Caught red-handed: Catholic Relief Services documents promote condoms
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”?
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
Planned Parenthood closes Iowa abortion facility because of low business
DUBUQUE, Iowa, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood closed an Iowa abortion facility on Friday, noting low business that left the facility unsustainable from a financial standpoint.
Although Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in January that it planned to close the Dubuque, Iowa, office, pro-life sidewalk counselors were overjoyed on Friday to read the sign in the window that read: “Our office is closed, effective April 28, 2016.”
The office did not perform surgical abortions but did provide medication abortions to the community of about 58,000.
“Rejoice with us for the lives of unborn children saved!” Iowa Right to Life said in a statement after the closure.
As with numerous other closures, Planned Parenthood, which styles itself a provider of “care no matter what,” emphasized it was closing its doors to preserve its bottom line.
“After assessing the shifting health care landscape, changing demographics, and the challenges of operating in areas with low patient volumes, we made the tough decision to close the Dubuque Health Center,” the group said in an announcement. “This change allows us to expand hours and see more patients in Cedar Rapids, where there is unmet demand due to lack of clinician hours.”
“While we regret making this change, we know it is a necessary step in order to continue our mission to provide, promote and protect reproductive and sexual health through health services, education and advocacy. Patients have been notified, and if they wish, they can receive a broader array of services at our health center in Cedar Rapids, where we have expanded hours to accommodate more patient,” Planned Parenthood said.
American Life League’s vice president, Jim Sedlak, remembers speaking to the county right to life group nine years ago.
“I told them at the time that they needed to protest outside Planned Parenthood at least once a week,” he said. “They told me they would do better than that. Over the last eight years, these dedicated pro-lifers were outside Planned Parenthood every hour it was open. And now...it’s closed for good.”
That aligns with advice that David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, once told young people who wanted to know how to end abortion.
Be loving and compassionate, he said.
“Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he added. “When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”
Iowa Right to Life credited just such tactics with closing an office in Red Oak that performed webcam abortions. “Planned Parenthood shut down in Red Oak in large part because of the constant, prayerful presence outside their clinic,” the group said.
Upon hearing of the latest abortion facility shuttering, the Dubuque County Right to Life said that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group that will move its base of operations. “We will probably put our efforts in Cedar Rapids and will continue to spread the pro-life message,” said Executive Director Marian Bourek.
Ted Cruz confronted by mom who supports aborting disabled babies…just like hers
MARION, Indiana, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz was met on the campaign trail by a mother who strongly opposed a state pro-life law that would have protected children with birth conditions – like her own.
Andrea DeBruler, a 41-year-old nurse, confronted the presidential hopeful in the city of Marion as Cruz campaigned with Gov. Mike Pence.
DeBruler first asked Cruz, then Pence, about House Bill 1337, which bans abortions performed due to the child's race, sex, or disability, such as Down syndome.
DeBruler held up a picture of her daughter, Jania, who was born with cerebral palsy. “This was a choice,” she said.
She asked Sen. Cruz if he supported the bill, which made Indiana the second state in the nation to ban abortion for Down syndrome, after North Dakota.
“I'm not Governor Pence,” he replied. “But I'll tell you this: I believe in protecting human life.”
Pence, who endorsed Cruz in today's make-or-break Indiana primary, listened to her objections.
“I'm not here as a Republican, I'm not here as a Democrat. I'm here as a woman, a woman with choices, choices that you guys should not make,” DeBruler said.
After hearing that she felt many families lacked sufficient resources to care for children, especially in an area like Marion, Gov. Pence offered to connect her with social services.
“God bless her,” he said, looking at Jania's picture, “and God bless you.”
Though it may be unusual to encounter a woman arguing for the right to abort her own child, the governor handled it calmly. Pence had specifically reflected on “precious moments” he spent with “families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome” when he signed the bill into law in March.
"We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies," Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said at the time.
DeBruler told the UK media outlet The Independent that H.B. 1337 “means you can no longer have an abortion based on deformity. I’m against this law, because I think it should be a woman’s choice” to abort for any reason.
Congressional Democrats made similar statements during hearings last month for Rep. Trent Franks' federal Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), with Congressman John Conyers saying the bill is “patently unconstitutional,” because a woman has the right to abort a child before viability for any reason.
