Salesian Catholic Missions affirm pro-abstinence position in HIV / AIDS education

An international Catholic charity has affirmed its commitment to abstinence education in the prevention of HIV / AIDS, noting that recent allegations that it distributes condoms are “absurd” and “malicious”.

Salesian Life Choices has been invited by the South African government to participate in an HIV / AIDS prevention program because of its “proven model of abstinence education,” the service organization said in a statement to donors posted on its website Wednesday.

The recent online attacks against Salesian missions “are malicious in nature and contain absurd information,” the statement said.

The Salesian mission statement was a response to two critical reports published in recent weeks by a Virginia-based research group called the Lepanto Institute for the Restoration of All Things in Christ.

One report criticized Salesian Missions for distributing condoms while the other criticized the use of a program that urged young people to use birth control and engage in safer sex.

In response to the allegation regarding the distribution of condoms, the Salesian Missions statement stated that a 2008 South African government report – which indicated that Salesian Missions had distributed over 100,000 condoms to young South Africans – contained a significant “data entry error”.

“The number on the table in question is in fact the number of young people who have received abstinence education,” said the Salesian Mission.

The missionary group, which takes care of children and families at risk in 130 countries, published a letter from a South African program manager, who explained the error and apologized to the Salesian Missions for any “damage caused by our misrepresentation in the report”.

In the other report from the Lepanto Institute, he focused on a training manual for life choices, which was written by international health and non-governmental agencies and used by Salesian missions. This manual appeared to promote contraception and other activities deemed immoral in Catholic education.

However, the Lepanto report did not mention that when Choice of Life was used in Salesian programs it was “personalized” to “ensure that it conformed not only to their [the authors’] approach but also Catholic teachings ”, indicates the mission statement.

Salesian Missions, which is part of the Don Bosco and Salesians of Don Bosco Network, the second order of the Roman Catholic Church, ended his statement by urging its donors to be cautious about Catholic groups that publicly criticize d ‘other Catholic groups – but do not speak for the Catholic Church.

Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute – which says it monitors Catholic organizations to find “those who have sold themselves to the world” – said on Wednesday that “textbooks indeed promote immoral activities”.

“If they don’t want to be connected to what we’ve found in textbooks that they claim to have ‘personalized’, like telling boys to masturbate in order to satisfy their sexual urges, then they have to stay away from it. government funding. It’s that simple, ”Hichborn said in a statement to the Washington Times.

He described a previous response from Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian missions, to the first report as “unhappy and disappointing”.

Some people who saw the Lepanto reports on the institute’s website and left a comment said they were so alarmed by the documents that they planned to end their donations to Salesian missions.

Mr Hichborn said he was preparing a list of Catholic mission groups who he said have remained loyal to the church and its teachings.

Earlier this year, the Lepanto Institute and another organization published a report criticizing Catholic Relief Services’ HIV prevention activities with children and adolescents in Africa; this report claimed that the charity was promoting the use of contraception.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) dismissed the claims as “misleading, exaggerated and false,” and on Wednesday its president, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, reiterated his view that Catholics are wise to reserve judgment when hearing critical reports. on the activities of the mission.

“Catholic Relief Services helps 100 million people in 93 countries each year, so it is disappointing and disturbing that this fundraising group continues to mislead worshipers in an attempt to generate discontent and distract from the public. wonderful work that Catholics are doing all over the world. “Archbishop Coakley said in a statement to the Washington Times.

As the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated in 2013, these groups “do not speak for the Catholic Church” and we advise the Catholic faithful to exercise caution and check the CRS website for clarification before approving or giving credit to group reviews.

“We support this advice,” said the archbishop.

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