The Editors

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Caught red-handed: Catholic Relief Services documents promote condoms

The Editors
The Editors
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BALTIMORE, Maryland, September 6, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic Relief Services was caught promoting condoms in 2008 as part of its fight against HIV/AIDS, even so far as having an official policy to provide “complete and accurate” information on the prophylactics. Under the direction of now-Cardinal Timothy Dolan, they pledged a reform and explicitly backed Pope Benedict’s teaching that condoms merely exacerbate the AIDS crisis.

So why, four years later, was CRS still touting two pro-condom HIV programs in this May 2012 Youtube video? Combined, the programs have reached nearly 60,000 people, they say.

And why, in a 2010 operating manual for a community center in Vietnam, were they telling staff they should “not forget to provide information on local condom provision”?

CRS responds

LifeSiteNews asked CRS about the Vietnam manual last Thursday and was assured later in the day by communications director John Rivera that “CRS does not purchase, promote or distribute condoms, nor do we provide funding to other organizations for the purchase, promotion or distribution of condoms.”

“We continue to review all our publications and programs to ensure there is full compliance with this position. We thank LifeSite News for pointing out this inconsistency, which will be corrected,” he added.

The same day, CRS published a similar statement saying they were “revising” the document, and removed it from their website. They have also removed dozens of other documents with references to condoms.

Pleased with the seemingly swift resolution, on Friday we sought some clarification and asked about the other documents. We asked whether providing “complete and accurate” information on condoms violates CRS policy, and – noting that many of the pulled documents had been written or reviewed by high-level staff at CRS headquarters in Baltimore – we asked whether they were standing by their original statement that all CRS employees abide by Church teaching in their work.

Finally, given that CRS was apparently unable to resolve the scandal despite their pledges of reform after the controversy in 2008, we asked what assurances they could make to Catholic donors that the problems would be resolved this time around.

After multiple attempts to reach them, on Tuesday CRS indicated they would not be responding. Rivera reiterated it again Wednesday: “We’re going to let our statement suffice,” he said.

Scandal and reform

CRS’ official policy of providing “full” information on condoms – and even of potentially cutting funding to partners who refuse to do so – was first revealed by Russell Shaw and John Norton of Our Sunday Visitor on February 17, 2008.

The scandal was blown open in April 2008 when the noted moral theologian Germain Grisez revealed that CRS had distributed a flipchart in Zambia with graphics showing how to use a condom. The professor, then of Mount St. Mary’s University, called for a full investigation of the entire organization by an independent agency with full access to CRS’ materials, employees, and partners. He said any employees complicit in promoting condoms or other serious wrongdoing should be fired and replaced with faithful Catholics.

CRS’ then-chairman, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was archbishop of Milwaukee at the time, initially defended the organization, writing April 30, 2008 that “in no cases does CRS promote, purchase or distribute condoms.” But he also called for a review and on July 29th, 2008 he said CRS was withdrawing the flipchart and retaining the National Catholic Bioethics Center for future assistance.

On April 6, 2009, Archbishop Dolan told the National Catholic Register that CRS had taken it even further. “We have withdrawn the document, but we and the board of trustees of CRS didn’t want to stop there; we said, ‘Let’s make sure this mistake is never repeated. And let’s make sure that our people in the field completely comprehend, understand and appreciate the Church’s teaching when it comes to chastity,’” he said.

Sean Callahan, CRS’ executive vice president for overseas operations, told the Register that CRS’ view on condoms “is entirely consistent with His Holiness’ position.” Only three weeks earlier, the Pope had provoked controversy after his comments on condoms aboard the flight to Africa.

CRS’ response seemed so resolute that LifeSiteNews held them up as a model of swift and transparent reform in an April 8, 2009 article comparing them with the Canadian bishops’ scandal-plagued aid organization Development & Peace.

Scandal redux?

So what happened? Was the pledge of reform just smoke and mirrors? Good intentions that dissipated over time? Or perhaps it’s just that a few problematic documents have slipped through the cracks?

Overall, CRS’ programs seem to have a clear emphasis on abstinence and fidelity. But the organization undermines that strong message when they mention condoms as a viable option, talk about their benefits, or, God forbid, tell clients where to get them. Unfortunately, it appears that they have been doing that even after the 2008 scandal.

