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CRS reviews allegations that educational materials breach church teaching


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BALTIMORE (CRS) -- Catholic Relief Services said it is reviewing allegations that educational materials and webpages produced by partner agencies include practices that are contrary to church teaching.

The response from CRS March 9 comes after Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute, charged that a project operating in Africa affiliated with the U.S. bishops' overseas development and relief agency promotes the use and distribution of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy.

"CRS has, in the past, discovered errors, taken them extremely seriously and corrected them immediately. Should we discover any such inconsistencies with Catholic teaching, CRS will take immediate corrective action," the agency said in referencing "a recent report" without naming the Lepanto Institute.

The CRS statement noted that it regularly participates in humanitarian initiatives with "a wide range of groups," including other Catholic institutions, faith communities, governments and secular institutions in an effort to deliver much-needed services around the world.

"Although some positions and practices of these institutions are not always consistent with the full range of Catholic teaching, CRS' association with them is always and only focused on activities that are fully consistent with Catholic teaching," said CRS, which has its headquarters in Baltimore.

In a video and accompanying report posted on the Lepanto Institute website, Hichborn cited several training documents and educational materials referencing condom usage in the project called Coordinating Comprehensive Care for Children, or 4Children.

Copies of several pages of the materials were included in the posting. They contained references to CRS through copyrights, references or the agency's logo, Hichborn said.

Produced in English and French, the materials were developed for 4Children, a five-year, $72-million project funded by PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, through the U.S. Agency for International Development. Program funding originally ran from 2014 to 2019, according to information on the CRS website.

Kim Pozniak, senior director of global communications for CRS, said project funding has been extended through September.

CRS is listed as the project leader in partnership with other U.S.-based agencies, including IntraHealth International, Maestral International, Pact, Plan International USA and Westat. The project operates in Botswana, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda.

The webpage describes the project as helping "countries identify practical and appropriate policies, programs and services that reduce the risk of HIV and maltreatment, and promote children's well-being."

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