Let the wind blow through CCODP

A very solid and needed editorial….it begins to restore my faith in the episcopacy in this country: 

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is one of those agencies that just seems to attract slings and arrows.

Most Catholics probably think of CCODP as the organization that collects funds for emergency relief efforts when disaster strikes around the world. That’s because it’s the official international development organization of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Canadian member of Caritas Internationalis.

Yet Development and Peace, as it’s popularly known, comes with all the baggage you might expect of an organization that works predominantly in the Third World, where it wears its “preferential option for the poor” proudly on its sleeve. It works to help people in the global south take control of their lives and carries out education, advocacy, and fund-raising work in Canada.

For years CCODP’s critics have been concerned that its focus leans too far toward theology of the liberation and environmental sort, and from time to time CCODP’s politics have tripped it up royally.

That’s how it got snared in the March for Women fiasco in 2000. Despite some positive elements, the march’s main agenda was the promotion of same-sex unions and women’s “reproductive rights,” a euphemism for contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Several dioceses, including Vancouver, had to step in and withhold funding from CCODP until it extricated itself from its involvement.

Yet CCODP is an arm of the Canadian bishops, and so it has enjoyed widespread, if not fulsome, support. Now, however, the writing could be on the wall.

Over the last couple of months LifeSite News and other conservative observers have documented dozens of examples of CCODP funding groups that have concealed or barely concealed ties to abortion and contraception. At press time, the tally of its partners reported to be supporting abortion or contraception was 29 organizations in 17 countries.

Coming just before the annual parish collection for CCODP, and as the Pope was getting flak from secular media for not authorizing condoms as a means of controlling AIDS, it’s clear the timing couldn’t have been worse for CCODP.

It bungled badly its first response to the allegations, first denying and then going on the offensive against the messengers digging up the disturbing online evidence.

Several bishops came prematurely to the organization’s defence without apparently examining the credibility of the reports, most of which could easily be documented with a few computer clicks.

Before long, however, a number of Canadian bishops, including Vancouver’s J. Michael Miller, were sufficiently concerned to demand an investigation of the allegations before releasing any annual collection money to CCODP.

Grudgingly at first, and then acknowledging the concerns, CCODP has invited a group of Canadian bishops to work with U.S. and Mexican bishops in getting to the bottom of the allegations.

That’s certainly an improvement on the initial response. Unfortunately it’s now an example of too little too late. It’s high time, not just for the sake of avoiding scandal, but also for the benefit of CCODP and the people it serves, to take these longstanding but largely unspoken concerns seriously and give the organization a thorough airing out.

Some groups, like Priests for Life Canada, say nothing short of a thorough, independent investigation will do. Granted, there’s something a bit fox-like about CCODP examining its own henhouse, since it’s accompanying the bishops on the investigatory trip.

However, considering the sterling reputations of the bishops involved in the investigation, as well as the limited resources that exist, it would be hard to justify more.

Last year a similar controversy arose over Catholic Relief Services, the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops, when it was linked through materials and information to condom promotion.

The bishops’ Committees on Doctrine and Pro-Life Activities commissioned an internal critique of CRS materials and recommended their revision. The executive vice-president of CRS pledged the group would take “appropriate action” based on what it heard from the doctrine and pro-life committees, and the agency’s materials are now fully consistent with Church teaching.

CRS board chairman Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, installed as archbishop of New York last week, said the theologian who exposed the fact that CRS programs included the financing of condoms did the organization a favour.

CCODP and the Canadian bishops should likewise consider this a favour. It would be helpful if they can work together to arrive at a similar outcome so a veil of uncertainty no longer hangs over CCODP.

In fact it could be a blessing for the agency, which can emerge from this with a reputation for life, something even it admits hasn’t been an explicit part of its mandate up to now.

It’s in CCODP’s best interest to open wide its doors in the spirit of aggiornamento that guided Vatican II and gave rise to CCODP. It should assist the bishops in conducting a good housecleaning from top to bottom.  (BC Catholic)


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