Friday, August 2, 2013

Update to Madagascar/Catholic Relief Services Story

Yesterday we reported on the PRI Report which claimed to have documented instances in Madagascar where CRS employees were offering contraceptives and abortifacients to the people there. We also linked to a PRI report which had quotes from a number of Madagascar bishops and other clergy.

But today the Catholic News Agency reports that one of the bishops quoted in the PRI Report, Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina, has "distanced himself" from claims made in the report. The CRS story begins:

"A Madagascar archbishop has distanced himself from controversial claims that Catholic Relief Services distributed contraceptive drugs and abortifacients in his country, affirming that the agency’s actions do not violate Catholic teaching.

The U.S. bishops’ conference reported Aug. 2 that Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina voiced his 'strong support' for the relief agency and confirmed that CRS does not provide or facilitate access to contraceptive or abortion-causing drugs in the region.

The archbishop, who serves as president of the bishops’ conference of Madagascar, spoke by phone Friday with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, U.S. bishops’ conference president, and CRS chairman of the board Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson.

According to the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Tsarahazana said that there had been 'some confusion in his archdiocese that was quickly resolved.' He said Catholic Relief Services acted according to Catholic teaching and does not provide or facilitate access to contraception or abortion, which Catholic teaching recognizes as sinful."

While good news if true, it leaves his original quotes, particularly the first one reproduced below, unexplained. The phrase "some confusion," which His Excellency uses, certainly requires clarification and elaboration. Who was confused? About what?

 Here's what His Excellency Désiré Tsarahazana was quoted as saying by PRI:

“Even in my own diocese! Without my knowledge,...they [CRS] were working on an artificial contraception project here,” said Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina.

“I’m not sure why, and I don’t want to exaggerate, but maybe 70% of its staff, or even more – is not Catholic,” said Archbishop Tsarahazana. “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 Tsarahazana said he had been head of the Archdiocese for over three years before he even knew where CRS’ office was. “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],” he said. “I was embarrassed; I didn’t know anything about it.”

And the CNA article still leaves unexplained the quotes in the PRI report from the other Madagascar Bishops and clergy..

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