Bishops’ Development and Peace report encouraging, but only the beginning

November 15, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Development and Peace funding controversy has reached a new, and hopeful stage with the release last week of the long awaited report by the CCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Development and Peace. The bishops involved in that committee should be thanked and congratulated for proposing much needed changes to the organization’s procedures.

However, there are still many questions and concerns about how the Development and Peace (D&P) controversy has been handled, and whether the proposed reforms will be properly implemented, or implemented at all.

While in Rome last month, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen and Managing Director Steve Jalsevac discussed this issue, among others, with Vatican officials. Some of these officials were well aware of, and disturbed by, the poor oversight exercised by the Canadian bishops over the distribution of many millions of dollars collected from Catholics to agencies that hold views opposed to important Catholic principles.

The Vatican officials were aware of the problem because bishops and archbishops from developing nations have come to them to complain about these situations, which are undermining their own pastoral efforts in their dioceses. We were also told that this problem is not limited to the Canadian Bishop’s development agency. There have been many similar complaints about poor oversight by bishop’s conferences from other nations.

It was reaffirming to know that LSN is not alone in being concerned about this obvious and serious problem.

However, it remains troubling that the Canadian Bishops’ Conference still has not yet publicly acknowledged the nature and scope of the scandal.  Indeed, the most glaring omission of the long-awaited Ad Hoc Committee on Development and Peace report is any explicit acknowledgement of the truth of the reams of undeniable evidence of pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-homosexual or otherwise public anti-Catholic involvements of many D&P-funded groups.

Major reforms are being proposed, but the specific reasons for these dramatic reforms are still not being admitted, making it impossible to judge the sincerity with which the proposed reforms are intended to be implemented. The original CCCB and D&P response strategy does not yet appear to have changed.

In March 2009, shortly after the latest scandals broke, then-CCCB President Archbishop Weisgerber was advised by an influential Canadian priest to deny, regardless of any evidence, all the claims that D&P was funding inappropriate groups. “Who will they (the Catholic public) believe, the Catholic Bishops of Canada or some news agency on the Internet,” the bishop was told. LifeSiteNews learned about this discussion from more than one reliable source. 

From that point on, all incriminating evidence, no matter how watertight or convincing, was denied categorically, and vigorous counter-attacks were launched against the credibility and legitimacy of the messengers.

Thanks to widely disseminated statements from Archbishop Weisgerber, Salt and Light CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica, certain individual bishops who sent communications to their entire dioceses, and the report of the bishop’s original investigating committee, which was distributed in Catholic dioceses and newspapers across Canada and internationally through Catholic news services, hundreds of thousands of Catholics have been led wrongly to believe that those who exposed the scandal, including LifeSiteNews.com, were spreading malicious lies.

Regrettably, the summary report from the ad hoc committee makes no mention of plans to restore (in the words of Catholic Canon Law) “the good name and reputation” (Canon 220) of those harmed by the unjust actions and public statements of Canadian Catholic organizations and religious leaders who attacked the messengers of Development and Peace problems.

However, regardless of the concerns expressed above, in the final analysis the ad hoc report is welcomed by LifeSiteNews.com as an encouraging sign. The proposed protocols to put D&P in routine contact with the local bishops in the dioceses where their partners are working are especially welcome, as is the development of an “exit strategy” for D&P to extricate itself from problematic partnerships, of which LSN has reported on over two dozen.

While caution and continued determination are still called for, those bishops and other in the conference who have been pushing for reform must be strongly praised and supported. Theirs is a very difficult task against likely strong resistance to what has been a 40 years pattern of unquestioned support for Development and Peace from the nation’s bishops.

We are hopeful that the corner has been turned and that Development and Peace will very soon be required to distribute money collected from Catholics only to partners that not only do not offend Catholic moral teachings, but that truly fight poverty and injustice by promoting an authentic culture of life within the full, rather than selective, framework of Catholic social teaching.

As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Caritas in Veritate (the encyclical that the reform of D&P is being conducted in light of): “The right to food, like the right to water, has an important place within the pursuit of other rights, beginning with the fundamental right to life.” And elsewhere in the encyclical: “Openness to life is at the centre of true development.”

We recommend that these quotations be framed and hung in the offices of Development and Peace, especially during this time of reform, as a daily reminder of the nature of the work of a truly Catholic anti-poverty agency.

1. Socon or Bust was involved in contacting many of these Episcopal conferences in the Global South.

2. “There have been many similar complaints about poor oversight by bishop’s conferences from other nations.”   Really?  Who could have ever imagined!

3.   Where is the admission and apology from Archbishop Weisgerber,  the CCCB, Fr. Rosica, and Salt + Light for their false representations? Or are apologies just for us bloggging peasants?

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