The distress religious orders feel over some bishops’ vote of no-confidence in Development and Peace is very real, said Sr. Frances Brady of Our Lady’s Missionaries, a member of the OLM leadership team who signed the letter. Photo courtesy of Sr. Frances Brady

Religious orders ‘astounded’ by Development and Peace issue

  • January 29, 2019

Twenty-two religious orders have signed a letter questioning the wisdom of withholding funds from Development and Peace and expressing dismay over the extended investigation into 52 of the organization’s 180 partners around the world.

“We are astounded by the impasse of the last many months that has held up crucial payments to many partner groups,” reads a Jan. 22 letter of support to the management and staff of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. The letter was initiated by the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation committee of the Canadian Religious Conference, an organization that represents 240 Catholic religious orders in Canada. “This impasse implies a lack of confidence in the process for choosing partners.”

It has been 11 months since the staff at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops raised concerns during at a meeting of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops about allegations that some Development and Peace partners had violated Catholic teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Those concerns resulted in a dozen bishops in English Canada freezing funds that had been donated during Share Lent campaigns.

Over the summer the bishops’ concerns were narrowed to 52 partner organizations. After Development and Peace decided to suspend funding to the 52, in the fall bishops began releasing funds to the Canadian arm of Caritas Internationalis.

The letter expresses “unequivocal support” for Development and Peace, “its staff, members and partners throughout the world.”

While the letter is signed by a small number of CRC members, the CRC generally shares the letter’s concerns, said CRC executive director Fr. Tim Scott.

“The sentiments expressed in the letter represent those of a large number of the members of the CRC,” said the Basilian priest.

The letter does not represent a rift between Canada’s bishops and religious orders, said a spokesperson for the CCCB. 

“The CCCB and the CRC leadership meet regularly to discuss issues of spiritual, social and ecclesial importance for both organizations, as well as partnership opportunities,” CCCB communications co-ordinator Lisa Gall said in an e-mail. “The CCCB looks forward to maintaining and growing in this relationship.”

The CRC has raised its concerns privately with the CCCB, Scott said.

Development and Peace staffers were happy to receive the letter, deputy executive director Romain Duguay said in an e-mail.

“We are very moved by the support expressed,” he said.

Duguay believes the questions about 52 of its partners will be answered to everyone’s satisfaction soon.

“Our ongoing work with the CCCB is moving forward in a spirit of dialogue and understanding, and their commitment to our 2019 Share Lent campaign is an example of the progress we are making together,” he said.

Gall also hinted that the investigation may wind down soon.

“The joint review continues to progress with updates and/or the completion of the review to be announced in due course,” she said.

The distress religious orders feel over some bishops’ vote of no-confidence in Development and Peace is very real, said Sr. Frances Brady of Our Lady’s Missionaries, a member of the OLM leadership team who signed the letter.

“Just the fact that they (the bishops) are not supporting them, that’s upsetting,” Brady said.

Members of the missionary order spent a majority of their lives living with some of the poorest people in some of the poorest countries on Earth. Support for Development and Peace is very close to their hearts, Brady said.

“These are the issues, these are the people, we’ve been concerned about, that we feel we’re called to work with,” she said. 

A decidedly first-world divide among Catholics over abortion and women’s rights shouldn’t harm third-world organizations who rely on Canadian funding through Development and Peace, Brady said.

“I’m not in favour of abortion, but I think there are a lot of other things equally damaging to life and are not respecting life. Sometimes people don’t pay attention to them by focusing solely on abortion.”

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