Catholic Relief Services: A Tale of Two Letters
2016-05-02 BY MICHAEL HICHBORN @ www.lepantoinstitute.org/catholic-news-service/crs-and-a-tale-of-two-letters/
It’s amazing how quickly attitudes and ideals can change, especially when money is involved.
In 2008, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote a joint letter addressed to the US House of Representatives, strongly urging them to “delete all references to ‘reproductive health’ and family planning services” in a proposed measure to integrate such things into the programs of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The joint letter from CRS/USCCB said:
we are deeply troubled by provisions calling for the integration and coordination of HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment services with “reproductive health” and “family planning” services and the possible diversion of much-needed attention and resources into the provision of family planning services. Radically shifting the program’s focus, to make it address what the draft bill calls the “dual threat” of HIV/AIDS and pregnancy, could undermine the effectiveness of the ABC prevention program, endanger the acceptance of PEPFAR’s life-saving programs in host countries, and marginalize the vital role of CRS and other faith-based and community organizations that cannot “integrate” with comprehensive family planning, “reproductive health” and abortion providers.
That particular measure ultimately failed for a time, as “reproductive health” was removed from the text of the bill, but it should be noted that PEPFAR has always included condom use as one of the funded methods for fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS. That said, it was edifying to see CRS and the USCCB making an effort to limit the contraceptive scope of PEPFAR’s initiatives in 2008.
However, no such reluctance is present in CRS and the USCCB’s latest request to Congress regarding funds for government AIDS-prevention programs. In a letter to Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member Lowey (both members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs), CRS and the USCCB requested massive, unqualified funding for both PEPFAR and USAID. As the numbers in this request are in thousands, CRS and the USCCB requested that Congress allocate $330 million to USAID’s HIV/AIDS programs and $5.67 billion to PEPFAR’s.
There’s nothing in the letter from USCCB/CRS indicating concern or objection to the contraception-pushing programs of both USAID and PEPFAR. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any documentary evidence online of the USCCB’s objection to USAID’s contraception-pushing programs at all.
Here’s a quick look into what PEPFAR and USAID promote.
Just a few short months before the USCCB and CRS begged Congress to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to USAID, USAID celebrated “World Contraception Day.”
This shouldn’t come as any kind of shock to anyone, considering that contraception is at the top of USAID’s list of priorities. It’s so important, in fact, that USAID has a list of 24 family planning priority countries. As USAID has decided that the reduction of fertility rates for those countries is a top priority for USAID programs, this is nothing short of population control. In a 2010 USAID document on a Tanzania Social Marketing Program, USAID identified Tanzania as a “Family Planning Priority Country,” and then said:
USAID family-planning programs aim to reduce high fertility rates by supporting: (1) long-term and permanent methods of family planning; (2) social marketing of short-term family planning methods; (3) contraceptive security through provision of commodities and technical assistance; and, (4) advocacy for policy makers, providers, and clients.
In fact, USAID boasts that it is “the world’s largest family planning bilateral donor” with the goal of helping to achieve “Family Planning 2020’s goal to reach 120 million more women and girls in the world’s poorest countries with access to voluntary family planning information, contraceptives, and services by 2020.”
Since 1965, USAID has helped increase the use of modern contraceptives in 27 countries from under 10% to 37%, and because of its programs, “the number of children per family has dropped from more than 6 to 4.5.”
USAID even has a slide-show presenting its supported research in contraceptive technologies.
Make no mistake, large amounts of the $330 million CRS and the USCCB asked Congress to provide to USAID will be going to contraception-pushing programs.
USAID’s key partner in its HIV/AIDS programs is PEPFAR.
In October of 2015, PEPFAR’s Scientific Advisory Board met to discuss the provision of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) to people living with HIV (PLHIV). Two of the recommendations are as follows:
Ensure the availability of improved, low side effect, first-line ART that is also compatible with hormonal implants and other long acting reversible contraceptives (e.g. IUDs and rings)
Redefine and emphasize comprehensive HIV care. For example, contraception, vaccine status, TB screening, and INH for latent TB should be included in all care programs.
A 2010 policy brief on PEPFAR’s website states the explicit intention to integrate the management supply chains for contraceptives into its Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programs. The policy brief says:
As part of GHI, PEPFAR will work with countries to create comprehensive access to health services for HIV-positive women, including the following:
Linking commodity management efforts to create secure supply chains and ensure PEPFAR service sites have reliable sources of medications, contraceptives, and commodities;
Co-location of reproductive health care and HIV services;
Expansion of health care worker training to ensure that clinic personnel are able to provide quality reproductive health, HIV and primary care services; and
Integration of HIV prevention and education messaging into family planning counseling and other reproductive health discussions.
In 2012, PEPFAR published a Technical Considerations for FY 2013 which specifically identifies the integration of condom use and family planning with PMTCT programs.
Page 9 states that PMTCT projects in PEPFAR-supported programs include condom education, promotion, and distribution.
Page 10 indicates that PEPFAR’s integration of family planning into PMTCT projects includes contraceptive services.
Another program of PEPFAR’s that integrates contraception into its programs is called Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention (PHDP). PEPFAR’s 2011 guidebook for programs directed at the prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases explains that the implementation of the PHDP interventions have a minimum set of services that includes condoms and lubricants.
More recently, PEPFAR’s 2013 Technical Considerations for FY 2014 outlines the framework for Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention (PHDP) programs. More specifically, section 1.2 indicates that PHDP integrates condom education and distribution, as well as family planning counseling and services into “all clinic and community settings.”
This is just a snapshot into the depths to which both PEPFAR and USAID push abortifacient contraception and condom use on poor people around the world. The point of all of this is to simply ask the question of CRS and the USCCB, “What’s changed in 8 years?” Why are the USCCB and CRS calling for mass amounts of funding to these two agencies without even raising one objection to the fact that these two programs are heavily involved in the spread of contraception world-wide?
In all likelihood, CRS and the USCCB are lobbying for more funding for USAID and PEPFAR because this is where CRS gets a large pile of money. For instance, according to PEPFAR’s regional operational plans database, CRS has received $747 million from PEPFAR since 2007.
It’s hard to say for certain how much CRS has received from USAID over the years, but in 2011, USAID reported that in one year it provided CRS with $187,358,411.00. In 2014, USAID reported providing CRS with $152,773,119. Between USAID and PEPFAR, these two agencies make up a large portion of CRS’s annual budget.
With this kind of funding from the government, it’s no wonder CRS is so quick to ask for massive funding for these agencies; it’s lobbying for its own payday. The reality is that Catholic Relief Services is looking more and more like an instrument of the federal government than an agency of the Catholic Church seeking the salvation of souls. Why else would CRS ask for unqualified funding for two of the most notorious contraception-pushing agencies of the Federal Government? The time has come for CRS to choose where its loyalties really lie. Is it Catholic, or is it simply another implementing agent of a Malthusian government?