Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Development and Peace : the Letter from the Archdiocese of Mexico of 1 April

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?


  1. Anonymous09 June, 2011

    The church is always trying to get other people to reform; it might not be a bad idea to reform itself a little, by way of example..(Mark Twain)

  2. Anonymous09 June, 2011

    February 28, 2011

    Groundbreaking Federal Court Decision:

    Catholic Church Officials Subject to Alien Tort Statute

    Judge of the United States District Court (Eastern California) says rape and sexual abuse of children and a conspiracy to cover-up those crimes by Mexican and United States-based Cardinals are actionable as “crimes against humanity” and “…cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” under the Alien Tort Statute.

    (Los Angeles, CA) In a groundbreaking decision, a Federal judge in California today denied a motion by attorneys for the Catholic Church to dismiss a lawsuit based on a unique international law against two Cardinals and a priest for their roles in the sexual abuse of a Mexican man as a boy in 1997, saying the plaintiff has sufficiently plead rape and sexual abuse of children as “…cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” and crimes against humanity.

    The case, filed in April, 2010 by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Anthony DeMarco, named as defendants American Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, and Cardinal Norberto Rivera and Father Nicholas Aguilar Rivera of the Diocese of Tehuacan in Mexico.

    Using the international law-based Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), a Mexican man, identified in the lawsuit as “Juan Doe I” alleges that, in 1997 , when he was twelve-years old, he was sexually abused by Fr. Aguilar and that this abuse occurred because the other defendants' conspired to conceal the previous widespread sexual abuse of children committed by Fr. Aguilar.

    The lawsuit was the first to use the Alien Tort Statute to litigate a clergy sexual abuse. Normally the ATS is used in cases of torture and other international crimes against humanity.

    Jeff Anderson, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff called the decision “a defining moment in the effort to hold church officials accountable for what is clearly an international tragedy.”

    Attorney Anthony DeMarco added that it is “a tremendous victory, not only for our client, a courageous survivor, but also for the dozens of children that were abused by Fr. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera and for the children worldwide who have been victims of the institutionally orchestrated conspiracy to conceal and cover up child sex abuse and rape.”

  3. I imagine this post is meant to underline why it is so offensive to D&P, its members and affiliates, to be held to account in their choice of partners by the whims, opinions and sometimes extreme views of a clergy that is often out of touch with the work of social justice and seemingly oblivious to the deeper needs of the church to get its own house in order. This is only one of a number of such examples that could be cited. Why should the word of a clergy, and a church hierarchy, whose actions and judgments have been so often called into question on the matter of child sexual abuse be taken as the final arbiter of who is or who is not deserving of our support in the realm of social justice. D& P has many people on staff much more qualified and capable of making those determinations. I say let them continue doing so without this unwarranted and overbearing interference from an often out of touch clergy.