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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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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