Salesian Missions has called our reports a “malicious attack” that contain “absurd information.” One would not see from reading this statement that we tried to reach out to them six days before releasing our report to try to start a conversation about our findings before going public; and that all of the information presented – which we agree is absurd, or worse – was taken from their own and their partners’ documents. In fact, the Life Choices documents in question were removed from the program’s web site without acknowledging this in their statement.
We won’t enter into the character assassination that the Salesians and, very sadly, Archbishop Coakley, have leveled upon us. As most will recognize, this is a distraction, and intentionally so, in addition to being unjust. The Salesians have accused us of publishing reports that contain “serious inaccuracies,” yet the only attempt they make to justify this slander is by pointing to a “data entry error” of their partner’s doing. Since we tried to reach them privately before publication, how can they blame us for this confusion? More importantly – that is some error!
Yesterday’s statement by the Salesian Missions, defending the Life Choices program, says that the program … as written … “conforms with Catholic ethos’ and is “in line with the true spirit of our founder St. John “Don” Bosco.” To claim such a thing is not only perverse, it is evil, and anyone paying attention knows why!
What follows is the full statement issued by the Salesian Missions, with my comments in red:
This is intended to be a response to donors who may be concerned about accusations against Salesian Missions that have appeared online. These attacks are malicious in nature and contain absurd information. If our intentions were malicious, we wouldn’t have given the Salesian Missions six days to look over our information and respond before publishing. Furthermore, the information came directly from original sources, so if the information is absurd, then so is the source.)
Unfortunately, anyone can publish anything on the Internet and there is little recourse when something is not accurate. Therefore, we all have to exercise caution to try and determine what is legitimate and what is not. We are thankful for this opportunity to clarify things.
Please be assured that the program in question is in line with Catholic teachings, as are all Salesian programs around the globe. (So, the program manuals, the youth newsletters, and the Salesian Life Choices video from 2006 … all of which promote condoms … are in line with Church teaching?)
Salesian missionaries do operate an NGO in Cape Town, South Africa called Life Choices. Salesian Missions is a separate U.S.-based nonprofit organization that raises funds and secures grant funding for Salesian-run programs around the globe. In 2005, the Salesian Missions Office for International Programs began working to help secure funding for Life Choices from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This is the limit to the connection between Life Choices and Salesian Missions. No donor contributions have ever been distributed to this program. (PEPFAR paid them to implement the program. Therefore, they are responsible for what the program does. They took money to implement it, they own it.)
As the HIV/AIDS spread to epic proportions, the South African government invited the Salesians to participate in prevention programs. The reason their inclusion was sought was because of their proven model of abstinence education. Without the involvement of the Salesians, it is quite possible that this message would not have been made available to young people. However, the “reports” that have been attacking Life Choices do not capture the true nature of the program. They also contain fabrications such as placing a Salesian Missions logo where it does not belong—which is not only deceitful but violates trademark law. (Apparently, the Salesian Missions is unfamiliar with “Fair Use” law. The logo was inserted in the opening image in order to make a point about the article being written. But more to the point, there was nothing fabricated in the reports. Everything came from original source documents and links were provided to show the original sources in full context.)
The information presented in both the so-called “reports” and the subsequent online articles is misleading and contain serious inaccuracies. (What, exactly, is misleading or inaccurate about faithful Catholics being concerned about program manuals being used by ostensibly Catholic institutions that push condom use and masturbation on teens?) One error was caused by a data defect in a 7-year-old government document cited by the critic. Life Choices never distributed condoms. The number on the table in question is actually the number of youth who received abstinence education. Here is a letter from the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa (who authored the government document) indicating it was a data entry error and apologizing for the harm it has caused. (The convenience of this mistake brings to mind the convenient “mistake” PEPFAR allegedly made regarding Catholic Relief Services‘ contraception-promoting program in Kenya called Healthy Choices 2. However, even if we grant that there truly was a mistake, it was on the part of the Human Sciences Research Council, not the Lepanto Institute. Again, the Salesian Missions had the opportunity to discuss this in private and clarify matters, but they chose not to respond to the information we sent them in private.)
The intent of the critic seems to be to alarm rather than inform. (Again, if that was our intent, we would not have gone to them in private six days before publishing) As a result, the Life Choices program is purposely mischaracterized to fabricate a scandal. (“Mischaracterized?”) For example, there are also a number of instances where the critic’s report states a behavior is being “promoted” in an educational material or training manual, when in fact it simply states a medical or other fact from a third-party source. (Seriously?! First of all, the Salesian Life Choices website is not a third party source. That is where the manual came from. Secondly, immoral behaviors are most definitely being “promoted” in the material, and they are NOT medical “facts.” Here, it is appropriate to remind readers of what the Salesian missions is claiming is not promoted, but is mere medical fact.
Telling young boys that they can “try masturbating to satisfy any urges” and to “be sure to practice safer sex” by “using condoms all the time” is most definitely “promotion” of immoral behavior, and it is certainly not “medical fact.”
The manual explicitly states, “We encourage youth to use condoms” under the … *ahem* …”medical term” “Condomize!” That is the very definition of promotion!
