Over the past few days we had read the PRI report, which claimed to document specific instances of CRS employees pushing contraception and abortafacient drugs in Madagascar. Because the report was quite specific, we were waiting to see CRS's response.
On July 30, the CRS published a press release written by John Rivera with the headline:"CRS Refutes Inaccurate and Misleading Report from Population Research Institute." But that is boilerplate: the headline is not backed up in any way in the body of the release. Had they replaced "refutes" with "denies" that would have been more accurate, because nothing in the release refutes the PRI report at all. The release begins:
"Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is a pro-life organization dedicated to preserving the sacredness and dignity of human life from conception to natural death. Every aspect of our work is to help life flourish. We are resolute in our commitment to the Church and its teaching.
Population Research Institute (PRI) has alleged that CRS has used funding from American Catholics to distribute contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and devices in Madagascar. This allegation is simply false. As a pro-life organization, CRS programming does not include the promotion or distribution of artificial family planning or distribution of abortifacients in any country in which we work."
That's fair enough although not responsive. It would be a fine preamble if the rest of the release went on to address the incidents documented by PRI. The release continues:
Emphasis in original. That, too, is not responsive. If it is the policy of CRS is not to distribute contraceptives or abortifacients, of course it will not appear in the report. The question is not: did it appear in the report? the question is: did it happen? In the next paragraph, Mr. Rivera writes:
So nowhere are Mr. Bourahimou's words "refuted" or even challenged. All that this portion of the CRS release does is say Mr. Bourahimou "is not a USAID employee and therefore could not make statements on USAID’s behalf about programming related to CRS and USAID." But that does not address the issue--it does not matter who exactly he is working for, the question is, was what he was saying in the PRI report true?
Mr. Rivera then writes:
That they were "short-term contractual employees who are no longer with CRS" is utterly irrelevant. Mr. Rivera then expresses concern that there may have been a language problem between the interviewer and Mr. Ragalison and Mr. Nambana. That is certainly possible. But the more important fact is that Mr. Rivera is stating that he has not spoken with the two, and that CRS is still looking into the reported statements. In other words, despite his claim to have "refuted" the PRI report, he simply does not know whether it is true or not.
Jump forward to today, and our headline "I threw them the hell out of my office," taken from a statement by Archbishop Odon Razanakolona of Antananarivo, Madagascar's capitol. On July 26, as the story began to unfold, CRS had issued a press release, with the title "CRS Responds to Concerns About Programs in Guinea and Madagascar." The release began:
But LifeSiteNews today covered PRI's latest report, which was the responses of at least two Madagascar Archbishops, plus a number of other clergy who have very serious problems with CRS's work in Madagascar. Please read the whole article. And here is the full quote from Archbishop Razanakolona, part of which we used as our headline:
'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,' he said. '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.’ ”
We've been down this road with Catholic Charities, with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and with Development and Peace (Canada's version of the CRS). Denial, stonewalling, sometimes an admission of improper oversight when confronted with overwhelming evidence, then reform.
The entire Church should be thanking groups like Reform CCHD Now the Bellarmine Veritas Ministry, LifeSiteNews, and now PRI.
Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11, 00193 Roma, Italy
phone: (011) 39-06-6988-3357
phone: (011) 39-06-6988-3413
Fax: (011) 39-06-6988-3409
Find contact information for all U.S. Bishops here.