As Socon or Bust readers well know, the social justice fraud in the Catholic Church is still skipping along at a brisk place. In Canada, we are still waiting almost three years after the scandal broke for Development & Peace to clean up its act…or more precisely to have the bishops clean up their act for them. As I have said repeatedly on this blog, however, no amount of procedural controls (however laudable) is really going to clean up Development & Peace. The reason, of course, is that their management and a good swath of their membership sees no problem in funding pro-abort groups. That’s why when the membership finds out that they are going to be severely hampered by these new controls, there is a good chance that they will vote to disassociate themselves from the Catholic Church – which, if it happens, kinda supports my suspicion that these members aren’t really Catholic to begin with.
But Development & Peace is not the only “social justice” controversy in Canada. In November 2009, I reported on another Canadian Catholic charity, Save A Family Plan, who published in their literature some very disturbing comments on “gender” which appeared to contradict the Catholic Church’s understanding. Since that time, a number of Socon or Bust readers have contacted Save A Family Plan, asking for an explanation. The text below is the form response that they typically receive.
Dear Mr. XXXXXXX,
Thank you for your note and also for your ongoing committment to the Kochuthottathil and Jesammal families in India.
Since 1965, Save A Family Plan (SAFP) has been “partnering with the poor for a just world”. SAFP is a Canadian based international non-governmental organization (NGO) that continues its commitment of seeking justice and walking with the marginalized and poor of India irrespective of their caste, creed, gender (male or female), or political affiliations. One of SAFP’s guiding principles is that it “believes in families, the basic development unit of our society where parents are able to support their families”.
In December 2009, Save A Family Plan became aware of serious questions being raised about our programmes and policies via the internet, particularly with regard to certain pro-life issues and the concept of “gender mainstreaming”. In order to dispel these misunderstandings and misrepresentations of our work, and to clarify where we stand on these issues, we would like to offer our friends and supporters the following information for their consideration:
We emphasize that SAFP clearly stands for promoting life from conception to the end of life. We do not provide any resources or support activities that promote abortion or contraception.
In our 2010-2011 fiscal years approximately 94% of our funds came from individuals, families, groups (such as the C.W.L, Knights of Columbus, etc), churches and schools. The remaining 6% came from the Canadian Federal Government (SAFP has received these funds for over 31 years). None of the funds received from the government are used for any activities that would conflict with our own mission/vision and the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Save A Family Plan’s programmes take place under the auspices of, and in active collaboration with, the Catholic Church in India at all levels. The patron of our work in India was the late Eminence Cardinal Varkey Vithayathi (who recently passed away this past April) and is now newly installed Major Archbishop George Alenchery,and our initiatives in India are established in conjunction with the Catholic bishops of India, through over 60 local dioceses in which we work. The Catholic Church in India both endorses and participates in our work. The governing body of SAFP India is led by its President, Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath, who had been the Executive Director of SAFP Canada for fourteen years, and who understands the Catholic concerns from the Indian side of the Church and its emerging needs.
It is India’s Catholic bishops who themselves have identified the empowerment of women as a central priority for the Indian Church today, and have urged “gender mainstreaming” in their own official documents. These documents repeatedly highlight gender inequality, violence against women, and widespread social discrimination against women as major religious and social concerns. As a Christian development organization which has been active in India for more than 46 years, we work hand-in-hand with local and regional groups in addressing these issues, to promote the full, equal dignity of India’s women, and their active participation in Indian culture and in the Church. We do this in ways which are inspired and guided by Church teaching, especially the social teachings of Vatican II and recent Popes.
While some people may understand “gender mainstreaming” as implying abortion and artificial birth control methods, this is emphatically not SAFP’s understanding of this term. For SAFP, “gender mainstreaming” involves concrete projects and initiatives aimed at such things as:
- ending the practices of female foeticide (including sex selection through the use of ultrasound) and female infanticide (allowing the killing of girl babies because they are often valued less than boys);
- addressing the epidemic problems of domestic violence, spousal assault, dowry related violence(i.e. a newly married Indian woman is burned to death by her in-laws for failing to meet the demands for a larger dowry, the traditional gift given to the couple by the bride’s parents), prostitution, bonded labour, rape and human trafficking which many impoverished Indian women face;
- promoting greater literacy among Indian women (official government statistics show that the literacy rate for women is dramatically lower than for men in India); encouraging educational opportunities for girls and women (more than 25% of Indian women do not have access to schooling);
- encouraging the inclusion and leadership of women in local decision-making, often through small groups called sanghams, which function as cooperative lending institutions and allow women to meet, to discuss their concerns, and to work toward possible solutions for their families and communities;
- spreading information about government laws and policies aimed at supporting and assisting women; sharing information about the Church’s social teaching, and the Indian bishops’ initiatives in this area;
- highlighting the necessary interrelationships between the welfare of individual women and the welfare of their families, the communities in which they live, and the natural environment; encouraging reflection on these relationships, and incorporating them as criteria in decision-making processes at every level, to ensure the long-term well-being of all concerned.
We know that SAFP’s supporters appreciate the importance of these critical issues, and we work collaboratively with our Indian partners in fostering solutions that are locally decided upon, and which meet the concrete identified needs of families and communities. We do this in a way which promotes integral, sustainable development, and which attempts to bring Gospel values to bear on these challenging issues.
We are saddened that some people have chosen to criticize Save A Family Plan without taking the time to contact us to discuss these issues and our work. As an organization dedicated to transparency, we always seek to respond to any question in an open, accurate and honest way that promotes understanding and respect. If you have any further questions, we would welcome the opportunity to answer them, but especially to reassure SAFP’s friends that we remain utterly faithful to the mission of our founder, Msgr. Augustine Kandathil (“Father Gus”)—a mission of solidarity and compassion, uniting the peoples of India and Canada in the search for a more just world.
These are the things Save A Family Plan has always stood for, and we will never compromise on them. The Catholic Church in India—and in North America—stands firmly behind SAFP’s work, and provides much of its energy and growth. We are proud of this central and longstanding partnership, and take pride in our place firmly within the Church. We ask your prayers for our ongoing work, and we rely upon your continued support for the poor in India.
Mrs. Lesley Porter
Executive Director Save A Family Plan (Canada) “partnering with the poor for a just world”
Ms. Porter has said above that Save A Family Plan is “dedicated to transparency” and that they “always seek to respond to any question in an open, accurate and honest way that promotes understanding and respect.” The “transparency” claim is a refreshing change from the approach adopted by Development & Peace, for sure. So in view of Ms. Porter’s invitation, I will be posting an open letter addressed to her next week here at Socon or Bust, engaging some of the comments that she made in the above letter but also asking her to address the specific details of my concerns with some of the comments in their literature and other activities they have been involved in.
If my concerns are without foundation, I will gladly remove my report in question and offer her an apology for the misunderstanding. But just a fair warning on that score to her and my readers: that’s going to be a tall hill to climb, given the evidence.
I hope Socon or Bust readers and current donors to Save A Family Plan are as eager as I am to hear the explanation of these specific questions.