Consider:

  1. Windows of Hope, a life skills program for 8-12 year-olds that CRS adapted for use in Sierra Leone, includes an “HIV puppet show” that suggests the facilitator tell children “some people use a condom” to protect themselves from infection.

    “A condom is a rubber tube that is put on a man’s penis before having sex,” it continues. “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.”

    CRS began using Windows of Hope in 2006, and have continued to use it as part of a program funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS from February 2008 to December 2012. CRS says the project “aims to have reached 30,000 adolescents and 90,000 secondary beneficiaries.” The curriculum has been unavailable on CRS’ website since Thursday, the day we questioned them.

  2. We Stop AIDS, an HIV prevention education curriculum published in 2007, includes an activity with a drawing of a box of condoms. It states: “Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that create open sores considerably increase the chances of both partners getting infected. This is why many HIV prevention programs also emphasize using condoms and getting treated for any STIs.”

    The program, along with its youth version In Charge!, was still being used as of May 2012, when CRS released a Youtube video promoting it.

    In the video, CRS program specialist Adele Clark says the two programs have been used in four African countries and they “continue to roll it out in other countries.” So far, the adult version has reached about 18,000 people and the youth version about 40,000, according to CRS. Both of these programs were unavailable at CRS’ website as of press time.

  3. In India, CRS appears to be recommending condoms as part of a “positive living” approach for those infected with HIV. In the northeast part of the country, they have been running an HIV care and support program called LIFEAID since 2008, using what they call Positive Living Centers.

    A training guide for counselors at these centers, published in 2010, indicates that one of the steps for “positive living” is to “practice safe sex.” Another handbook for counselors at the LIFEAID project, which was published sometime after October 2008 and appears to be an earlier version of the previous training guide, specifically suggests counselors facilitate discussions with couples on “condom use.”

    The training guide is now unavailable on CRS’ website. The handbook can be found at the website of Caritas Jordan.

    The LIFEAID project built on the “best practices” of a previous CRS project called Preventing AIDS in Northeast India (PANI), which ran from 2004-2008. An evaluation of PANI conducted by CRS staff, published in March 2008 and now also unavailable on the website, indicates a clear interest from CRS headquarters in condoms as a method of prevention.

    Throughout the PANI evaluation, the authors include “condom use” among a list of “correct ways” of protecting against HIV. They lament that there was not enough information given about condoms in the program, noting particularly that youth had not been adequately targeted with the condom message.


‘Personnel is policy’

So we’re clearly not talking about a few stray documents, but a range of programs being implemented in numerous countries on at least two continents. This suggests we’re dealing with a far deeper concern that simply cannot be addressed by merely revising a few documents – which seems to be the approach CRS took in 2008 and may be taking again now in 2012.

Phil Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, pinpointed what we believe is the crux of the issue at CRS: “Personnel is policy.” As Lawler points out, the problem isn’t simply the existence of CRS documents that promote condoms, but a CRS policy that has evidently allowed such documents to be published. “Revising the document won’t solve the problem, if the people responsible for putting that policy in place remain,” he writes.

Consider: The lead author on the PANI evaluation from March 2008 was Dr. Shannon Senefeld. She was also one of the named contributors to the pro-condom policy that sparked the scandal in 2008. Then in 2010 – after the scandal, after the promises of reform – she’s named as having helped write and review the Vietnam operating manual that told staff they should “not forget to provide information on local condom provision.” And she vetted the 2010 LIFEAID counseling handbook that urged HIV clients to “practice safe sex.”

Then in September 2011, Senefeld was promoted to Global Director of Health and HIV, where she oversees CRS’ entire HIV operation.

Senefeld also represents CRS as co-chair for HIV/AIDS at the CORE group, which is a major promoter of contraception. CRS has defended their relationship with CORE by arguing that it allows them to “contribute our Catholic voice to the conversation.”

Consider another named contributor to the original pro-condom policy: Daphyne Williams. LifeSiteNews reported Aug. 21st that Williams had worked only at pro-abortion organizations, including one called Pro-Choice Resources, in the years immediately before she was hired by CRS in 2008.

