Steven Mosher

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Madagascar bishops and clergy complain about Catholic Relief Services’ activities

Steven Mosher
By Steven Mosher

MADAGASCAR, August 1, 2013 (Pop.org) – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) claims that allegations that it has used funding from American Catholics to distribute contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and devices in Madagascar are “simply false.” Yet these charges do not originate with PRI, but reflect the views of the bishops and clergy of Madagascar.

During our month-long investigation of CRS activities in Madagascar, our investigator interviewed a number of bishops and clergy in country, many of whom leveled serious charges against CRS. These ranged from promoting abortifacient contraception and a failure to hire Catholics, to wasteful spending habits and a refusal to work through the local ordinary. Here are a series of quotes from these interviews:

Promoting and Distributing Contraceptives and Abortifacient Drugs

“Even in my own diocese!  Without my knowledge,...they [CRS] were working on an artificial contraception project here...And, then, the Catholic people around here heard about it and said:  “What’s that all about?  That’s supposed to be ‘Catholic’??” So, there you have it:  They [CRS] were following the instructions of USAID.’” Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina (Tamatave)

“Well, one thing for sure, you can go into the most remote, middle-of-nowhere place now and you’ll find it well stocked with abortifacient products.  And, you know, they [the community health workers under CRS] are giving the shots (depo provera) now!” Fr. Jean Jagu, Vicar at SMM Church in Brickaville

Failure to Hire Catholics

“I’m not sure why, and I don’t want to exaggerate, but maybe 70% of its staff, or even more – is not Catholic; they’re not Catholic… I do understand that about CRS’s commitments to the U.S. Government…but, the question that remains is:  Why are there so few Catholics on CRS’s staff…that I don’t understand so well.” Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina (Tamatave)

“CRS has a very bad reputation here in the diocese: most of its employees are Protestants!”  Diocesan Priest

“The problem here in Madagascar is that CRS is staffed by Protestants.”  Fr. Jean Aimé, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Toamasina

“Maybe CRS’s participation in artificial-contraception-promotion programs is the reason that CRS mainly hires Protestants, who have no objection to family planning.  If CRS hired Catholics, some of those Catholics might object more strongly to CRS’s participation in that kind of thing.”  Fr. Liva, SMM, Pastor, St. Thérèse Parish, Tamatave

Refusal to Work Through the Local Bishop and Through the Local Church

“You know, CRS works outside of the Church.  It has the name ‘Catholic’ Relief Services but [laughing] doesn’t work, really, with Catholics.  Even the personnel of CRS are nearly all Protestant.”  Father Jean Joel, Director of Bureau de Coordination des Actions Sociales.

“We [the Montfort Fathers] might have the same name [Catholic] but we’re not in the same family.”  Fr. Jean Jagu,  Vicar at SMM Church in Brickaville

I had been here in Tamatave for already more than three years, and, maybe this was partly my fault, but, I didn’t even know where the CRS office in town was!  … So, when I got back to Tamatave I did go over to their office and, to my great surprise – have you seen it? – it’s a very big office and organization!...

Just this year CRS held a very big meeting here in town – a “capacity-building” meeting or something, at a hotel here – and I heard about it only accidentally, when I was up in the [town] of Diego, and somebody told me about the meeting to be held [in my own town].  I was embarrassed; I didn’t know anything about it.  Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina (Tamatave)

“You never see ‘them’ [CRS] en brousse [in the bush]. They drive in…and then they disappear.”  Fr. Jean Jagu, Vicar at SMM Church in Brickaville

“That’s what really hurts me.  How to work with those CRS people?... But, you know, as soon as I speak of a ‘partnership’ with them, then everybody runs away and hides.”  Archbishop Odon Razanakolona of Antananarivo, [the Capital City of Madagascar]

“The archbishop recently told one parish not to bother applying to CRS for aid, because it wouldn’t work, and if it did, the reporting/accounting procedures would be impossible for the parish to fulfill.  He directed the parish to BUCAS [Bureau de Coordination des Actions Sociales] instead.”   Fr. Jean Noël Rakotondrazafy

Wasteful Spending Habits

“And then, the money that CRS gets:  a large part of it goes towards administration, while they make us work like dogs.  And then they collect two-thirds…and they give us crumbs.  They are the ones who need to explain:  Why do they receive such big salaries?”  Archbishop Odon Razanakolona

“They [CRS] were only good for providing big cars and big salaries and c[a]n’t see that they accomplished much.”  Fr. Jean Jagu

