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After an exposé in The Catholic World Report by moral theologian Germaine Grisez, Catholic Relief Services was forced to revise its HIV-AIDS prevention program and cease the distribution of a controversial flip chart.
BY PAUL A. BARRAREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
BALTIMORE — A firestorm stirred up
by an eminent Catholic moral theologian is still smoldering, even though one
big conflagration has apparently been doused.
Germain Grisez is professor of
Christian ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.
In an article published in The
Catholic World Report, Grisez said that Catholic Relief Services
(CRS) promotes condom use and masturbation as beneficial in preventing AIDS
infection, even though it tried to cover up its promotion by calling it
informational only. Then, to compound the error, wrote Grisez, Catholic Relief
Services told its agents to hide its involvement when promoting condom use.
The group’s December 2007 position
paper on the prevention of HIV transmission states: “Any written educational
material that contains information about condoms must
not carry the CRS name or logo” (original emphasis).
called for an investigation, and the chairman of the Catholic Relief Services
board of directors responded. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee said that
his board took the initiative to correct what he called a misjudgment.
bishops own and run CRS, and two of our committees reviewed the matter and gave
us counsel,” Archbishop Dolan said. “They agreed there was a mistake. Whereas
the Catholic Relief Services policy is firmly consonant with Church teachings,
some field reps should never have become involved with this.”
A flip chart was mailed to Catholic
Relief Services partners in October 2007 that contained cartoons illustrating
how to use a condom and a testimonial from a condom user who says, “Being
HIV-positive shouldn’t stop you from enjoying sex,” and gave details of sexual
Archbishop Dolan said that the flip
chart was from the government of Zambia and modified by Catholic Relief
Services. Grisez said Catholic Relief Services mailed out the flip chart and
also claimed ownership of it in a cover letter from an agency official in
John Klink, president of the
International Catholic Migration Commission and a consultor for the Pontifical
Council for the Family, said service agencies walk a fine line between
evangelization and simply providing basic care.
“Very often, you are asked to simply
respond to basic human needs, and by so doing, you are not endangering their
souls but are making them as whole as possible as human beings,” Klink said.
“It’s a fine line, but the basic thing most Catholic NGOs [non-governmental
organizations] are trying to do is to follow the social teachings of the Church
to do good.”
John Haas is president of the
National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.
Haas said that the Grisez article
started a helpful debate.
“It served a good purpose. I think
the intentions of the Catholic Relief Services people were honorable, and they
eliminated the flip chart entirely once the bishops said this isn’t the way to
go,” Haas said.
Archbishop Dolan said that a new
document to replace the one that was eliminated after Grisez took issue with it
is “95% ready.” It will include catechetical instruction on Church teaching
about chastity and marriage.
Paul Barra is based in
Reidville, South Carolina.