By Father Alphonse de Valk
Republished with permission from the May 2009 edition of Catholic Insight magazine
TORONTO, April 16, 2009 (catholicinsight.com) – For 42 years, Catholic dioceses across Canada have sent contributions via Share Lent and Share Life to the international development organization of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB): the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) – Development and Peace (D&P) as it is called for short – to supply humanitarian help to the poor of the world.
On March 11, 2009, the Mexican correspondent for the pro-life news agency LifeSiteNews, Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, revealed that five groups in Mexico funded by D&P are among those pressuring the Mexican government to increase the number of abortion facilities under the banner of “human rights.” The groups want the 2007 legalization of first-trimester abortion in Mexico City to be extended over all jurisdictions in the country. The five groups, called “partners” by D&P, received $170,000 in 2007-2008.
Did the CCODP give them money to agitate for abortion in their country? The agency says it was not aware the groups were doing this. And this is where the problem arises.
Hoffman found out from Gilio Brunelli, the director of international programs with the CCODP in Montreal, that D&P does not review the overall activities of groups it supports. “The criterion is not pro-life or pro-abortion,” said Brunelli. “If the piece of work they propose to us is something we want to support, and it is something that is within our parameters – if yes, we support them; if not, we don’t … We don’t have a policy for or against” abortion.
This stand is not unreasonable, except for one thing. The CCODP has always been driven by political ideology; in fact, by a political ideology of the left, even more so than by its Catholic religious motivation. To this, I will return in a moment. Meanwhile, it should have been extra careful in choosing foreign partners not involved in activities opposing the Church’s pro-active family policies. But D&P, unlike the American Catholic Relief Services, does not check with local bishops in foreign countries (something, by the way, that would outrage Canadian bishops if this happened in their own dioceses).
Of the $438,000 (Cdn) given to Mexican “projects” in 2007-2008, only $50,000 went to the Mexican branch of Caritas, the international Vatican relief organization which now operates in over 150 countries, principally through on-the-spot local Caritas groups who remain in existence from year to year to help the poor and to channel international aid when disasters strike, like hurricanes, floods and famines. The rest of the Canadian funding goes to “partners” who, as it now turns out, are almost exclusively devoted to leftist political causes (LifeSiteNews.com, March 11, 2009). Over the projected five-year period 2006-2011, five Mexican abortion-advocating groups stand to receive a total of $850,000 (Cdn).
Although the Hoffman report provided explicit details about the five Mexican agencies and what they were doing, and although it was meant to lead the D&P to an examination of conscience, so to speak, D&P rudely rebuffed it. Mexico, meanwhile, just at this time, caved in to international pressure – reinforced by Barack Obama’s drive for abortion everywhere – and acceded to demands that it provide abortion in cases of rape (LifeSiteNews, March 11, 2009).
D & P in Denial
On March 13, Michael Casey, the executive director of D&P, on his website described the allegations as “dangerously irresponsible and slanderous” through “ill-conceived conjectures and hypothesis” (D&P website). This was an attempt to shoot the messenger and it doesn’t come as a surprise that it failed. LifeSiteNews did not deal with conjectures and hypotheses. Its man in Mexico came with precise and direct observation; charges, moreover, that were confirmed one week later by the director of Mexico’s National Pro-Life Committee, Jorge Serrano (M. Hoffman, “Mexican pro-life leader confirms …” (LifeSiteNews.com, March 17)).
Still, the report may have come as too much of a shock to Mr. Casey. Apparently, the matter of groups promoting abortion had been raised at D&P’s annual meeting in February, because some consultants seemed to be unsure of this. The answer given them was a firm “No,” apparently on no evidence other than the belief that D&P simply would not do such a thing (Cindy Doucet, March 13). Alas, the actual situation has turned out very differently. Nevertheless, D&P spokesmen continued to reject reports that they were supporting anti-life groups.
On March 16, American pro-life leaders of Human Life International, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (CFAM) and the Latin American Alliance for the Family (ALAFA) urged Canada’s bishops to cease funding groups advocating abortion.
On March 17, the American Catholic weekly, the National Catholic Register, reported that one of the most radical and militant pro-abortion groups in Bolivia (CEPROSI) has been a funded partner of Development & Peace since 2003 (NCR, printed edition, March 29).
LifeSiteNews – from hereon LSN – then reported that a veritable storm was breaking out over the issue, with various bishops being informed and numerous bloggers taking a stance critical of D&P.
On March 20, the current president of the CCCB, Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber, issued a letter to all Canadian Catholics, aiming to maintain parishioners’ trust in the integrity of the CCODP. “Over the past few days, several serious concerns have been expressed about projects involving five groups in Mexico,” he stated. “The questions are important and are being carefully looked into by D&P.”
He then went on to emphasize the importance of the faithful sharing riches with the poor of the world. Ten days later, Weisgerber had to acknowledge that the CCCB does not have the tools to investigate D&P’s doings (March 30, 2009).
