It won't go away

By 
  • June 26, 2009
{mosimage}The report is in but the final chapter may not yet be written regarding allegations that have swirled  around Development and Peace since March.

Amid charges that D&P was aligned with five Mexican groups that support abortion, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has concluded an investigation and exonerated D&P, according to CCCB president Archbishop James Weisgerber.

In interviews with The Catholic Register and Salt + Light Television, Weisgerber said not only is D&P innocent of “in any way funding abortion activities” but the bishops found no evidence that D&P provided funding to agencies that are involved in abortion.

Having said that, however, he also conceded that some agencies that receive D&P money may have   relationships with third parties that, in the archbishop’s words, “were doing things.” We are left to assume the report, to be released in coming weeks, will provide details of those “things” but it’s reasonable to guess they include abortion advocacy.

That is the crux of the issue — and the reason this controversy seems unlikely to go away.

It is right to demand that D&P require every project it funds to strictly adhere to Catholic teaching on life issues. When it comes to matters such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, that means not a single penny can be allocated directly or indirectly to support these unholy causes.

But it appears the waters become muddy when a D&P partner in the developing world has a non-financial relationship with a third organization or lobby group that, although it may be aligned with Catholic teaching on such issues as environmental or human rights reform, is pro-abortion.

Weisgerber said the church has clear guidelines based in Catholic moral theology on how to address such situations. The church, he said, is called to be involved with other people, even those with whom it disagrees, provided we do not give aid or comfort related to the specific area of disagreement.

Applying this “greater good” philosophy to D&P means the Catholic aid agency may sometimes align with a third party on a specific project (for example, building a school) even if that third party is pro-abortion, provided that D&P remains detached from the abortion activities of the third party.

Weisgerber indicated that the bishops’ report includes recommendations to establish clear guidelines  for how D&P conducts its third-party relationships. But it won’t mandate that D&P work only with organizations that support Catholic teachings on the dignity of life. As Weisgerber put it: “We give money to projects, not organizations.”

The D&P controversy was fuelled by Canada’s passionate pro-life lobby. They have consistently rejected compromise on this issue, so it is difficult to imagine them now accepting the nuance of the  bishops’ position.

The bishops’ report may allow D&P to return to its important work, but it seems unlikely the report will make the issue go away.

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