“Yes; one time, for ‘visibility’ purposes, they [CRS-Madagascar representatives] came in here [to my office] and asked me to put up this thing, this sign, with “USAID” on it; to put it up behind my desk.  I threw them the hell out of my office:  ‘Take your sign and your money out of here.  I don’t need it.  I’ve lived in my poverty; leave me in my poverty.’”  Archbishop Odon Razanakolona

CRS Claims at Odds with Views of Local Bishops

Compare the above quotes from Malagasy bishops and clergy, who have long experienced how CRS operates on the ground in their country, with what CRS says about its policies:

  • “As a pro-life organization, CRS programming does not include the promotion or distribution of artificial family planning or the distribution of abortifacients in any country in which we work.
  • “Committed to our Catholic identity, we review all organizations via a vetting process that begins with our local Bishops in-country.”
  • Serving the poor and the Church to bring God’s love to neighbors in need, while promoting the dignity of life from beginning to end, is a PRIVILEGE for CRS.”

The Catholic Church in Madagascar would have trouble accepting any of these claims. Local clergy distainfully refer to CRS as the so-called “Catholic” Relief Services, complain that it is violating Church teaching on the Life issues, and suggest that, instead of standing in solidarity with the local Church, it is instead practicing a kind of economic apartheid.

Malagasy Bishops Complained Privately to Carolyn Woo Last Year -- to no avail.

CRS claims that “we are open to and welcome correction, presented to us in the spirit of Christian charity and with the intention of helping us better animate the Gospel mission of serving the poorest and most vulnerable around the world.”

But it then goes on to attack PRI for airing the grievances of the Catholic Church in Madagascar: “In substance and tone, these recent unrelenting attacks do not manifest this spirit. They attempt to cause division in the Body of Christ. This is harmful to the Church and to the pro-life cause.”

The truth is somewhat different.

In September 2012 Carolyn Woo came to Madagascar at the request of the Madagascar bishops, who had been trying to arrange a meeting with the head of CRS for several years. At that meeting they told Dr. Woo of their concerns about CRS’ activities in their dioceses.  

Nothing happened.

It is thus no surprise that some months later, their patience exhausted, they shared their frustrations with CRS with us. Some months have gone by since then and we, too, have been disappointed by the lack of corrective action on the part of CRS.

CRS’ quarrel is not with Population Research Institute, but with the Catholic Church of Madagascar.

It is CRS’ activities there, in Madagascar, that are, to quote CRS’ own words, “caus[ing] division in the Body of Christ [and are] … harmful to the Church and to the pro-life cause.”

Catholic Relief Services, for the love of God and the unity of the Catholic Church, heal thyself!

This piece is republished with permission from the Population Research Institute.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

South African mom files ‘wrongful life’ lawsuit on behalf of Downs son

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A South African woman has launched a "wrongful life" lawsuit against the Cape Town-based Foetal Assessment Centre, claiming a failure to inform her that the child she was carrying was at risk of having Down Syndrome prevented her from aborting her baby.

A twist in this lawsuit is that, unlike other "wrongful birth" lawsuits, the mother in this case missed the time limit to file the claim on her own behalf, so she is asking the South African Constitutional Court to allow her to sue the center for “wrongful life” on behalf of her now-born son.

“You have a duty to tell my mother carrying me that I'm malformed so that she can make an informed decision as to whether or not to carry me to term,” the statement of claim against the Foetal Assessment Centre reads, according to SABC News.

“It is not as if the foetus is sort of putting up its hand and saying why you didn’t destroy me," the mother's lawyer, Paul Hoffman, explained to Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. "The foetus is complaining that its malformation, its development is the result of the bad advice that was given.”

The SABC report did not say what compensation the woman is seeking.

The scope of the case is similar to that of a New Zealand couple who won a lawsuit claiming monetary compensation after a routine 20 week ultrasound scan failed to discover that their daughter had spina bifida.

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The mother, whose name has not been released, claimed that the continuance of the pregnancy was a “personal injury,” and, had she been given the correct diagnosis after that scan, she would have aborted her daughter.

"We consider that the continued pregnancy of the appellant following a misdiagnosis in the 20 week scan is capable of being an injury suffered by the appellant,” the court ruled, and directed the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) to make the woman eligible for compensation for the ongoing surgical and physiotherapy expenses incurred by their child.

New Zealand disability advocate Mike Sullivan said the underpinning attitude behind the decision is that those with disability, both born and unborn, are seen as a burden on society.

“This is what happens,” Sullivan said, when “the children become reduced to nothing – wrong even to exist.”

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