On March 20, D&P’s executive director, Michael Casey, and its president, Pat Hogan, sent a letter to all Canadian bishops, claiming that the LSN report had accused the Mexican groups – and by association D&P – of “being actively involved in the practice and promotion of abortion.” The D&P representatives said they had carried out an investigation themselves with their partners in Mexico who, they went on to state, are “shocked and saddened by these inferences.”
LSN responded that Hoffman had never said the Mexican groups were involved in the practice of abortion; rather, they were advocating or promoting the abortion philosophy. As for the responses of the five groups, they just provided D&P with what it wanted to hear, knowing that if their abortion advocacy were revealed, the goose that laid their golden eggs would be gone.
Over the next days, the position of D&P hardened further. A March 26 letter to members of D&P by president Hogan noted that D&P’s website now denied all allegations. Nevertheless, the letter went on to say “we have decided to temporarily suspend funding to all five Mexican partners.”
LSN, getting edgy about the bold assertions of D&P that “none of these organizations are involved in any activity related to abortion,” felt its reputation as a news agency was being besmirched. Therefore, it summarized the hard evidence once again, refuting the dissembling D&P (“Development and Peace has issued a false statement to all Canadian bishops,” LifeSiteNews.com, March 24).
On March 25, the archbishop of Regina, Daniel Bohan, issued a letter to his diocesan faithful, taking the position of the D&P executive. “It is clear in my mind that the statements by LifeSiteNews (regarding D&P) are false,” he said. “I find them a malicious attack on this important and sacred work …”
In Ontario, meanwhile, the bishops were taking a more cautious approach. On March 13, Bishop Mulhall of Pembroke indicated to a caller that in his opinion, funding would likely discontinue until D&P provided a satisfactory response. On March 18, LSN reported that the archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Collins, was taking the LSN investigative report very seriously. In a March 17 message to all his pastors, he wrote: “Be assured I will not allow any money raised in the Archdiocese of Toronto to be used for pro-abortion activities or organizations.” During the following week, Bishop Nicola de Angelis of Peterborough followed suit (March 21) with a letter to his parishioners, as did Archbishops Michael Miller of Vancouver and Brendan O’Brien of Kingston, ON. Other bishops were taking the information under advisement or were mulling it over (LifeSiteNews.com, April 1, 2009).
On March 31, the Canadian Priests for Life organization, under the leadership of national director Father Thomas Lynch, issued a letter to its members reminding everyone of the bishops’ duty to ensure that all funds collected from Catholics be used for “purposes fully in line with Church teaching.” He recommended that an investigation into the LSN reports “be carried out by outside lay Catholics, so as to assure complete professionalism and impartiality.”
Matters Come to a Head
By April 1, 2009, in addition to Mexico and Bolivia, further LSN reports had uncovered CCODP involvement in funding abortion advocacy groups in Brazil, Haiti and in parts of Africa, as well as groups involved in the distribution of condoms.
By this time, various bloggers were in on the debate. Ottawa’s John Pacheco (http://www.catholic-legate.com/or_bust) started his own investigation into D&P’s partners in Nigeria. It turned out to be one of the most egregious examples of things gone wrong. The “youth” wing of D&P maintains funding and practical links with the YARAC organization in Nigeria. YARAC (Youth Adolescent Reflection and Action Centre) is a group whose mission statement includes such items as “reproductive health” (a codeword for abortion) and “HIV/AIDS education.” In July 2008, YARAC hosted a six-person delegation from the Youth Wing of D&P Canada (http://www.catholic-legate.com/or_bust, March 31, 2009).
Another blogger found that the first reference on the D&P Youth Wing website was to Amnesty International. This group, after doing good work around the globe for political prisoners and staying away from population questions for decades, abandoned its impartiality on abortion two years ago and has now become an aggressive promoter of abortions worldwide.
Aside from Nigeria, John Pacheco’s research has found pro-abortion, sexual and reproductive health, and pro-contraceptive agencies linked as “partners” to CCODP in the following additional countries: Latin America – Brazil, Nicaragua, Haiti, Paraguay, Peru. In Africa – Benin, Guinea, Senegal, Togo. In Asia – the Philippines, Pan-Asiatic, Indonesia, East Timor, Cambodia. In other words, D&P has been funding anti-life, anti-Catholic organizations all over the world! (Letter to Archbishop James Weisgerber with Evidence, March 23, ’09, SoCon or Bust)
I now would like to return to the earlier observation that political ideology, rather than its Catholic foundations, determined D&P’s policy from the beginning.
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace was founded by the Canadian bishops in 1967. In September 1968, the majority of the bishops had deleted Pope Paul’s encyclical Humanae vitae as unsuited for Canadians. That ended all teaching and all preaching against contraceptives; indeed, it ended the bishops’ interest in family morality. They closed the conference’s Bureau of Family Life in 1973.
