CRS Issues Blanket Denial of Involvement in Family Planning

But the Facts—and CRS’ Own Employees—Say Otherwise

In our month-long, on-the-ground investigation of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) activities in Madagascar, Population Research Institute (PRI) found that the organization was directly involved in the promotion and distribution of contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and devices in contravention of Church teaching.

CRS has responded that “We are puzzled by quotes [from CRS employees] saying we do “the same work” in family planning as secular organizations since none of the work that CRS does in Madagascar is in this area.”

That is not what CRS employees in Madagascar told us.

For example, our investigator interviewed Nicolas Ragalison and Jean Ferlin Nambana, who are both [Health] Support Technicians (also called “Zone Supervisors”) for Catholic Relief Services in USAID’s SantéNet2 Program in the Madagascar City of Tamatave on 30 November 2012. There are 12 Support Technicians, in all, of whom 3 work for CRS and 9 for USAID. Each has responsibility for a specific geographic area.

PRI: Does the official teaching of the Catholic Church on family planning hinder the work of the CRS zone supervisors in the program?  Can you work just like the other [non-CRS Support Technicians]s?

CRS: There are several “actors” in the program. There are “independent trainers” under SantéNet2. So in training in family planning, CRS relies on the training given [to Community Health Workers (CHW)] by those independent trainers.

PRI: [Is there any] way that CRS can possibly participate in this program without collaborating in the promotion of artificial contraception?

CRS: We technicians, working in parallel with the Social Development Committees, have a support role with the Community Health Workers (CHW)…And we have to collect data, make reports, send the reports/data.  We have to assure the availability of the products, of all the social-marketing products…

PRI:…including the family planning products, no?

CRS:  Yes. And sometimes there are ruptures in stock.

PRI: So, you CRS technicians and USAID technicians work in the same way under SantéNet2?  I’m asking if there’s a difference in the method of work, in the approach to the work, between the two.

CRS:  It’s the same thing.  We do the same work, including in the area of family planning.

PRI: So, you work with the Community Health Workers; the CHWs are selling modern contraceptives and educating local women in their use, but that doesn’t prevent you [CRS] technicians from working with those CHWs?

CRS: No, not at all.  It’s no problem.

PRI: So you’re working with those CHWs in the area of family planning just like the technicians from [the abortion-promoting group] CARE work with the CHWs?

CRS: That’s right.  It’s the same.

PRI: There are, of course, Catholics and non-Catholics working here.  You’re not Catholic, Jean Ferlin, so artificial contraception and promoting contraception is not a problem for you.  But Nicolas, personally, as a Catholic, it’s not a problem for you?  Or for the other CRS technician who’s a Catholic?  A religious problem?  Since the Church doesn’t approve of artificial contraception?

CRS: No, no.  It’s no problem.  The Catholic Church doesn’t accept the pill or the injection, but it does accept the cycle beads.

PRI: I’ve been told that, in spite of the teaching of the Church, Catholics here, including in very rural areas, will use modern contraception just like everybody else.  Is that what you find in your work?

CRS: Yes, yes; that’s right.  It’s only the “big Catholics” who are against artificial contraception…

PRI:…So the Catholics working for CARE,...and for CRS [under SantéNet] are not going to discourage women from using modern contraception, right?...The CHWs, with your support, have the obligation to present to the beneficiaries all the different contraceptive methods, and then the women choose what they want, right?

CRS: Yes.  That’s right.

PRI: And the authorities from CRS, the health managers from CRS-Tana are not going to come down here and talk to you about the “official teaching of the Catholic Church,” or ask you to do anything different, because of Catholic teaching, or anything like that, are they?

CRS:  No!  No! (Laughing, laughing)

PRI: Have you encountered any major problems with any of your NGO partners in the program?  

CRS:…With Population Services International [an abortion/population control group], there’s just the problem sometimes of ruptures in the supply of products.  

PRI: Does that happen often ...  

CRS:  It’s rare.  Just occasionally with Confiance [the injectable abortifacient depo provera]...And no problem with Protector Plus [condom], or Pilplan [birth control pill], or the cycle beads.

*        *        *       *        *  

We suggest that before CRS issues blanket denials of its direct involvement in family planning programs, that they talk to their own grassroots employees overseas.  Just as we at PRI did.

Next: African bishops complain about CRS activities.

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Thank you for your continued dedication to the truth and all of your great investigating througout the years.

Cycle beads...?

One of the CRS employees admitted the Church does not accept the pill and what not, but does accept Cycle Beads. This is correct. Cycle Beads, however, are not a contraceptive, but a counting mechanism for a form of Natural Family Planning, which even Population Research Inst. has promoted from time to time.

I cannot help but wonder if such terms as "contraception," "birth control," "natural birth control," "artificial contraceptive" are being bandied about with people not really sure what it all means. I think it is very likely that, yes, CRS workers are involved in the dissemination of contraceptive and possibly abortafacient drugs, devices and whatnot, simply because they end up working with other people from other agencies who do that kind of thing, and the Church herself is riff with dissidents regarding contraception and abortion. The workers (and supervisors) may well being doing it with a "Don't ask, don't tell" kind of attitude.

USCCB mouthpiece issues BLANKET DENIAL as well

Below you will find a response to CRS concerns from USCCB mouthpiece, Anthony Bosnick, who---after countless correspondences---sent this response to me today, August 1st, via email.

While it is HIS opinion, I can't say for certain that it represents the opinion of USCCB.
I am of the opinion, however, that "Birds of a Feather flock together."
His contact information can be found below.

Dear ProLifeMommyof2,

At this point, I trust the wisdom and judgment of the CRS, which represents the US Bishops regarding global solidarity issues. CRS is guided by a board of directors “comprising clergy, most of them bishops elected by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as religious and Catholic lay men and women.” These are people who take very seriously their responsibility to shepherd CRS and to see that it remains faithful to Catholic teaching and goals, especially as expressed through Catholic Social Teaching.

I think it important to listen to the concerns of the critics of CRS, but also to trust that the oversight given to CRS by the US Bishops is significant and meaningful. CRS has used respected outside organizations to investigate these charges made by some groups and I feel confident that CRS I can trust that CRS is not guilty of promoting programs and policies that are contrary to Church teaching.

I have been told that the groups critical of CRS do not discuss their concerns with CRS, but just publish their reports without any chance for CRS to give its view. This undermines the reports and leads me to question the accuracy of their findings. The critics need to follow professional standards which help to guarantee accuracy and fairness.

As a strong pro-life advocate, I too do not want to see CRS and official Church groups promote policies or organizations which work against the Church’s life teachings. But I do not think that CRS is guilty of that.


Anthony Bosnick
Director, Department for Charity and Justice
Archdiocese of Washington
P.O. Box 29260
Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 301-853-5340
Fax: 301-853-7671

Thank you

Thank you researching this important topic and providing the truth to the public.