior to CRS’s conversation with PEPFAR, and after:

CRS was further exposed when documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed the depth of CRS’s involvement with HC II.  In fact, those same documents revealed that CRS had implemented another condom-promoting program called “Shuga.”  The evidence was so damning that CRS actually had to admit that Shuga was implemented through its government-funded project, but as always, it made further attempts to exonerate itself from any culpability.

When examining CRS in the light of Judas, it is very clear that it is struggling to serve two masters.  According to CRS’s annual report for 2015, nearly 65% of its annual revenue comes from government funds.  And it stands to reason that CRS would have to receive so much in public funds, considering how much its top staff receives in compensation for “helping the poorest of the poor.”  According to CRS’s most recently published pro forma 990, the president of CRS is pulling in nearly half-a-million dollars.  The top 9 employees at CRS account for $2.425 million.  When we compare that figure with the $9.083 million CRS got from the last Rice Bowl collection, we can see that the salaries 9 people alone comprise 1/3 of the Rice Bowl collection.

As our Lord said, one cannot serve both God and mammon (money).  Perhaps if CRS was brought into conformity with Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio On the Service of Charity, which requires bishops to forbid charitable organizations under their authority to receive funding “from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to Church’s teaching,” there wouldn’t be a conflict.  In such a case, CRS wouldn’t be able to maintain its size and scope.  On the other hand, it would be more free to maintain fidelity to the Church it claims to serve.

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