WASHINGTON – In a letter to U.S. bishops, the chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services said the agency’s HIV/AIDS programs practice church teachings on condom use and abstinence before marriage.
“In no cases does CRS promote, purchase or distribute condoms,” said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee, CRS chairman, in the letter obtained April 29 by Catholic News Service.
Saying that “all HIV programs supported by CRS promote abstinence until marriage and mutual fidelity within marriage,” Archbishop Dolan noted that CRS’ positions “are fully in keeping with (U.S. bishops’) conference policies.”
CRS is the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency.
The archbishop wrote the letter, dated April 23, in response to an article by The Catholic World Report which said that CRS was not adhering to church teaching because it was promoting condoms and omitting its logo on a Zambian HIV informational tool.
Archbishop Dolan said “CRS’ name does not appear on HIV pedagogical flip charts because the tools belong not to us, but to the government of Zambia’s Ministry of Health.”
In fact, he noted, “CRS was able to convince the government of Zambia to include discussions on abstinence, behavior change and fidelity in marriage within the material, information that was absent in previous drafts.”
Although CRS’ name is not in the flip chart, the church’s teachings are included “by virtue of CRS’ efforts,” he said.
In The Catholic World Report article, Germain Grisez, professor of Christian ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., described as troubling that CRS differentiates between promoting condoms and requiring that its partners give complete and accurate information on condoms in all HIV/AIDS programs.
In the April article, Grisez wrote that “providing information about condoms’ benefits is likely to lead to their use.”
Dr. Grisez also addressed CRS’ policy that educational material with information on condoms must not carry its logo. He cited the Zambian flip chart.
“If CRS officials have been pretending to follow the bishops’ policy while disregarding it, they have betrayed their responsibility and misled the bishops. Any bishop would fire a real estate agent who did that to him,” Grisez wrote.
Archbishop Dolan said he has asked CRS management to provide information to the U.S. bishops’ conference “in order to allow yet another review process to take place.”
He added that CRS’ business practices are exemplary and subject to regular external audit.
The Catholic Church provides care for an estimated one of every four people with HIV/AIDS. CRS is among the largest church agencies in the field, currently supporting more than 250 HIV/AIDS projects that directly serve about 4 million people in 52 countries.