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USCCB: leading Madagascar prelate praises Catholic Relief Services

Catholic World News - August 05, 2013

Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar’s second-largest city, has expressed “strong support” of Catholic Relief Service, according to a statement issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

On July 25, the Population Research Institute (PRI), a pro-life organization founded by Father Paul Marx and led by Steven Mosher, alleged that CRS, the US bishops’ international relief and development agency, “is using funding from American Catholics to distribute contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and devices in concert with some of the world’s biggest population control/family planning organizations.”

After Catholic Relief Services responded that “this allegation is simply false,” PRI stated on July 31 that its charges “reflect the views of the bishops and clergy of Madagascar” and offered quotes from several priests, as well as the bishops of the nation’s two largest cities.

According to PRI, Archbishop Tsarahazana said:

Even in my own diocese! Without my knowledge … they [CRS] were working on an artificial contraception project here … And, then, the Catholic people around here heard about it and said: “What’s that all about? That’s supposed to be ‘Catholic’??” So, there you have it: They [CRS] were following the instructions of USAID [the US Agency for International Development] …

I’m not sure why, and I don’t want to exaggerate, but maybe 70% of its staff, or even more – is not Catholic; they’re not Catholic … I do understand that about CRS’s commitments to the US Government … but, the question that remains is: Why are there so few Catholics on CRS’s staff … that I don’t understand so well …

Just this year CRS held a very big meeting here in town – a “capacity-building” meeting or something, at a hotel here – and I heard about it only accidentally, when I was up in the [town] of Diego, and somebody told me about the meeting to be held [in my own town]. I was embarrassed; I didn’t know anything about it.

On August 2, the USCCB issued the following statement:

Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana, of the Archdiocese of Toamasina and the president of the episcopal conference of Madagascar, expresses strong support for Catholic Relief Services and confirms that Catholic Relief Services does not provide or facilitate access to contraceptive or abortifacient drugs or devices in his archdiocese.

Archbishop Tsarahazana spoke by phone on August 2 with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Gerald Kicanas, chairman of the board of directors of CRS. During the open and constructive conversation, Archbishop Tsarahazana stated that in the past there had been some confusion in his archdiocese that was quickly resolved, and that CRS is acting in accord with Catholic teaching and does not provide or facilitate access to contraception or abortion.

Archbishop Tsarahazana said that he will confer with the other members of his episcopal conference to confirm that no such immoral activity is taking place in their dioceses.

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  • Posted by: bruno - Aug. 05, 2013 6:50 PM ET USA

    I read the interviews conducted with staffers on PRIs website and find it very difficult to explain this as mere confusion. It is more likely the backsliding and subtle deception are at work in the communities under study. Also, it seems strange that no effort to quote the bishop in his conversation with Cardinal Dolan was made by the USCCB.

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