Ottawa archdiocese cancels Mexican priest's visit over abortion concerns

  • April 3, 2011
Fr. Luis Arriaga, director of the of the Miguel Pro Centre for Human Rights, will no longer visit Ottawa.OTTAWA - Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. cancelled the weekend speaking engagements of a Mexican priest amid allegations that the priest's human rights organization was allied with groups that promote decriminalizing abortion.

Fr. Luis Arriaga, director of the of the Miguel Pro Centre for Human Rights, was to visit several churches and meet with Ottawa priests and parish representatives of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace to highlight D&P's overseas work.

Last week a photograph was published online that showed Arrigia receiving an award alongside members of a Mexican pro-choic organization. Prendergast met with Arriaga upon the priest's arrival in Ottawa and, following a discussion with him and D&P representatives, cancelled Arriaga's appearances.

"Since the Centre’s support of groups in favour of abortion rights in Mexico is incompatible with the Church’s defence of the right to life from conception to natural death and the mission of Development and Peace, and in order to remove any doubt about this commitment, the speaking engagements of Fr. Arriaga have been cancelled," read a statement from the archdioeces.

"The Archdiocese of Ottawa continues to be engaged in clarifying with Mexican Church officials the status of the Pro Centre for the Defence of Human Rights in light of its support for groups espousing abortion."

The archbishop also urged continued support for D&P.

The announcement came after and posted a photograph of Arriaga standing next to the head of Catholics for the Right to Decide. The sites reported other instances where the Mexican priest seemed to support the pro-choice group.

The move, which comes in the midst of the annual Share Lent fundraising drive that raises approximately 30 per cent of D&P’s budget, was made in consultation with D&P executive director Michael Casey.

“We didn’t want the controversy to be the story instead of the content of the visit,” said Casey, who described Arriaga as “one for foremost leaders in addressing the human rights situation in Mexico."

“That’s the message we wanted to highlight,” Casey said.  

D&P also had partners from Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Zambia and Sierra Leone visiting Ottawa and travelling to other Canadian cities to explain the work they are doing with help from the Canadian bishops’ overseas development agency.

Arriaga is a priest in good standing in his diocese and is an assessor on the Mexican bishops’ conference’s social affairs commission.

In 2010 he denied Lifesite allegations that his human rights organization was a signatory to a report calling for legal abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy throughout Mexico. Currently, first trimester abortions are only legal in Mexico City.

Arriaga said the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Centre neither signed nor endorsed the report but the centre was simply named on the last page as one of 65 organizations that contributed to the report.

Involving Mexican organizations in a Canadian controversy over abortion is unhelpful to the cause of social justice, Arriaga said a year ago.

“It’s nasty to focus on those kinds of items if we live in a country where half the population lives in poverty,” he said.

LifeSite editor John-Henry Westen praised Prendergast for “the courage of his convictions” and “strong statement of the Catholic Church’s unwavering respect for the right to life.” Westen called the statement a “welcome vindication” after the vilification and ridicule the pro-life news service has received since it first started reporting on the centre and four other D&P partners in Mexico during the 2009 Share Lent drive.

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