Questions still

  • April 6, 2011
Four months ago the Catholic Organization for Development and Peace announced procedural changes to stop donor money going to organizations sympathetic to abortion. Those changes, which came after a bishops' investigation revealed some D&P funds had gone to groups hostile to Church teaching on life issues, seemed to turn the page on a bumpy chapter in D&P's history.

So it's difficult to comprehend last week's unseemly events in Ottawa where Archbishop Terrence Prendergast had to intervene to cancel a D&P initiative because the speaker from Mexico, a priest, runs a human rights organization that is chummy with a pro-abortion group. The archbishop must be wondering how in heaven's name this could have happened. How could D&P, his own staff, fellow bishops and the priest himself, Fr. Luis Arriaga, put the Archbishop in such an awkward position.

Prendergast is one bishop unreservedly on the front line in the anti-abortion crusade, whether it be in his public statements, joining the annual March for Life or, last year as Quebec bishops were noticeably absent, standing with Cardinal Marc Ouellet when Canada's then-primate was under attack for unequivocally defending life. So he would have been rightfully perplexed and perturbed at reports that his archdiocese was welcoming a speaker from a D&P partner agency that is linked to a pro-abortion organization called Right to Decide.

It's not as if the priest was unknown in Canada. Two years ago his organization was cited in an investigation by as one of five D&P Mexican partners with ties to pro-abortion groups. Although a probe back then led by Canadian bishops somehow found D&P guilty of nothing more than "imprudence," it has to be assumed that Arriaga's organization was among 248 D&P files opened in a follow-up investigation last year by the bishops. That more-thorough investigation found 13 D&P partners "that merited a closer look and two that posed a problem."

Those findings led to last November's announcement that D&P would be more careful in dispersing funds and that it would develop an "exit strategy" to discard partners who didn't uphold Catholic values. Given how fast Prendergast dismissed Arriaga, it seems clear the priest's organization was either on the "exit" list or deserved to be so.

Yet Arriaga was invited to Ottawa to represent D&P during the critical ShareLent fundraising appeal. Someone is guilty of either appallingly poor judgment or blatant incompetence. Either way, it begs the question: how many questionable agencies are still endorsed by D&P?

It's a critical quesiton. As the international development agency of the Canadian bishops, D&P is the social-justice arm for all Canadian Catholics. Donations from the pews help fund the important work of D&P. But that generosity will dry up unless D&P can provide  rock-solid assurance that donations only support groups in harmony with Church teaching.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.