Marie Ange Noel, coordinator of Fanm Deside, an organization in Jacmel, Haiti, is pictured in a March 21, 2017, photo in Montreal. Noel said her organization "has never supported or encouraged abortion practices." Fanm Deside is a partner with Development and Peace, the Canadian bishops' international aid and development organization. CNS photo/Francois Gloutnay, Presence

D&P partner angry over bishops’ questions

  • December 6, 2019

For the second time in five months the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is being criticized by a Development and Peace partner caught up in an ongoing inquiry.

The co-ordinator of the Haitian organization Fanm Deside (Haitian Creole for “Women Decide”) is upset by a request for further clarification after she had previously responded that “Fanm Deside has never supported nor encouraged any practice of abortion.”

“We do not understand why such a clear and precise response continues to raise ‘concerns,’ ” wrote Marie Ange Noel to the bishops and Development and Peace executive director Serge Langlois.

Fanm Deside is among 52 Development and Peace partners involved in a CCCB inquiry to determine if they are compliant with Catholic social teaching.

A similar sharp and public response to CCCB questions was released by Honduran Jesuit Fr. Ismael Moreno in July. Moreno was upset by questioning over whether two Jesuit projects fully supported Catholic teaching on gay marriage and abortion.

While the CCCB continues its two-year inquiry, Fanm Deside has been cut out of Development and Peace funding, as have other organizations named in the inquiry.

CCCB officials and the national council of Development and Peace met in Montreal Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 to consider 14 recommendations of a Deloitte Consulting report on restructuring the Catholic lay movement that was created by Canada’s bishops in 1967. Neither Development and Peace nor the bishops’ conference would comment on the meeting or the letter from Fanm Deside.

“Information concerning the outcome of the partner review will be communicated once discussions between the two organizations are concluded,” said CCCB communications co-ordinator Lisa Gall.

In Noel’s letter to the bishops, she noted that, having previously answered the question on her organization’s position on abortion, the CCCB had sought clarification by further asking, “Does this mean that you do not support the legalization of abortion in Haiti?” 

Noel responded that there was nothing to support or condemn in that decriminalizing abortion is not on the agenda of either Haiti’s parliament or its president.

She also queried the bishops as to why the endorsement of Fanm Deside by two Haitian bishops seemed insufficient for  the CCCB.

“We would have thought that the statements from these bishops would have been sufficient to dispel the doubts of the CCCB,” Noel wrote Nov. 27. “It is troubling that in the view of the CCCB and Development and Peace, who had both received these statements, the word of two Haitian bishops has no more value than our own.

“This pledge that Fanm Deside has made to protect life has its roots in our Christian faith,” Noel said. “We have been summonsed to offer explanations several times, always in vain. The fears of the CCCB remain unmovable. They seem to be more enduring than the firmness of the facts.”

The Quebec order of sisters who helped found Fanm Deside in 1989 came to Noel’s defence.

“We cannot accept that the organization that created the Magalie Centre for Life, a shelter that welcomes women and girls who have no other recourse, is suspected of being pro-abortion,” said a statement on the L’Institut Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil website.

The Canadian province of the Jesuits, which includes Haiti, also supported Fanm Deside.

“We very much hope that this investigation of Development and Peace’s partners will be completed, as it undermines their work,” wrote Jesuit provincial superior Fr. Eric Oland.

(With files from Presence-Info in Quebec.)

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