New report reveals Catholic Relief Services' work in Madgascar

politics | Sep 05, 2013 | By Martin Barillas

The U.S.-based Population Research Institute (PRI) has released a full report on the activities of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Madagascar. The 118-page report is based on a month-long investigation by a PRI investigator and includes lengthy interviews with over 40 interviewees. The report also includes recommendations for action from PRI President Steven W. Mosher.

According to a news release, PRI expects that the report will assist CRS in carrying out reforms of its USAID-funded programs, as recommended by PRI.

PRI Researcher Anne Morse helped to compile the report and disputed CRS' efforts that sought to cast doubt on CRS' contentions about the charitable organization that is operated for the Catholic bishops of the United States. According to Morse, “The CRS leadership needs to reflect on why so many Malagasies, including key individuals in the Malagasy Church and NGO community, are under the impression that CRS worked more with secular NGOs than with local Catholics. And why are so many Malagasies under the impression that Catholic Relief Services was involved in family planning in the SantéNet2 program? Were all these people just ‘confused,’ as CRS apparently claims? If so, how did such confusion arise?”

PRI President Mosher said that PRI had been requested by several CRS' major donors to investigate the agency's practices. Said Mosher, "We publish this report in the hope that it will provide American bishops, who are ultimately responsible for CRS and its overseas programs, with an opportunity to learn how their charitable agency is perceived by their brother bishops, no less than local Catholics, overseas.”

“What constitutes Catholic charity?” continued Mosher.  “Does it consist of simply administering huge grants from USAID and other government agencies, with all the compromises of faith and action that such an approach entails?  Or does it require, as the Pope Emeritus’ recent Motu Proprio demands, that all good works be accomplished in concert with the preaching of the Gospel and the administrations of the Sacraments?  Quo vadis, Caritas?”

Among the initial findings by PRI were that CRS was collaborating with CARE and Population Services International on a so-called "integrated health and family planning program" in Madagascar, which is funded by USAID - an important donor to CRS. CRS, according to PRI, was also collaborating with the Cooperative for assistance and Relief Everywhere and PSI as members of a "consortium." This consortium was led by the Research Triangle Institute, while CRS, CARE and PSI were subgrantees.

For the new report, PRI says that it interviewed dozens of Catholic bishops and clergy, and employees of CRS and other non-governmental organizations. "Their comments reveal, in sometimes jarring fashion, the huge gulf between the Church's notion of charity and CRS' USAID-driven version of the same. For example, the leading archbishop of Madagascar, whose archdiocese includes the capital city, reflecting on CRS-Madagascar's almost total dependence on USAID funding, told us that he himself "would rather live in his poverty than take money from USAID."

PRI promises that it reveals in its report why the archbishop is so firm in his rejection of USAID funding.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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