Strategic advice for pro-life bishops on D&P

Another Plenary Assembly has come and gone, yet we don’t have many tangible results to show for it in terms of improvements to Development and Peace. The bishops seem to have supersized their cone of silence on the matter and are being less transparent than ever about what’s going on.

For those pro-life bishops out there who are taking this problem seriously but are facing resistance from D&P and the more liberal bishops, I humbly submit three suggestions. They won’t be popular, but I think they make sense in light of what I’ve observed from closely following this soap opera for nearly three years.

Rebuke the whitewash report

A first key step is for pro-life bishops to publicly rebuke and disown the whitewash report issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) back in June 2009. Most bishops would never rebuke another bishop, but maybe they would feel more comfortable disowning a report.

You see, this report keeps coming back from the grave more times than Michael Myers and Jason combined. At every turn, at every step of the scandal, the communications experts at the CCCB have hastened to remind everybody that the infamous investigative report exonerated D&P of any serious wrongdoing. This report continues therefore to hinder the efforts of pro-life bishops in getting any traction on the issue.

Believe you me, until the report is publicly disowned, the more liberal of the brethren and the staff at D&P will persistently use it as a shield to block meaningful action on the part of pro-life bishops. By disowning the report, you will disarm your opponents to a large extent.

The laity are your allies

A second important step, your Graces, is to raise awareness of the problem among the laity in your respective dioceses. When you’re trying to influence liberal bishops and a social justice organization that is only Catholic in name, recourse to doctrine and encyclicals are not likely to get the job done. The most efficient means is to hit the pocketbook. If the donations dry up, things will change really fast.

So follow the lead of Archbishop Collins and publicly take the donations of your diocese somewhere else. Archbishop Collins had the right idea, but there were two weaknesses in his approach. First, his money continues to flow through D&P, except that he gets to pick the specific partners that receive the money. That’s not a strategic approach because D&P isn’t feeling the pain. Second, he didn’t do enough to raise awareness of the reasons why he was acting this way. I bet that if you did a poll among the Catholics in the pews in Toronto, most of them are unaware of what the Archbishop has done and why. Being uninformed means they can’t be your allies in the cause to reform D&P. Archbishop Collins’ approach has prevented his diocese from cooperating with the moral evil of some dubious partners, but it hasn’t fully exploited the possibilities to bring about permanent change within D&P.

I suspect that most pro-life bishops are afraid of being too overt about criticizing D&P because they don’t want to undermine the organization’s reputation. They want D&P to continue to be highly esteemed by the laity so that once the scandal has been cleaned up the faithful will continue to trust D&P with their money. In their view, the scandal should therefore be cleaned up as quietly as possible, in the background, without the average Joe Catholic being aware of it. While there is some logic to this approach, it treats the laity as children who can’t handle the truth. This approach is undermining the bishops’ efforts because the laity can be a powerful ally in bringing about change. What’s more, this approach contradicts the spirit of the entire episcopal ministry, which must seek to build up the people of God into spiritually mature people, not treat them as children and prevent them from growing.

Make use of the laity, your Graces. Inform them of the truth. Let D&P feel the pain in their pocketbook. Then you’ll get more traction.

Be an Apostle

Back in April 2011, Archbishop Prendergast caused quite a stir when he cancelled the visit of Fr. Arriaga to the Archdiocese of Ottawa. In the two months that followed, we saw more movement and progress in the D&P scandal than in the previous 2 years.

It seemed miraculous. The simple yet bold move by the good Archbishop caused a rapid acceleration in the unfolding of events: A long-standing partner of D&P was publicly exposed and defunded; clergymen of different stripes were forced into awareness and to take sides; the Cardinal of Mexico came out swinging; the Catholic Register finally saw the light and started reporting the whole truth; the CCCB  and D&P were in full damage control mode; dissenting Catholics opposed to reforms at D&P were flushed into the open; awareness increased among the laity.

Why was it so? Why was this intervention so effective? Not because of some cleverly designed communications scheme, but rather because the power of God was working through this bishop.

We tend to forget the full ramifications of the fact that bishops are the successors of the Apostles. They aren’t merely administrators of a diocese. The elevation to the rank of bishop confers on a man the fullness of the priesthood and a divinely instituted authority. He has a special role and power among the people of God to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Do you remember the boldness and the miracles that the Apostles performed after Pentecost? That power and authority is still alive and well, my friends, if only the bishops would tap into it. We saw a sampling of it this past April. Archbishop Prendergast exercised his divinely ordained authority to teach the truth, dispel error and protect his flock from harm. The result was borderline miraculous.

Some might object that the more liberal members of the CCCB are bishops too. So why haven’t they gotten miraculous results in their efforts to whitewash the scandals? Simply because they’re not acting in accordance with the Truth. They’re betraying God, the Gospel and the Church, thus the power of God is not flowing through them. A bishop isn’t a superhero. He has no internal power source. His power comes exclusively from God, who will turn off the tap if the bishop isn’t advancing His Kingdom. This explains much of the decay of the Church in the last half century. The ministry of most bishops has been largely fruitless because they’re not plugged into the power source.

But a bishop that is united with God and His Church can summon power beyond our wildest imagination.

Do it, your Graces. Fan the flame of the gift that was permanently etched into your souls. Rise up and be Apostles of the Most High God.

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