Responding, CRS stated Aug. 24th that Williams “has carefully abided by all Church teaching in her work for CRS, adhering to CRS’ strong position against the use of contraceptives and abortions.” But it seems that is belied by the fact that Williams also helped write and review the Vietnam operating manual, along with Senefeld and others.

In fact, CRS’ HIV/AIDS department seems to be filled with staff who have either vetted or written documents that promote condoms in some way: Jennifer Overton, Deputy Regional Director, East Africa Regional Office; Dr. Sok Pun, Health and HIV/AIDS Program Manager in Cambodia; Dr. Amy Ellis, Regional Technical Advisor for Health & HIV in Asia; Kristin Weinhauer, Senior Health & HIV Technical Advisor; Dr. Dorothy Brewster-Lee, Senior Technical Advisor.

Time to clean house?

CRS’ approach to reform seems to have been the same failed strategy that has plagued the Church’s recent responses to scandal, whether it be over clergy sex abuse or Catholic development agencies: entrust the reform to the very people who caused the scandal in the first place.

Thus we would submit that if CRS has failed to fully implement the reforms they had promised back in 2008 and 2009, it’s because they failed to clean house.

They need to go back and reconsider Prof. Grisez’s important counsel: “If the appearances of betrayal with respect to condoms are verified or other serious wrongdoing is found, those responsible should be fired and replaced by capable people with a good understanding of Catholic charitable apostolate and a firm commitment to act as faithful agents of the Church.”

 

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Drew Belsky

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2016 candidates react to the Supreme Court’s marriage decision

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Five days after the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision mandating the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, most of the 2016 presidential candidates have made their opinions on the issue known.

While all of the Democrats currently in the race aggressively supported the ruling, the Republicans' reactions to the Supreme Court's marriage ruling have been more varied.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, criticized the Obergefell decision, calling it "a grave mistake." Walker suggested that "the only alternative" to Friday's decision is "to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage."

Texas senator Ted Cruz has doubled down on Walker's call for a constitutional amendment. Not only is Cruz seeking an amendment to protect states' right to define marriage, but he also hopes to amend the Constitution to demand "periodic judicial retention elections" for Supreme Court justices – namely, Cruz said, for those who "overstep their bounds [and] violate the Constitution."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shied away from a constitutional marriage amendment. "Guided by my faith," Bush said in a statement, "I believe in traditional marriage." However, "in a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate."

Florida senator Marco Rubio agreed with Bush, exhorting Republicans to "look ahead" and concentrate on the nomination process for new judges. Likewise with Ohio governor John Kasich, who said on Face the Nation that "it's time to move on" and "take a deep breath."

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina concurred. While "I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage," Fiorina said, "[m]oving forward...all of our effort should be focused on protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience."

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham forthrightly condemned a constitutional marriage amendment as "a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail." Graham told NBC News, "I would not engage in the Constitutional amendment process as a party going into 2016. Accept the Court's ruling. Fight for the religious liberties of every American."

Libertarian-leaning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wrote in Time Magazine that the federal government should remove itself completely from the marriage issue. "Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not Washington, D.C.," Paul wrote.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal "strongly disagree[s]" with the Obergefell ruling, but he admitted on Sunday that his state would ultimately comply with the Supreme Court's decision. "We do not have a choice."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went one step farther. While he "agree[s] with Chief Justice John Roberts" that "this is something that should be decided by the people, and not ... five lawyers," the governor admitted that "those five lawyers get to impose it under our system, and so our job is going to be to support the law of the land[.]"

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum foresees a widespread silencing of those who dissent from the Supreme Court's interpretation of marriage. "There's no slippery slope here," Santorum told the Family Research Council Friday; "religious liberty is under assault today – not going to be, it is – and it's going to be even more so ... with this decision."

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee expressed similar sentiments, excoriating the Supreme Court for flouting millions of Americans who voted to affirm "the laws of nature." Huckabee said on Friday, "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat."

On the other end of the spectrum, former Democratic Maryland governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley contended that it is homosexuals, not religious objectors to the Obergefell decision, who need more protections from the state.

