Crayon & Goupillon (blogsite) has obtained the whole and verbatim English translation of the letter from the archdiocese of Mexico addressed to the Secretary General of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Msgr. Pat Powers. This letter has served to justify the cancellation of the speaking engagements by Father Arriaga last April. Brief and harsh, the letter disowns completely the work of the PRODH Centre.
The letter is dated 1 April 2011. It is signed by Monsignor Guillermo Moreno Bravo, vicar general and Curia moderator for the archdiocese of Mexico. The CCCB refers to this letter in two public communications issued recently on the subject of the Development and Peace issue.
Here is the English translation of the letter:
“Cardinal Norberto Carrera has asked me to respond to your request for clarification regarding the PRODH Centre. This institution does NOT represent the views of the Church and is known for its support and encouragement of groups and activities that are an affront to Christian values.
With regards to the subject of defense of life, the organization has supported pro-choice groups and has promoted the so-called woman’s right to control her own body, against unborn life.”
On 4 April, the CCCB stated in a news release entitled “Commentary on the Cancellation of a Share Lent Speaker” that the “Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB),the Archdiocese of Ottawa and Development and Peace asked for clarifications from the archdiocese of Mexico regarding Father Arriaga and the PRODH Centre.” This is the response they received.
In a 4 May documented entitled “Commentary of the Canadian Catholic Bishops’ Conference regarding an interview on PROXIMO with Claude Lacaille, PME, the CCCB President, Bishop Pierre Morissette, referred to this letter in the following terms:
“After serious reflection, the Archbishop of Ottawa and the Executive Director of Development and Peace took the joint decision to cancel the speaking engagements organized [for Father Arriaga, the then director of the PRODH Centre] in order to avoid that a controversy distract attention from the Share Lent program. Mexican church authorities subsequently confirmed that they harboured serious concerns on the subject of the ProDH Centre. This information was brought to the attention of the General Secretary of the CCCB, who was required to communicate it to all the bishops, notably to the Archbishop of Ottawa, as well as to Development and Peace.”
According to this extract, the letter arrived after the decision to cancel the speaking engagements had already been taken. The letter is dated 1 April, on the same day that the diocese of Ottawa announced the cancellation of the speaking engagements of Father Arriaga. The CCCB’s communications department would not confirm on what date the letter from the archdiocese of Mexico was received.
On 25 May, the Jesuit provincials of the provinces of French Canada, English Canada and Mexico did nonetheless confirm their “support for the integrity of the work of the Miguel Pro Human Rights Centre and that of its director, Fr Luis Arriaga, an engagement that bears witness to the social teaching of the Catholic Church.”
The letter is very brief, and harsher than would be believed by the CCCB communications department. It remains to be seen the impact that the letter will have, as it will now be inevitably associated with the question on whether it is absolutely necessary or not to obtain the support of the local bishop when D&P finances a project with a partner in the Global South.
Those who believe this measure is necessary will find in this letter the proof that it is vital to have this agreement. The acerbic tone of the letter leaves no doubt about the opinion of the archbishopric of Mexico City about the PRODH Centre.
But those who consider that this obligation risks harming development projects will also find a further argument in this letter. After all, apart from the vicious condemnation of the Prodh Centre, the letter does not explain the reasons for this position. Can the future of a development project depend on one or two thin paragraphs? Besides, between the Jesuit superiors of Canada and Mexico, who support the ProDH centre and the diocese of Mexico, who should the reader believe?
Or rather: to whom should we give the benefit of the doubt?