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Leading Madagascar prelates strongly criticize Catholic Relief Services

August 02, 2013

The archbishops of Madagascar’s two largest cities, joined by other local clergy, have offered strong criticism of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), according to two weekly briefings written by Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute (PRI).

On July 25, PRI, a pro-life organization founded by Father Paul Marx and led by 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.”

“Catholic Relief Services is responsible for implementing ‘health activities’ in 125 communes,” Mosher stated. “As an ‘implementing health partner’ with USAID” – the US Agency for International Development – “CRS must ensure the provision of contraception and abortifacients to Malagasy citizens in its communes. Population Research Institute investigators have confirmed that the distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients by CRS health workers within their communes to be a systemic problem in Madagascar.”

Catholic Relief Services responded that “this allegation is simply false. As a pro-life organization, CRS programming does not include the promotion or distribution of artificial family planning or distribution of abortifacients in any country in which we work.”

On July 31, PRI stated 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 Odon Razanakolona of Antananarivo, the nation’s capital and largest city, told a PRI investigator:

That’s what really hurts me. How to work with those CRS people? … But, you know, as soon as I speak of a ‘partnership’ with them, then everybody runs away and hides …

And then, the money that CRS gets: a large part of it goes towards administration, while they make us work like dogs. And then they collect two-thirds…and they give us crumbs. They are the ones who need to explain: Why do they receive such big salaries? …

Yes, one time, for ‘visibility’ purposes, they [CRS-Madagascar representatives] came in here [to my office] and asked me to put up this thing, this sign, with “USAID” on it, to put it up behind my desk. I threw them the hell out of my office: ‘Take your sign and your money out of here. I don’t need it. I’ve lived in my poverty; leave me in my poverty.

According to PRI, Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina 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 …

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 U.S. 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.

“In September 2012 [CRS President and CEO] Carolyn Woo came to Madagascar at the request of the Madagascar bishops, who had been trying to arrange a meeting with the heads of CRS for several years,” stated Mosher. “At that meeting they told Dr. Woo of their concerns about CRS’ activities in their dioceses.”

“Nothing happened,” he continued. “It is thus no surprise that some months later, their patience exhausted, they shared their frustrations with CRS with us.”


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  • Posted by: - Aug. 04, 2013 6:23 AM ET USA

    Goodness, this article is out of date. CNA is reporting that the Madagascar Archbishop told Cardinal Dolan that all is FINE with the CRS in his diocese.

  • Posted by: ILM - Aug. 03, 2013 1:24 PM ET USA

    What is the different tune that Archbishop Tsarahazana is singing?

  • Posted by: Defender - Aug. 03, 2013 2:24 AM ET USA

    According to CNA, Archbishop Tsarahazana (who is also president of the episcopal conference of Madagascar) is singing another tune now after talking with Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Kicanas. The archbishop will talk with his brother bishops "to confirm that no such immoral activity is taking place in their dioceses."

  • Posted by: bruno - Aug. 02, 2013 10:00 PM ET USA

    I see the USCCB has already responded. No talk about an ongoing investigation. Sounds like they want the book closed on this controversy immediately.

  • Posted by: bruno - Aug. 02, 2013 9:41 PM ET USA

    It seems that CRS officials need to do much more than simply claim that the allegations are false. Maybe, if it were one priest who complained, or one bishop. But when you have multiple complaints from multiple witnesses, blanket denial smacks of a cover up.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 02, 2013 11:07 AM ET USA

    This is wonderful, someone in authority finally giving a big smackdown to the USCCB. And scripturally sound, too. Isaiah 11:6, "and a child shall lead them." The big USCCB being shown the way by Madagascar. Its fantastic, Homeric, and about time.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Aug. 02, 2013 8:27 AM ET USA

    I choose to believe the people on the ground, the bishops and priests who see what CRS is actually doing each day. Therefore I have given my last dollar to Catholic Relief Services.