Catholic Relief Services has offered its response to our report, and in predictable fashion CRS offers nothing of substance, denies any wrongdoing, and hides admission of its own guilt within the text of its rebuff. In essence, CRS's response boils down to these basic points:
We'll address the first point right away. What CRS is truly complaining about here is that it didn't have ample time to orchestrate another cover-up. The last time we provided information to Catholic Relief Services in advance of releasing a report, they used it to contact PEPFAR in order to have the public record changed so as to give the appearance that CRS had not implemented a contraception-promoting program called Healthy Choices II. (See our report, CRS, PEPFAR, and the Cover-Up.) CRS claimed that it was mistakenly identified with the project and had PEPFAR change the public record on its behalf. Once again, CRS is claiming it was mistakenly identified with a contraception-promoting program and has asked an outside agency to take the fall. Until CRS shows itself to be more interested in addressing authentic concerns from faithful Catholics than in making excuses, we see no reason to provide advanced warning. And given the pre-gamed response to a report it had not yet seen (see LifeSiteNews' report here), attempting to poison the well among the bishops against it, it seems that our concerns continue to be well founded.
Overall, what Catholic Relief Services is asking Catholics to do is deny what they can see with their own eyes (four years' worth of inventory and narrative reports showing CRS intimately involved in the distribution of abortifacient contraception) and simply accept its denial. While CRS doesn't even attempt to dispute what the reports say, it categorically denies the accuracy of the reports themselves, offering as evidence a quoted portion of a letter from the president of IMA World Health.
The fact of the matter is that the inventory reports indicate that CRS received the contraception, which was indeed distributed throughout health zones under CRS's responsibility. But hidden in CRS's denial is an outright admission of guilt. Here's what CRS said:
The contraceptives in question were delivered to the geographic area where CRS worked but it was IMA World Health — not CRS — who "provided an alternative mechanism for the training, storage and distribution of contraceptive products." (emphasis added)
First of all, the wording here is very odd, because if IMA is providing an "alternative mechanism" for the contraception, not CRS, then CRS is implicating itself. But, if we were to concede for a moment (we are not conceding this point) that CRS did not actually handle the contraceptives in question, CRS is still admitting here that it willingly permitted the contraception to be distributed throughout its project area. IMA made it very clear at the outset of the project that the promotion and distribution of contraception was one of the primary purposes of AXxes.
Page 1 of the document titled, "AXxes Project Description," which was published at the outset of the project, says:
Activities will focus on: (1) increase contraceptive security, (2) promote and provide a mix of contraceptive methods, including natural (e.g., SDM 14and LAM) and modern (e.g., pills, IUD, condoms, etc), (3) promote birth spacing (rather than limiting births) as an entry point for service delivery, (4) ensure that all outreach messages incorporate and involve men, (5) explore partnering and/or collaborating more comprehensively with UNFPA in the provision of family planning services, especially in hard-to-reach areas affected by conflict, (6) provide appropriate screening for and treatment/referral of sexually infections (STls), (7) provide synergies with HI V/AIDS programming, such as incorporating family planning services into PMTCT and VCT programs, (8) promote community-based activities that include messages for parents about birth spacing and behavior change.
What this means is that CRS knew fully well that contraception would be integral to Project AXxes, and for CRS to admit that contraception was distributed throughout its project area, what CRS is saying is that it signed on as a willing participant in a program that would distribute contraception throughout the area for which CRS was responsible.
Even more to the point, page 14 of the First Quarterly Report for Year 3 of Project AXxes says that in the region of CRS's health zones, "AXxes is the first partner to develop PF (family planning) programs," which means that it was through CRS's participation in AXxes that contraception was first introduced to these people.
This is extremely problematic because what CRS admitted to is what moral theologians call proximate material cooperation with evil. According to moral theology, there are nine ways to share in the guilt of another's sin:
Again, if we were to concede that CRS did not actually handle the contraception as it claims (we do not), CRS is still guilty of two of these means of participating in the sin of contraception distribution. In CRS's response, it admitted to giving its consent, and also by (ostensibly) remaining silent about the contraception distributed in the area under its control. Because of this, CRS is guilty of proximate material cooperation with evil … and it knows it.
Consider this: By agreeing to participate in Project AXxes, CRS had to agree to allow contraception to be distributed among the people under its responsibility. For a moment, read again the quote from the "AXxes Project Description" document and exchange the word "contraception" with "the sexual trafficking of 8-year-old girls.” In fact, read CRS's defense again, and exchange the word "contraception" with "abortion."
If Project AXxes had told CRS that the sex trafficking of eight-year-old girls or the performance of abortions would be integral to the "success" of the project, would CRS have agreed to be a participant?
We hope not. So, why would CRS be so cavalier about participating in a project whose end is the spread of contraception? The only conclusion to draw is that CRS does not believe the distribution of contraception to be gravely evil.
But there's another way in which CRS admitted guilt. In its response, CRS said:
CRS did provide natural family planning as part of Project AXxes with the distribution of cycle beads, as befits a Catholic organization working to improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and their young children.
So, CRS is admitting to implementing the NFP programs of Project AXxes. Keep in mind that AXxes made it very clear that the spread of contraception and the permeation of the "message" of family planning would run throughout the entire project. What AXxes said about the NFP programs was that it was being used as a stepping-stone to introducing women to contraception. Page 8 of the final report for Project AXxes says:
Moreover, the inclusion of MAMA and MAO [NFP programs] in both counseling and reporting serve to introduce the important concept of family planning and to integrate reproductive health care services at the facility level. Nearly every woman is counseled on MAMA postpartum, and then at her six month visit she is given options for other methods of family planning—a normal step from natural to modern methods.
There is no way that CRS didn’t know that Project AXxes was using the NFP programs to promote contraception. Because of this, CRS is guilty of way number seven in participating in the sin of another, "Being a partner in the sin." By agreeing to allow contraception to be dispensed in its program area, by remaining silent about the contraception that was being distributed, and by providing an introductory mechanism to the evil of contraception, CRS fully admits its own guilt in the distribution of contraceptives … even if it didn't actually dirty its hands with the contraceptives themselves.
But, there's more.
Read the rest at the Lepanto Institute.