Both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination expressed their displeasure with the law, which protects unborn children from racial or sexual discrimination, as well as discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait like mental capacity.
When Gov. Pence signed the law, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted:
The decision to have an abortion is for a woman to make, not the Governor of Indiana. https://t.co/1VOroXS2br— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 24, 2016
Hillary Clinton later said, “I commend the women of this state, young and old, for standing up against this governor and this legislature.”
DeBruler told The Independent, despite her comment about not being a Democrat or a Republican, she is in fact a Democrat and will vote for Hillary Clinton in today's primary.
The moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl in pending Notre Dame outrage
May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) -- In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.
Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a “big mistake.” The late Bishop John D’Arcy, then leader of the Indiana diocese in which the university is located, spoke of “the terrible breach which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.” For the first time in his 25 years of service to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Bishop D’Arcy declined to attend the Notre Dame commencement exercises; instead he addressed a protest rally organized by pro-life students, faculty, alumni, and staff.
These prelates and others explained their dismay by referring to the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” released in 2004 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that document, the bishops reflected on the need to maintain a consistent public witness in defense of human life, and therefore to distance themselves from public officials who support legal abortion. The statement set forth a clear policy that Catholic institutions should not give public honors to “pro-choice” politicians:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
By giving President Obama an honorary degree and offering him an opportunity to speak at graduation, Notre Dame clearly violated that policy. University officials could offer only garbled partial defenses, claiming that they were honoring Obama not because he supports unrestricted abortion, but because he is President of the United States.
This year the university cannot offer even that lame defense of the decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Biden. Unlike Obama, Biden is a Catholic, and by granting him this award the university is explicitly saying that the Vice President has “illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” In other words, Notre Dame is honoring Vice President Biden as a Catholic political leader despite his unwavering support for abortion and same-sex marriage.
Give credit to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the current leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, for raising a lonely voice of protest. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service,” Bishop Rhoades said. But if any other bishops have joined him in that rebuke to Notre Dame, I must have missed their public announcements.
Some observers, of liberal political sympathies, have argued that it is wrong to honor John Boehner, too, because the former Speaker disagreed with the US bishops’ stand on immigration. This is a tired old argument, conflating disagreement with the bishops on a prudential political decision with defiance of Church teaching on a fundamental moral principle. But it is noteworthy that Notre Dame officials saw fit to make a joint award, no doubt in a cynical effort to dodge political criticism by choosing one honoree from each side of the political spectrum.
“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” said Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in announcing the Laetare Award recipients. (Notice the pre-emptive suggestion that those who criticize the school’s choices may be engaged in “poisonous invective.”) He went on to make a tortured argument that although Notre Dame is honoring two politicians, it is not honoring them for what they have done in their political careers:
In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.
By now we all know the familiar dodges. The politician claims to oppose abortion personally, but to feel a delicate reticence about imposing his views on others. He says that we must be willing to compromise (even on life-and-death decisions). He insists that he is not “pro-abortion” but “pro-choice.”
That last bubble of rhetoric was unceremoniously burst by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, when he celebrated Mass at Georgetown after Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard had delivered a lecture there. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen,” he said, “behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away!”
Now Cardinal Wuerl himself has a chance to “blow that smoke away.” As things stand, he is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Notre Dame commencement, and to receive an honorary degree. He could pull out; he could absent himself from the ceremonies, to ensure that he does not become part of an event that pays homage to a “pro-choice” Catholic politician.
And there is a precedent. Back in 2009, the Harvard legal scholar (and former US ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon was chosen to receive the Laetare Award. But when she learned that President Obama would be speaking, she announced her decision to decline the award. Clearly annoyed that her presence might be used to quiet the critics of the honor for Obama, Ambassador Glendon wrote that she did not want to be used as a counterweight, nor did she see the Notre Dame commencement as an appropriate venue for a genteel debate about legal abortion:
A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.
Could Cardinal Wuerl do this year what Ambassador Glendon did in 2009? Even at this late date, his withdrawal would send a powerful message of support for the right to life: an unmistakable rebuke to politicians who hide behind the smokescreen that the cardinal himself identified. To be sure, if he did withdraw, the cardinal would be caught in an avalanche of public criticism; he would suffer for his public witness. But there is a reason why cardinals wear red.
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