Cardinal Collins released a statement April 9 on withholding funds to Development and Peace due to 'alarming concerns' about dozens of overseas organizations. Photo by Michael Swan

Twelve Canadian bishops withholding funds to Development and Peace

  • April 17, 2018

Twelve Canadian bishops, including Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, are withholding contributions to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace following preliminary research that indicates some of the Catholic agency’s partners may be connected to abortion or artificial contraception.

On April 4 Edmonton’s Archbishop Richard Smith started a flood of bishops holding back funds. He was reacting to concerns first raised in February at an assembly of Western and Northern Bishops concerning about 40 of Development and Peace’s 170-plus partners. 

In a letter to Edmonton Catholics, Smith called results of preliminary research into Development and Peace partners “alarming.” He said many cases “appear to show evidence of conflict with Catholic moral and social teaching and, in particular, that they do not demonstrate full respect for the sanctity of human life.”

Dioceses known to be withholding funds are Toronto and St. Catharines in Ontario, Calgary, Edmonton and St. Paul in Alberta, Vancouver, Kamloops and Nelson in British Columbia, Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and St. Boniface in Manitoba, and Whitehorse, Yukon. 

“It is very important that the concerns surrounding the recent review of D&P partners are attended to promptly,” said Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon in a letter read from pulpits April 15.

“I can assure you that the monies so far collected will be completely reserved for projects in the developing world. The temporary withholding of funds underscores the seriousness of the bishops’ concerns and the need for open transparency and accountability,” Gagnon said.

The research in question is unlikely to answer those concerns, said Development and Peace deputy executive director Romain Duguay.

“It was research done on the web. It’s not an inquiry done in the field with calls,” he told The Catholic Register. “It was very quick research. This is why everybody is surprised. It’s jumping the gun. It’s just a preliminary report.”

After an inquiry last fall from a Catholic Women’s League member about a Development and Peace partner in Haiti, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Development and Peace launched a review to ensure all partners were in line with the 2014 “Partnership Policy” developed by the CCCB and D&P. 

Development and Peace was surprised that results of preliminary web searches conducted by CCCB staff were shared with bishops before the organization had a chance to respond.

“This is definitely a surprise attack,” said Development and Peace national council president Jean-Denis Lampron.

“What was presented was a very incomplete portrait,” he said. “Our partners are doing important work and it is unfair that they should suffer the consequences of unjustified accusations based on a preliminary report.”

Development and Peace has provided clarifications on all 40 partners in question and will meet with CCCB staff later this month to discuss next steps, Duguay said.

Caritas Internationalis secretary general Michel Roy urges everybody to wait until the review process is complete. Development and Peace is a member of the global Catholic relief and development network with ties to the Vatican.

Development and Peace, like all Caritas members, signs onto the Caritas Code of Ethics. Sacredness of life from conception to natural death is a non-negotiable, core tenant of the Caritas code, Roy said.

It’s not negotiable for Development and Peace either, said Duguay.

“We clearly say we’re not going to go with any abortion projects or even go with reproductive rights,” Duguay said.

Bishops in Quebec are not withholding funds.

“We are of the opinion that we must support Development and Peace,” said Bishop Noel Simard. 

“Yes, of course there is this investigation. But it (D&P) is a jewel of the Church that gives us credibility when we talk about our social mission.”

Final answers from the joint research project may be available by June, Duguay said.

In most dioceses across Canada, special collections on March 18 were designated for Development and Peace. In Toronto, about $800,000 was contributed to D&P last year as part of the ShareLife campaign.

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