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.
We are confused by the strong allegations coming from PRI regarding CRS programs, as we simply do not engage in such work. All current CRS grants in Madagascar clearly delineate what activities CRS will implement within its programming portfolio, and artificial family planning and abortifacients are most definitely not included in any of our programming grants. At the end of every grant, a full report of our activities is submitted to the grant agency. Our reports clearly indicate that CRS did not engage in the distribution of contraceptive or abortifacients drugs or devices.
Yet in order to remain vigilant, we are reviewing the allegations to ensure that all CRS programming is consistent with the teaching of the Church. This review is ongoing, but this is what we have determined so far regarding PRI’s allegations:
PRI reported it interviewed a program manager for USAID-SantéNet named Jean Patrick Bourahimou, who made statements about CRS and USAID’s work. However, CRS staff in Madagascar do not know this person, and the USAID Madagascar office reported that Jean Patrick Bourahimou is not a USAID employee and therefore could not make statements on USAID’s behalf about programming related to CRS and USAID. Mr. Bourahimou worked for the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), a contractor on the SanteNet2 project that PRI references.
PRI also quotes two CRS staff, Nicolas Ragalison and Jean Ferlin Nambana, describing family planning activities. Both were short-term contractual employees who are no longer with CRS. Note that the two short-term contractual employees are native speakers of Malagasy and may have a low level of French-speaking ability. We are concerned that there may have been some misunderstandings during the interview if not conducted in their native language. We find their statements posted on the PRI website extremely odd since CRS simply does not engage in any artificial family planning activities. Still, we are looking into these reported statements very carefully and trying to reach these former employees.
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. To us, Catholic values and teaching are the guideposts that direct our paths to bring God’s love to those in greatest need: the reason we sign on for the mission. In many settings, we are the only voice that advocates for and demonstrates the effectiveness of the Catholic approach to development. Our colleagues often operate in high risk countries to stand with and serve the poor. At the same time, we also recognize that with almost 5,000 colleagues around the world and rapid changes in our environment, mistakes will occur. Our aim is to be faithful. Therefore, we will continue to review our programs to ensure that they remain consistent with and lift up Catholic teaching, and if we find cause, we will take corrective action as needed. This has been a continuous process over our 70 years of operation.
We want to be clear 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. 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.