For several years, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and its partners have come under scrutiny for increased financial ties to the United States government through the federal Agency for International Development (USAID). This relationship has relegated CRS to the position of a secular distributor, disbursing government money as the government dictates…and thereby violating CRS’ own Catholic moral framework.
Specifically, CRS was discovered to be passing millions to CARE, an international “confederation of organizations…working together to end poverty.” Among unobjectionable activities, CARE promotes “family planning” in the form of contraception and “safe” abortion.
CRS was also revealed to be not only a dues-paying member of several organizations that promote contraception and “safe” abortions among the poor of the world but itself engaged in producing educational materials that favored these activities.
Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute and former director of the American Life League’s Defend the Faith project, recently unveiled another CRS scandal. CRS has been working in partnership with Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) to test and implement the program, “My Changing Body: Fertility and Puberty Awareness for Young People.”[i]
Insofar as CRS is still a Catholic organization, one would not expect any program it tests and/or implements to be flagrantly in contradiction of Church teaching. My Changing Body, however, is unreservedly hostile to such teaching. It promotes “acceptance of masturbation as healthy sexual expression during adolescence,” [ii] teaches contraceptive use (including contraceptive practices that are abortifacient) and sterilization,[iii] and provides adolescents with abortion resources, including Planned Parenthood contacts.[iv]
The program treats “sexual orientation” as morally neutral: “Heterosexual, gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth can all experience same-gender sexual attraction and/or activity around puberty. Such behavior, including sexual play with same-gender peers, crushes on same-gender adults, or sexual fantasies about same- gender people are normal for preteens and young teens and are not necessarily related to sexual orientation. Negative social messages and homophobia in the wider culture can mean that young adolescents who are experiencing sexual attraction to and romantic feelings for someone of their own gender need support so they can clarify their feelings and accept their sexuality.”[v]
The Lepanto Institute report concludes that “CRS and Caritas Rwanda implemented the second edition of My Changing Body in Rwanda, with the full intention of passing the program on to other organizations afterward. It is equally clear that My Changing Body is completely incompatible with Catholic moral teaching.”
[i] Institute of Reproductive Health (IRH), “Meeting the Needs of Very Young Adolescents (VYA) in Rwanda” FAM Project, Georgetown University, 2013: http://irh.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/VYA_Rwanda_Brief_8.5x11_2013.pdf . Page 3 says Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Rwanda were “implementing partners” for IRH’s “My Changing Body” program.
The Institute for Reproductive Health, “My Changing Body: Puberty and Fertility Awareness for Young People, 2nd Edition – A Pilot Study in Guatemala and Rwanda,” December 2011, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00JN7J.pdf. Page 3 acknowledgements “thank the staff and youth workers of APROFAM and CRS for their enthusiasm and hard work revising and testing the My Changing Body curriculum.”
[ii] “My Changing Body: Puberty and Fertility Awareness for Young People, 2nd Edition – A Pilot Study in Guatemala and Rwanda,” p 9.
[iii] “My Changing Body: Puberty and Fertility Awareness for Young People, 2nd Edition,” pp 74-76.
[iv] “My Changing Body: Puberty and Fertility Awareness for Young People, 2nd Edition,” p 186.
[v] “My Changing Body: Puberty and Fertility Awareness for Young People, 2nd Edition,” p 177.