On Aug. 5, Bishop Kicanas and other officials from CRS and the U.S. bishops’ conference spoke with Archbishop Razanakolona, the head of Caritas Madagascar.
According to the U.S. bishops’ conference, the archbishop said he was surprised to see himself quoted in the Population Research Institute report. He said he is sure that the relief agency follows Catholic teaching and does not provide or facilitate access to contraception, and that Catholic Relief Services has been a good partner that collaborates with staff in his archdiocese.
“Certainly the quotes do not reflect the conversation that we heard in our discussions with the archbishops,” Bishop Kicanas told CNA, suggesting there may have been “a translation issue” in the critical report.
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, stood by the institute’s report, saying that CRS’ responses amounted to “blanket denials and general statements.”
“We did an investigation. We’re convinced that what we saw and what we heard is true, and we reported accurately,” Mosher told CNA Aug. 6.
He said he accepts that there is no current evidence of CRS involvement in family planning in Madagascar. However, he said that his reports focused on CRS cooperation with family planning in the U.S. Agency for International Development-backed SanteNet2 project in Madagascar, discontinued last month.
He said evidence for this cooperation with SanteNet2 is “indisputable.”
“There is simply too much evidence to ignore,” Mosher said, citing the statements of bishops, clergy and CRS staffers.
“I would not make such charges publicly if they had not been made privately and if no action had been taken. And I would not make them publicly if I didn’t have ample evidence to back them up. And there’s more evidence forthcoming, so stay tuned.”
The U.S. bishops’ conference, however, denied the claims. An Aug. 2 statement said that Archbishop Tsarahazana told Cardinal Dolan there had been some confusion on his archdiocese that was quickly resolved.
Joan Rosenhauer, Catholic Relief Services’ executive vice-president of U.S. operations, told CNA Aug. 5 there was confusion about “who was doing what,” but when the matter was investigated, they determined “that CRS was only doing programming that was consistent with Church teaching.”
The agency’s communications director, John Rivera, added that some reports about the relief agency confused the actions of CRS staffers with those of non-staff community health workers, who are chosen locally and are part of the Madagascar government’s health care system.
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“Health programs in Madagascar are required by the government to work through government systems and structures, including the community health workers. These are not CRS staff, and they are not supported by CRS projects to engage in any activities that are contrary to Catholic teaching,” Rivera said.
CRS involvement in the country’s health care programs, including children’s health, nutrition and malaria prevention, required the agency to work through and train the community health workers, including those that are not employed by the agency, he explained.
Mosher said that the local archbishop had told PRI that these workers were under the supervision of CRS employees and were filing their reports with these employees. He noted employment among relief workers often overlaps.
“On the ground level, you don’t have three or four different people walking around to different villages. You have one, representing the whole project,” he said. “And so people on the ground naturally, as the Archbishop of Toamasina told us, are confused at how Catholics can be doing such things.”
Mosher said an independent commission should be created to respond to the Population Research Institute’s report.
He was also skeptical towards CRS partnerships with non-Catholic organizations that support some practices Catholics oppose. He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s January 19 address to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum plenary session, which said Catholics “must exercise a critical vigilance and at times refuse funding and collaborations that, directly or indirectly, favor actions or projects that are at odds with Christian anthropology.”