OTTAWA, March 6, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of parents is dismayed after a Catholic school board stonewalled yet again their questions about the board’s controversial partnership with a secular charity that promotes condoms and contraception usage in the developing world.
“Despite the relevance of the questions put forward, the board chose not to answer them. Why? We don't know,” said Andrew Pocrnic of Concerned Catholic Parents of Ottawa.
Pocrnic told the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) in January that parents were not satisfied with a response the board provided in October about its partnership with Free the Children, a charity run by the Kielburger brothers, who describe themselves as “proud” Catholics.
The OCSB at that time decided to continue its partnership with Free the Children after Marc Kielburger partially responded to questions from the parents, stating in a letter via the board that the charity does not “endorse, advocate, counsel, fund or perform abortions in any way in any of our projected countries.”
But the letter left parents wondering why Kielburger’s response omitted any mention of the charity’s position on contraception and condoms, questions directly asked by the parents.
In a follow-up letter sent to the parents dated February 21, the OCSB again failed to answer the parents’ direct questions.
“Our relationship with Free the Children is one of openness and mutual respect. We work together to meet the needs of those less fortunate and to spread the Gospel through action,” the letter, written by Chairperson Ted Hurley, states.
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“The communication between us has been exemplary and there is a willingness to work and to grow together.”
Pocrnic immediately noticed the irony.
“It is difficult for parents to grasp why the openness and exemplary communication the board has with Free the Children isn't being replicated with concerned parents. Surely the board's relationship with parents should take precedence over that of an external partner. And yet that doesn't seem to be the case,” he said.
Hurley concluded his letter by saying the board will continue the partnership: “Free the Children have been open and have taken the concerns we have expressed seriously and both the Administration and the Board of Trustees are satisfied with the responses we have received.”
While Free the Children has clarified its position on abortion, Pocrnic said that the charity’s silence on condoms and contraception leave concerned parents with the message that the charity is not in harmony with Catholic teaching in these areas.
It is no secret that Free the Children’s health clinics promote “family planning” – a term used by “reproductive health” experts to refer to contraception, sterilization, condoms, and sometimes abortion – to women and youth in the developing world:
- In its spring 2011 Pimbiniet Community Report, Free the Children states that its Baraka Health Clinic in Kenya offers “Mamas in the community … weekly family planning sessions.”
- In its 2011 Enelerai Community Report, Free the Children boasted how members of Enelerai women's groups “benefited from our health programs” including “learn[ing] the importance of family planning.” A similar 2011 report from Motony stated how women “learned about family planning” while attending a Free the Children health clinic.
- A fact sheet by Virgin Atlantic, a Free the Children partner, notes that the organization’s initiatives in Rajasthan, India include “the provision of health workshops and family planning.”
- Free the Children’s spring 2009 report from Pimbiniet, Kenya indicates that “family planning” is taught in their schools: “Basic education provides girls and women with a greater understanding of health, nutrition and family planning.” One fieldworker confirmed that Kenya children taught by the charity “go back to their communities armed with knowledge on HIV/AIDS and family planning.”
The Catholic Church teaches that the use of contraception is intrinsically evil. Since sex outside of marriage and contraception within marriage are held as intrinsically evil, there is no circumstance in which the use of condoms — even for a laudable reason such as preventing STDs — is morally permissible.
Last summer the board amended its “Partnership, Sponsorship, and Donations” policy at parents’ insistent request on account of numerous board-partner scandals that were happening in the schools. Parents say the board has a duty and responsibility to partner with groups that do not oppose Catholic teaching.
Pocrnic said the parents’ group will not allow the board to leave questions about Free the Children’s position on condoms and contraception unanswered.
“We will be contacting the board asking for precisely that information,” he said.
Ted Hurley, Chair
Ottawa Catholic School Board