Continuing with the Salesian Missions statement …)
For counselors working with at-risk populations in a country that has been hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, this information is not only essential, but a matter of life or death. (Telling boys to try masturbating and giving condom demonstrations is a matter of life or death? Ok, the death of the soul, perhaps …) They work with young people to encourage them to make better decisions. (Like masturbate and use condoms?) The goal is to move them toward morality and abstinence (???), which is the best line of defense against contracting the horrifying disease plaguing their country. To carry out this work effectively, these counselors must first gain the trust of the youth, which means listening and talking about a variety of concerns they may have. This educational approach not only conforms with Catholic ethos, but is also in line with the true spirit of our founder St. John “Don” Bosco—with its focus on reason, religion and loving kindness. (Woe to those who call evil good and good evil!)
The critic’s reports use content from a specific training manual to launch attacks against the Salesians. The curriculum in this manual was developed by the Center for the Support of Peer-Education, an institution linked to Harvard University. This manual itself belongs is a product of the Department of Health, Global Fund and 14 other service providers (NGOs). Between 2011 and 2012, Salesian Life Choices became the abstinence partner for this initiative. The training manual was then customized by the Life Choices program, to make sure it was in adherence with not only their approach but also Catholic teachings. (I’d really hate to see what it looked like before the manual was “customized”! Since when is telling kids where they can obtain emergency contraception in line with Catholic teaching?) In light of concerns, the content of the manual as well as all other program collateral is being carefully reviewed and edited (if deemed necessary) to prevent future misunderstandings. (But … you just said that the whole thing was “customized” to bring it in line with Catholic teaching. What good is this “review” going to do for the 375,000 kids the Salesian missions claims credit for exposing to this program? Furthermore, what about the 15,000 kids that received the Youth Newsletters that were published by the Salesian Life Choices program that echoed the manual’s promotion of abortifacient contraception and condom use? Did those kids “misunderstand” the informaton contained in the manuals as well?)
These are only some examples of how the online attacks against the Salesians are full of inaccuracies and exaggerations. (The only inaccuracies and exaggerations found here are the uses of the words, “misunderstand,” “mischaracterize,” “fabrication,” “exaggeration,” and “fact” by the Salesian Missions in their statement.)
We are not alone in our concern over the matter. The U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops published a warning about the group behind these attacks. The statement included:
“We want to make it clear that those making these public critiques, albeit, we hope, in good faith, do not speak for the Catholic Church and we advise the Catholic faithful to exercise caution … before endorsing or giving credence to the groups’ critiques.”
Additionally, Here are two examples of articles from trustworthy Catholic news sources that also expressed concern (So … the two single greatest sources of published heresy and dissent in the entire United States, especially on sexual matters, are “trustworthy Catholic news sources” according to the Salesian Missions? Really?):
National Catholic Reporter: Bishops Must Respond to Attacks
American Magazine (American Catholic Review): When the righteous attack
We join with these concerns and warn our benefactors to use caution when making donations or reviewing information presented on the Internet.
We urge our donors to be very vigilant and always make sure an organization is an accredited source of news and information and, when donations are involved, to make sure they are legitimate nonprofit organization. We are informing our donors that Guidestar.org is a great source to research the legitimacy of an organization’s nonprofit status. To research Catholic news sites, the Catholic Press Association member lists an excellent resource.
Adding their voice in defense of the Salesian Life Choices program in South Africa, Catholic Relief Services shows its true colors as well. Archbishop Coakley, the current chairman for the Catholic Relief Services Board, told the Washington Times that our reports on the Salesian Missions Life Choices program were “misleading, exaggerated and untrue.” He went on to say that it is “disappointing” that the Lepanto Institute “continues to mislead the faithful in an attempt to breed discontent and distract from the wonderful work Catholics are accomplishing around the world.” As can be seen above, there was nothing misleading, exaggerated or untrue in our reports regarding the Salesian Life Choices program. All of the information came directly from original source documents obtained by government sources, the Salesian Missions website, and the Salesian Life Choices in South Africa website. Rather than paraphrase what was contained in their own documents, we published screen captures, links and quotes directly to the information itself.
Do the Salesian Missions or the folks over at Catholic Relief Services have no fear of God? Do they not believe that Hell exists and that souls guilty of mortal sins go there for all eternity? St. Don Bosco, the founder of the Salesians sure believed in Hell. In fact, he had a vision of Hell, where he described in detail the horrible fate of those who go there. This is the reality of those who go to Hell, as witnessed by St. Don Bosco:
“In this lower cavern I again saw those Oratory boys who had fallen into the fiery furnace. I drew closer to them and noticed that they were all covered with worms and vermin which gnawed at their vitals, hearts, eyes, hands, legs, and entire bodies so ferociously as to defy description. Helpless and motionless, they were a prey to every kind of torment. Hoping I might be able to speak with them or to hear something from them, I drew even closer but no one spoke or even looked at me. I then asked my guide why, and he explained that the damned are totally deprived of freedom. Each must fully endure his own punishment, with absolutely no reprieve whatever.”
St. Don Bosco also saw the names of the sins which caused his boys to fall.
I found myself suddenly transported into a magnificent hall whose curtained glass doors concealed more entrances. Above one of them I read this inscription: The Sixth Commandment. Pointing to it, my guide exclaimed, “Transgressions of this commandment caused the eternal ruin of many boys.”
And while St. Don Bosco worked feverishly to guide his boys away from committing sins against the sixth commandment, the program the Salesian Missions was paid by the federal government to implement was designed specifically to lead kids to this very hall of Hell.
It is simply unconscionable that this program was even set into motion by an organization claiming to be Catholic. But for this and other ostensibly Catholic organizations to defend it, even in the face of undeniable facts showing the sheer wretchedness of the program itself is nothing short of evil.