A mother and child on farmland managed by Development and Peace in Ethiopia 2015. Photo by Michael Swan

Editorial: A blast from the past

  • April 19, 2018

Here we go again. Development and Peace, an organization created by Canada’s bishops, is back on the hot seat over allegations it failed to properly screen some overseas partners. At least 11 dioceses have withheld funds from the organization after suggestions that several of its partner agencies are offside on issues that include abortion, contraception and gender theory. 

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto cited “alarming concerns.” Calgary Bishop William McGrattan mentioned “serious and credible” accusations. Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith claimed up to 40 agencies have failed to “demonstrate full respect for the sanctity of human life.” Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon and Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen all want assurance that Development and Peace is working only with agencies that respect Catholic teaching.

The probe into Development and Peace is ongoing, but these bishops have already seen enough to prompt them to suspend funding and express concern. Their dismay is understandable. They must be shaking their heads as they ask how a hot potato that bishops had to juggle years ago was lobbed back into their hands. 

In 2009 several bishops suspended payments to Development and Peace following claims that a handful of its overseas partners either held pro-abortion sentiments or had aligned with organizations openly pro-abortion. A 2010 investigation of 248 files revealed 15 problematic partnerships, including two cited as particularly egregious. Those findings led to changes in funding protocols to ensure money from the Catholic charity went exclusively to organizations that comply with the social and moral teachings of the Church.

“Even one flawed partnership is too many,” Msgr. Patrick Powers, the former secretary of the Canadian bishops conference, said at the time.

We agreed with Msgr. Powers back then and we agree now with the bishops across Canada who are putting their chequebooks away until Development and Peace can show that its house is in order. Hopefully, the issue is quickly resolved.

Engaging in charity is non-negotiable for Christians and essential to the mission of the Church. But those works of charity must always be faithful to Catholic teaching. Pope Benedict XVI formalized that precept in a 2012 apostolic letter that laid out mandatory regulations to govern charitable activity. His edict makes it clear that Catholic charities must adhere to Catholic principles and “may not accept commitments which could in any way affect the observance of those principles.”

Bishops are required to police their charities so when red flags are raised concerning an organization such as Development and Peace, bishops are obligated to intervene. It is their job to make certain Catholic charities remain, in every respect, Catholic.

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