Calling the ruling a "major step forward," O'Malley proceeded to demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that criminalizes "discrimination" based on an "individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." Opponents worry it would force religious employers to hire homosexuals and transgender people.

Passing ENDA, O'Malley said, would help "more fully realize the vision of an open, respectful, and inclusive nation that Friday's decision aspires us [sic] to be."

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Drew Belsky

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Obama Department of Justice to Virginia school: Let girl use boys’ bathrooms

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - The Obama administration's Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a "statement of interest" Monday in support of a Virginia high school sophomore who is seeking to use bathrooms designated for members of the opposite sex.

In June 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Gloucester County School Board on behalf of 15-year-old Gavin Grimm, who is biologically female but wants to use male bathrooms and locker rooms.

Grimm claimed that she had used such facilities without incident for seven weeks until December 2014, when the school board enacted a policy requiring "transgender" students to use private restrooms.

Grimm testified in early 2015 that "[n]ow that the board has passed this policy, school no longer feels as safe and welcoming as it did before[.] ... Being singled out is a glaring reminder of my differences and causes me significant discomfort every time I have to use the restroom."

The Obama administration declared in May 2014 that sex discrimination under Title IX applies to those who identify as "transgender."  The Department of Education followed up last December by ordering federally funded schools to classify students based on "gender identity" rather than biological sex.

Regardless, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco told LifeSiteNews in June of this year that Grimm's and the ACLU's discrimination claims would not hold water.  Citing a district court case in Pennsylvania, Tedesco noted (emphasis in original) that "[t]he Court ... highlighted that Title IX's implementing regulations state that schools do not violate Title IX when they 'provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.'"

Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, is a statute that "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity."

"Every court to consider this issue has held that single-sex restrooms and locker room facilities are permitted under Title IX," Tedesco concluded.

Now, according to the DoJ's "statement of interest" in support of Grimm, filed this week, "[t]he United States has a significant interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination and that the proper legal standards are applied to claims under Title IX" (p. 2, all citations omitted).  Per the DoJ, Grimm "is likely to succeed on the merits" of her Title IX claim, and "it is in the public interest to allow [Grimm] ... to use the male restrooms at Gloucester High School."

Regarding the Pennsylvania case mentioned by Tedesco, the DoJ claims that "[t]he district court's reasoning in that case was faulty and should not be followed."

One Gloucester County School Board member who voted against the December bathroom policy fretted that "federal dollars are at stake." Her concern was well-founded: five months later, the Obama administration threatened to deny Virginia's Fairfax County School Board $42 million in federal funding if the board refused to change its own bathroom protocols.  The Fairfax board ruled in May – over the strenuous objections of parents in attendance – that "transgender" students could use facilities in accordance with their "gender identity."

"Although certain parents and community members may object to students sharing a common use restroom with transgender students," the DoJ declared in its brief for Grimm, "any recognition of this discomfort as a basis for discriminating would undermine the public interest."

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Lisa Bourne

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Girl Scouts returns $100,000 donation over transgender stipulation

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - An unusual request from a major donor to a regional branch of the U.S. Girl Scouts has drawn attention to the organization’s ongoing support for gender ideology and transgender issues. 

Girl Scouts of Western Washington CEO Megan Ferland revealed last week that the council had recently received a donation for $100,000. However, after the Girl Scouts’ practice of allowing boys who identify as girls to join the Scouts hit the news during the media’s coverage of the Bruce Jenner case, Ferland says she received a note from the donor putting a condition on the donation.

“Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls,” the donor reportedly asked. “If you can’t, please return the money.”

In the end, Ferland said she chose to give the $100,000 - what could have comprised nearly a fourth of the council’s annual fundraising goal - back to the donor.

“Girl Scouts is for every girl,” Ferland stated in a report from SeattleMet.com. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

In the meantime, the council used the publicity over the refused donation to launch a social fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo, a social fundraising site. The #ForEVERYGirl has far exceeded its goal, raising over $300,000 for the group in just three days.

"Our vision at Girl Scouts of Western Washington is that EVERY girl in our region—regardless of her race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or geographic location—is empowered to unleash her potential, build her future and transform her world," states the campaign.

