WASHINGTON — Catholic Relief Services is investigating an allegation that a publication it used in connection with a program in Rwanda violates church teaching on human sexuality.
A statement from the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and develop agency said that former and current staff are being questioned about the publication to determine how or if it was used in the small African nation in 2009 and 2010.
The query opened after Michael Hitchborn of the Lepanto Institute charged that the publication, “My Changing Body: Puberty and Fertility Awareness for Young People,” promotes abortifacient contraception, masturbation and condom use.
CRS said it would issue a final report when its investigation concludes, but offered no specific date for the release.
Hitchborn cited a report from Georgetown University’s Institute for Public Health that said CRS, Caritas Rwanda and Family Health International were partners in revising and piloting a sex education program for children 10- to 14-years-old using “My Changing Body.” Funding for the program came through the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The Lepanto Institute describes itself as “a research and education organization dedicated to the defense of the Catholic Church against assaults from without as well as from within.”
CRS said the partnership developed under its Avoiding Risk, Affirming Life project, a five-year effort that promoted sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage to combat the spread of AIDS and the human immunodeficiency virus.
“We are currently investigating whether the version of ‘My Changing Body’ that the Lepanto Institute references, or any other version, was every used in Rwanda,” the statement said.
The CRS statement explained that it has reduced its presence in Rwanda since 2010 and that it is attempting to reach many of staff members who worked with the project who are no longer with the agency.
“CRS takes all concerns raised about our programs seriously and reviews them carefully, correcting any problems if needed. CRS is steadfast in our commitment to uphold Catholic teaching throughout our programs. In the last five year CRS has taken extensive steps to strengthen our systems to ensure that all of our staff are trained in Catholic identity, that our policies for reviewing and vetting programs and related relationships effectively uphold church teaching and that all materials used in CRS programs are in compliance with church teaching,” the statement said.