Bishops release funds to D&P

  • October 29, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - Canada’s Catholic bishops will release funds to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P), at the same time increasing their oversight of the agency.

“Aware that Development and Peace is already engaged in this process of renewal, the bishops decided, in the interval, to support Development and Peace and its 2010 Share Lent collection,” said a statement released Oct. 23, at the close of the five-day Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops annual plenary in  Cornwall, Ont.

The bishops said they were “encouraged” by D&P’s intention to review its mandate in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate and to vet its overseas partners through local bishops’ conferences. They affirmed the “excellent work” the development agency has done over the years.

The funds had been withheld after online reports began surfacing last March on alleging some of D&P’s overseas partners had been funding projects through agencies that were pro-abortion. Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins had withheld about $1 million in funds from the archdiocese’s ShareLife campaign, agreeing to release them only to projects with overseas partners approved by the local bishop.

In the statement, the bishops acknowledged the online reports had “shaken the faith of some of the faithful.”

On Oct. 19, in public session, Charlottetown Bishop Richard Grecco, one of two bishops on the D&P board, released the agency’s annual report, which revealed the controversy’s effects on the Share Lent collection were “minimal” and donations were “in line” with 2008 contributions across Canada.

Grecco said D&P is taking steps to “ensure appropriate oversight and monitoring of partner activities to avoid further controversies” through a working group. The agency has also established a theological reflection committee.

The bulk of the D&P discussion took place behind closed doors on Oct. 20, resulting in the bishops’ decision to appoint a new ad hoc committee to put D&P under tighter supervision. On Dec. 2, the CCCB’s Permanent Council will appoint its members.

The agency has operated independently of the CCCB, though two bishops sit on its board. The ad hoc committee will allow the bishops to “collaborate” with D&P to “ensure that the implementation of its mandate is in harmony with the identity and mission of the church,” according to the statement.

The new committee will also help the agency live up to the recommendations of a report of inquiry two bishops made last June after a trip to Mexico to investigate five D&P partners which were the subject of initial reports. It will report to the CCCB’s next plenary in 2010.

The D&P controversy also prompted the bishops to reassess how they respond to life issues.

“If bishops don’t step up others will who may present a distorted view of the church’s teaching,” London Bishop Ronald Fabbro told a closed door session on pro-life issues, according to a CCCB news release. “We need to inform our people on the foundations of our faith.”

The Permanent Council will create a second ad hoc committee to “develop an intermediate and a long-term strategy for the promotion of a culture of life and family in Canada.” It will report to a subsequent meeting of the Permanent Council.

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