This is not the first time that Ferland has been involved in a controversy over the Scouts’ support for transgenderism.

When a boy self-identifying as a girl attempted to join a Colorado Girl Scout troop in 2011 and was initially refused by the leader because of his male gender, Ferland, then head of the Colorado council, issued a statement welcoming boys identifying as girls, and saying efforts were in progress to find the boy a troop. The council also renounced the troop leader’s actions in refusing the boy access.

“Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’” Ferland stated at the time. “And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.” 

Western Washington Girl Scouts current program brochures show that gender ideology is woven right into the council’s programming for girls, with promotion found right in the council’s workshops:

SafeZone for Girl Scouts Sat, May 23, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tacoma Learn how you can become an ally and advocate for your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) peers. Includes activities and discussion around: inclusive language, the process of coming out, the power of the straight ally, how to respond to homophobic/trans-phobic incidents, where to go for help and much more. Bring lunch.

Girl Scouts and radical feminism

For years, pro-family leaders have raised alarms about partnerships and programs that indicate that the Girl Scouts have moved toward embracing a radical feminist identity.

As far back as 2004 a U.S Catholic Bishop intervened when a Girl Scout-Planned Parenthood partnership threatened young girls. 

Then-Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond warned local Catholics not to sign their children up for Planned Parenthood’s “Nobody’s Fool,” a sex-ed campaign designed for pre-pubescent children which had been integrated into the local Girl Scouts.

A survey, also from 2004, found that many Girl Scouts councils were partnering with Planned Parenthoood in some fashion. 

In 2010 the Girl Scouts were found to be pushing a radical agenda on its young members with Planned Parenthood given access to distribute an explicit ‘sex guide’ at a closed-door, no-adults-welcome meeting at the UN sponsored by the Girl Scouts.

Lincoln, Nebraska Bishop James Conley warned in 2011 as auxiliary bishop of Denver that involvement in the Girl Scouts could serve to make girls more open to the pro-abortion agenda.

Roughly 90 Girl Scouts of Northern California members and their families marched in San Francisco’s 2013 Gay Pride Parade. 

"The San Francisco Girl Scouts participate in many parades that celebrate the diversity of San Francisco," Girl Scouts of Northern California Communications Manager Dana Allen told LifeSiteNews at the time. "Girl Scouts is inclusive and reflects the communities we serve."

A sexuality-based Girl Scout troop was started earlier this year in Utah aimed at gay and lesbian families and boys who consider themselves “transgender.” It meets at the Utah Pride Center.

"As long as a youth identifies as a girl or with girls, even if they are genderfluid on the day that they registered, then they can become a Girl Scout," Shari Solomon-Klebba, the Utah Girl Scout outreach coordinator, and an open lesbian who started the troop, told a local news station at the time.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged caution last year in engaging with the Girl Scouts after conducting a two-year examination of the scouts. That study identified concerns about several Girl Scouts USA policies, affiliations and structural weaknesses.

Girl Scout alternatives

The representatives of two organizations for girls frequently considered a Christ-centered alternative to the Girls Scouts told LifeSiteNews this latest incident with the Western Washington Scouts underscores the need for other options for families and their children.

“There has been a huge cultural shift in redefining life-long truths that have many families carefully considering their youth program options. American Heritage Girls has often been regarded as a Christian-based alternative to the Girl Scouts,” American Heritage Girls National Communications Specialist Jennifer Troutman said.

American Heritage Girls marked its 20th anniversary this past week. There are more than 40,000 members within the organization.

“Now more than ever American Heritage Girls recognizes the importance of bringing Christ-centered, character development programming to girls across the nation.”  

The head of Little Flowers Girls’ Club concurred.

“I feel very blessed that we can offer an authentically Catholic alternative to Girl Scouts,” Joan Stromberg told LifeSiteNews.

Little Flowers started over 20 years ago, not as a reaction against what Girl Scouts were doing, or where they are now, Stromberg said, but as a way to help moms and girls bond together to learn about the world through a Catholic lens.

“It is sad that Girl Scouts policies and positions have put them in direct conflict with Church teachings,” Stromberg continued. “I am just pleased that girls and moms have alternative places like Little Flowers where they can go.”

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