Written by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 11:59
Canadian bishops are welcome to advise Development and Peace about overseas partnerships but D&P members are asserting their right to make final decisions about which organizations are funded.
D&P’s national council passed a unanimous resolution at a June 10-12 meeting that essentially reaffirms that funding decisions will be made by the council and its 12,000 strong predominantly lay members.
The national council consists of 20 elected, volunteer representatives from across Canada, plus bishops Richard Grecco of P.E.I and Claude Champagne of New Brunswick. D&P acts as the international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada.
The national council resolution came in the wake of a recent decision by the D&P executive, acting on abortion-related allegations expressed by a Mexican cardinal, to revoke the funding of the Mexican human rights organization Centro PRODH. That decision prompted a defiant resolution from D&P members in Quebec and New Brunswick in support of Centro PRODH and calling for restoration of its funding.
Although the national council discussed the controversy surrounding Centro PRODH’s funding, it did not take a position on the matter. Instead, it established a D&P committee to work with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to talk through the issues and the funding process.
“That resolution (from Quebec and New Brunswick members) was discussed and it was not overturned. It was decided to refer it to this (new) committee to discuss the whole situation with the bishops,” national council president Ron Breau told The Catholic Register.
A final decision on Centro PRODH funding should come up at the next national council meeting in November, Breau said.
“There’s been a lot of hurt and a lot of anger regarding that issue with PRODH,” he said. “But we have a lot more partners. We have 130 partners and we have to look at the well-being of everyone.”
The new D&P committee will almost certainly ask the bishops about a recently surfaced letter from former Centro PRODH executive director Fr. Luis Arriaga to Archdiocese of Ottawa chancellor Fr. Christian Riesbeck. The March 24 letter was posted June 13 to www.soutenonsdetp.wordpress.com, a Quebec blog in support of D&P. The 1,900-word letter from Arriaga rejects accusations that Centro PRODH supports organizations that lobby for legal abortion in Mexico.
“Centro PRODH is falsely and without foundation accused of having supported Mexican legislation related to abortion,” Arriaga wrote.
With respect to his own record on abortion, the Jesuit lawyer and scholar said: “As a priest, I duly respect and recognize the Catholic position related to abortion and I have never declared any public position regarding this issue.”
In a letter from Mexico City’s Cardinal Norberto Carrera to the CCCB, the Cardinal claimed Centro PRODH “has supported pro-abortion groups and promoted the purported woman’s right over her body, against unborn life.”
While the D&P national council has sought dialogue with the bishops, it hasn’t made any statement about abortion.
“We haven’t said anything about abortion because we’re not involved in abortion at all,” said Breau. “We’re a pro-life group in the largest sense of the word. We’re an organization that focusses its values on Catholic social teaching and the value of life. There’s over 850 million people who lack food to eat. We’re doing programs for babies, for children, for education, for human rights — trying to work with victims of violence. We’re all about life.”
Breau said Development and Peace members are “frustrated with wrongful allegations, misinformation and innuendo that comes out of some of the blogs with unfounded sources. It’s something very hard to respond to – innuendo and suppositions and that kind of thing.”