D&P, however, took flight on a wave of popularity. Helping the poor in underdeveloped countries was the thing to do. Governments all over the developed world set up vehicles to come to the rescue. Canada created CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, which was generously endowed with funds. D&P attracted tremendous support. There was no shortage of workers. With priests and nuns leaving their posts in the Church by the thousands, helping the poor was a great substitute. The Church, as many thought, having emancipated itself from narrow-mindedness in family morality, presently offered a secular messianism through economic and political activism.
The CCCB instituted the Share Lent collection. Some provinces generously doubled every dollar collected. The federal government announced it would double whatever D&P brought to Ottawa. This way, CIDA provided 60 per cent of D&P funding. There was only one little hitch. CIDA, being a secular agency, could not very well fund Catholic enterprises. No money from Canada, therefore, for Catholic missionaries in Africa and Asia or their parishes, hospitals and women clinics. Only secular projects needed to apply.
Throughout the 1970s, D&P literature took its cue from leftist and feminist radicalism and like them, agitated against war. The evil American was the target. Everyone knew that the revolutionaries in South America and elsewhere were noble figures, representing “the people” and the “downtrodden.” So D&P filled its literature with anti-Americanism and anti-war rhetoric.
But not everyone was going along. In the early 1980s, Bishop Gerald Emmett Carter, then archbishop of Toronto, had had enough. He pulled the Toronto Archdiocese out of D&P, replaced Share Lent with Share Life and divided the collection three ways: one-third for St. Augustine’s Seminary, one-third for Catholic service agencies in the archdiocese and one-third for Catholic missions overseas, to be determined by himself. All of this was somewhat of a private arrangement, without the faithful being involved.
World March for Women
The next revelation only came over a decade later, in 2000, the year of the World March of Women, a radical, feminist, anti-life and anti-family event. Again, it was LSN that broke the story, publishing over 40 articles on the subject from its discovery of the funding to the official pullout of the Catholic association with the March of Women nearly a year later. The B.C. Catholic (April 3) reported that the CCODP had budgeted $140,000 for its parallel summit to support lesbian and abortion rights. It actually paid this out in 2001! For the five-year period 1986-2000, D&P gave the organization $135,000. Influenced by D&P, the executive of the Catholic Women’s League ordered the CWL’s rank and file to join the March. Before the year was over, the CWL had 20,000 fewer members than at the beginning. Catholic Insight magazine covered the controversy in three articles in June, July-August and September 2000.
It was the first time since Vatican II that Canada’s bishops broke ranks publicly. Archbishop Adam Exner of Vancouver, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic of Toronto and Bishops Anthony Tonnos (Hamilton), James Wingle (Yarmouth, NS) and Nicola De Angelis (auxiliary Toronto) contradicted CCCB president Gerald Wiesner of Prince George, BC, in his defence of D&P.
Bishop Wiesner and his supporters had hurriedly distanced themselves from the Women’s march call for worldwide abortion and lesbian equality when this was brought to their attention. But they thought the CWL could join the march for what it believed were the main targets, violence and poverty. However, the website of the March’s supporters were full of denunciations of the Catholic Church. And a closer examination of the “poverty” theme showed that it was meant to bring down “patriarchy”!
Many Catholics believed that D&P had finally been unmasked in 2000. Well, as mentioned in 2001, D&P coughed up $140,000 for the March of Women summit. And it has never really stopped. Various incidents continued to illustrate that D&P refused to break its leftist, anti-family stand.
Two years or so ago, the Vatican asked the CCCB to join D&P with its own Caritas organization. That would have meant giving up the matching funds from CIDA, the imposition of secularism and becoming truly Catholic. Well, it looks as if this may not happen. Canadians know that Caritas organizations are the ones to support. Let D&P rest in peace for eternity. Another possible solution would be for dioceses to take the distribution in their own hands.
(With files from Kate Daffern)
It is not only the CCCB’s funding of D&P that needs critical review. Now may be the time for the bishops to undertake a comprehensive review of other groups that are beneficiaries of Catholic funds; looking at their core ideologies, activities, and overseas “partners.” One such group that springs to mind is KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, which has over the years been the recipient of the generosity of the CCCB and other Catholic religious organizations. Catholics should not have to wonder about the meaning of their bishops’ indirect support via KAIROS for “minority rights and gender justice” given that the group’s Education and Communication department is staffed by lesbians who openly flaunt the homosexual lifestyle. The Catholic laity should be given full information about funding sources for such groups to decide how much they want to pay to undermine Catholic teaching.
Recently, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary spoke out against the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s AIDS prevention programs for doling out condoms. Atheist Lewis recently said of Pope Benedict, who opposes the mass distribution of condoms, that he is “living on the moon.” The Calgary Herald reports that after Bishop Henry spoke out against Lewis, the Calgary Catholic teachers cancelled a fundraiser for the Lewis foundation. Last year, the teachers had raised $45,000 for Lewis (Calgary Herald, March 27, 2009).