Trócaire also "not promoting condoms"

Yet another Catholic charity that inadequately protests that it does not promote condoms. I have just received a copy of this article by Herman Kelly, journalist and author of book, Kathy’s Real Story: A culture of false allegations exposed.
Donors have a right to know on Trócaire
Irish Mail on Sunday - March 12, 2007
by Hermann Kelly

When does a Catholic charity become a secularised campaign group? - When it’s name is Trócaire.

The charity group was in the news this week, having been prohibited from running its Lenten ads on commercial radio stations because, regulators say, the ad contained a clearly political end. The ad’s purpose was to highlight the issue of gender equality around the globe.

Of course the selective abortion of millions of female babies across China (with its government enforced one-child policy) is a huge matter of injustice. In Communist China, many innocent children are wiped out before birth; this an issue of gender equality as it’s mostly young girls who are aborted. The selective extermination of females is well-known and yet publicly, Trócaire has been incredibly quiet on this. The question is why?

Trócaire, is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland and it has done enormously good work in helping those in desperate need in many regions of the globe since it was established by the Irish Bishops’ Conference in 1973.

But after 30 years on the go, Trócaire has clearly ditched any visible sign of Christian motivation to become indistinguishable from other secular overseas development agencies such as GOAL and OXFAM. At least these groups have the good manners to tell their donors that they have no Christian or Church affiliation. Not so for Trócaire.

Trócaire relies on its Catholic name and the bishops’ patronage to gain privileged access to Church sources of funding such as homes, schools and parishes. Yet when asked to financially support pastoral projects such as building churches or supplying religious education books for the very poorest people overseas, Trócaire always says a clear “No”.

A few years ago, Fr Kevin O’Mahony, a White Father priest based in Afar, the poorest and driest part of Ethiopia, approached Trócaire to fund the printing of books on Salvation History for children he was teaching from a small ethnic group in that country. It refused to give him any money for that. Again, during the year 2000 conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Fr O’Mahony’s area had 8 churches and 11 schools destroyed, but he would not get a bean from Trócaire to rebuild these either.

Quite simply, it is a public scandal that Trócaire will refuse funding to Christian missionaries who seek financial help to build a church, or a Catholic school or even to buy Christian religious books.

Trócaire currently demonstrates a radically truncated vision of the human person. Once speaking on the Church’s mission, Pope Paul VI called for “the integral development of humanity”; surely this cannot exclude the religious and spiritual realms of human experience. But, by steadfastly refusing, at every instance, to fund pastoral projects overseas,Trócaire fosters this cut-down view of man. Man cannot live without bread, but as Christ tells us, he cannot live by bread alone either.

Now Trócaire will not help to fund the religious education of the very poorest school children. But the same organisation has absolutely no problems in funding education for other purposes.

A quick glance at Trócaire’s latest annual report shows that in Angola it donated €40,000 for a ‘Programme to provide civic education on the electoral process’. Again, for instance, it gave €38,000 for a ‘Programme of human rights awareness for university students’ in Darfur, as well as funding education in woman’s rights, in children’s rights, on the environment, and on HIV/AIDS elsewhere. In its 2001 report, Trócaire gave money in Uganda for “civic education on tribal customs and culture.” But no funding for education in the Christian faith, and no church building. Trócaire uses the high profile Lenten Campaign to focus on “advocacy & campaigning.” for justice and human rights or other various issues.

It has tapped into a huge wave of generosity from the Irish public, who year after year have shown how much they wish to help others in need. But sharply contrasted with the public’s profound generosity to Trócaire, is Trócaire’s tight-fisted stance in revealing what it does sometimes with this money.

In a December 1, 2003 interview on Newstalk 106, the vice-director of Trócaire, Eamon Meehan said that in their campaign against AIDS: “Many of the partner organisations which we support and assist throughout the developing world would promote, would purchase and distribute condoms.”

When I interviewed Trócaire’s chairman, Bishop John Kirby about this at the time, he confirmed that this was Trócaire policy and was backed by the agency's executive board. However, he said Trócaire was not directly involved in purchasing condoms.

"Trócaire does not fund the purchase of condoms. We do work with organisations which distribute condoms. I have discussed the matter with the executives of Trócaire. This is Trócaire policy."

Trócaire had never revealed this policy of theirs before. Surely the people who give Trócaire money have a right to be made aware that this was their policy. Without getting into a ruck about the morality and effectiveness of condom use against AIDS, the episode raises a huge question mark about the organisation’s accountability and transparency.

When later confronted on RTE radio in March 2004 with the scenario of a posse of priests refusing to collect for it, Trócaire issued the statement: “At present, Trócaire is not funding any agency in Africa or elsewhere which is promoting and distributing condoms.”

So there. It couldn’t be more contradictory could it?

Any other organisation would have got a roasting for this but Trócaire is the like the sacred cow in Irish society which no-one can touch, or even question.

But I have a few questions. What part does faith in God and in Jesus Christ have in Trócaire’s corporate vision? According to its annual:

“Trócaire envisages a just and peaceful world where people’s dignity is ensured and rights are respected;where basic needs are met and resources are shared equitably and in a sustainable manner; where people have control over their own lives and those in power act for the common good.”

Sounds great, but surely any type of development agency could sign up to this. There is nothing distinctly Christian in Trocaire’s vision whatsoever. And because there is not, I cannot see for the life of me, why the organisation should present itself to donors as a Catholic organisation when it wants their money. It would be more honest to either reform or rename. Trocaire must ensure its work is based on Christian charity rather than mere political activism, with its work secularised in its motivation and methods.

Trocaire has at times shown itself either unable or unwilling to stand up for those persecucuted for their Christian faith when its support was expected. For instance, Christians in Pakistan suffer desperate persecuation for their faith, and yet, we hear little of their right for religous freedom from Trócaire. Surely, it is on the ground there and knows what is happening. Its radio silence on this issue, not only in Pakistan but around the world can and should be corrected.

Last August, during the Israeli war with Lebanon, Trocaire organised a rally outside the American Embassy in Ballsbridge and asked as their mainspeakers, Labour Party TD, Michael D Higgins and the homosexual campaigner, Senator David Norris. Neither of whom are noted for a espousal of Chrisitian values in public life. The Labour Party is an anti-Life party which would love nothing more that to get rid of all religious influence on schools, while Senator Norris campaigns to introduce homosexual-civil unions and adoption of children. Perhaps next time, you invite speakers to a platform you provide, check if they can offer anything different from the student standard Marxist mish-mash and the instinctive Anti-American rhetoric of the Labour Party.

Trocaire has done fantastic work in providing for suffering people across the world but the organisation is confronted everyday with the choice to be either PC or RC. Whichever it choses, donors have a right to know where it stands and be able to judge where to put their money in the future.

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