After Archbishop Terrence Prendergast cancelled the Development and Peace sponsored visit of Fr. Luis Arriaga, D&P was quick to send a letter to their members to “inform” them of what happened. However, as is typical of D&P, their version of the facts is disinformation. More importantly, they twisted the story in a manner that is disrespectful to the good Archbishop and his intentions. This is unacceptable. Let’s take a look.
The letter, signed by the top professional Catholic at D&P, Michael Casey, was short. Only five paragraphs. It starts with an apology. Nothing too outrageous there, although most faithful Catholics do not experience “great disappointment” when a dissident priest gets taken out by the local bishop.
The second and third paragraphs are where the spin-doctoring makes you reach for Gravol and Maalox:
The planned visit of Father Arriaga to meet with our members has provoked controversy in the Archdiocese of Ottawa to the extent that the purpose and mission of the visit has now become compromised.
Out of consideration for our partner, and for Father Arriaga personally, we have consulted with Most Reverend Terrance Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, regarding the solidarity visit, and shared our concerns with him. Archbishop Prendergast has taken the decision to cancel the visit.
When you read this, it sounds as though D&P approached the Archbishop and pressed him to cancel the events “out of consideration for our partner, and for Father Arriaga personally.” What a load of dung.
They make only some vague reference to a “controversy”. They make it sound as though some false and slanderous rumour had “compromised” the purpose of the visit and risked hurting Fr. Arriaga’s reputation, hence their need to protect their partner.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. They got spanked for dissent. Period. The words from Archbishop Prendergast’s letter leave no doubt:
Since the Centre’s support of groups in favour of abortion rights in Mexico is incompatible with the Church’s defence of the right to life from conception to natural death and the mission of Development and Peace, and in order to remove any doubt about this commitment, the speaking engagements of Fr. Arriaga have been cancelled. (Source)
Note the certainty of the Archbishop’s position. He doesn’t say that Fr. Arriaga’s centre might/maybe/possibly have some links with abortion advocacy groups. No, he’s certain of it, and he asserts that this is incompatible with Church teaching, hence the kibosh. It’s not about rumours or about protecting Fr. Arriaga. It’s about an Archbishop protecting his flock.
D&P has shown great disrespect for the Archbishop by misconstruing the rationale and context of his decision. They have obscured and omitted the facts by implying that Fr. Arriaga was an innocent victim. They have again acted in bad faith.
Yes, Fr. Arriaga’s reputation has been damaged. At least they got that right. But it was his own actions that brought about the damage. The Archbishop also played a role in inflicting the damage by pointing the spotlight on Fr. Arriaga’s darkness. But the Archbishop has nothing to apologize for. This incident is a great illustration of how someone’s reputation is not a god to be protected at all costs. That’s not Christianity. The pursuit of Truth and Love sometimes implies that wrongdoers will suffer damage to their reputation.
There’s another important point to highlight here. According to Archbishop Prendergast, the support of Fr. Arriaga’s Centre for groups in favour of abortion rights is not only incompatible with Church teaching, but it’s also incompatible with D&P’s mission. Did you catch that part? He’s telling D&P that they have no business partnering with this Centre. Clearly, D&P doesn’t care for the Archbishop’s position. Not only do they paint Fr. Arriaga as the victim in this incident, but the next paragraph of their letter goes on to expound upon the good work of the Centre PRODH, thus implying that they stand behind their partner and will continue to fund it, despite everything that has just happened. Check it out:
Our solidarity visit was designed to highlight the important work of Centre PRODH, one of the foremost human rights organizations in Latin America. Centre PRODH was founded by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1988, and is highly respected for its outstanding work in defending the lives of the most vulnerable in Mexican society, including migrants, women, and indigenous people. Without Centre PRODH, many of these people would have no hope of ever knowing the dignity of justice or imagining a future where their rights are respected.
Very flowery indeed. Those aren’t the words you would use if you were planning on de-funding the Centre PRODH. I have no doubt that D&P plans on continuing to fund this group unless they are are forcefully restrained by the Canadian bishops.
This incident teaches another lesson: just because a group does some good (as PRODH certainly does) that doesn’t mean we can overlook the grave evil they commit. Again, the Archbishop has given a good example here. Most of our readers already understand this, but too many Christians get confused because they’re trying so hard to “not be judgmental” that they lose sight of what Christianity really is.
As a Catholic Christian, I’m always hoping that people will convert. But I’m kinda at a loss as to what more can be done to bring about conversion at D&P. After two years of controversy and now being publicly rebuked by an Archbishop (in addition to whatever Archbishop Prendergast may have told them in private) they continue to obstinately insist on violating Church teaching. I think this seals the deal for the need of a change in senior management at D&P, because they have clearly closed their hearts.