Encyclical a boost for Development and Peace

By 
  • July 27, 2009
{mosimage}Caritas in Veritate represents something old and something new for Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace members, but it also represents a papal vote of confidence in their work and spirituality, volunteers with the social justice organization told The Catholic Register.

“Reading the encyclical made me more enthusiastic again about Development and Peace,” said Gwen Stang of Macklin, Sask., a member for 20 years.

The spirituality of solidarity and charity outlined in Pope Benedict XVI’s 52-page encyclical, released July 7, is exactly what Stang has encountered among other members over the years.

“The idea of love and so on, that’s why we’re there,” she said. “It’s because we as individuals want to do something, and we know we can’t really do things on our own.”

If people take the Pope’s words seriously, Development and Peace committees and councils can’t be marginal in parish life, said the grandmother and mother of nine.

For 90-year-old Leo Kurtenbach, a Development and Peace volunteer for more than 20 years who sat on the national council for six years, the emphasis on families as the object of development work and the basic building blocks for future development was welcome.

“For everybody in the world, family is the most important,” said the resident of Muenster, Sask.

The Pope’s explicit link between development and life issues — abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, contraception — was troubling for Kurtenbach.

“I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I in any way approve of abortion,” he said. “We are concerned about abortion, but it always seems to end up with the woman — and the men get an easy go-by. That worries me a bit.”

There is no conflict between Benedict’s emphasis on family and life issues and Development and Peace’s commitment to women and human rights, said Edmonton volunteer Rodrigo Loyola.

“We are an extension of the church,” Loyola said. “We are like a limb of the church. Whatever the position of the church on life — whether it be abortion or stem cell research — is what Development and Peace falls in line with.”

Helping women — funding women’s organizations, establishing co-operatives lending through micro-credit organizations, supporting women’s health — are really ways of helping families, said Loyola.

Development and Peace recognizes that there’s no such thing as development that leaves women without education, opportunity and dignity, he said.

“At the end of the day, Development and Peace’s work is to uplift society as a whole,” he said. “We’re just understanding that women are the most marginalized in society.”

Being a member of Development and Peace is Loyola’s way of being pro-life. He believes recent allegations the organization has funded groups that lobbied for legal access to abortion are ideologically motivated.

“The reality of the fact is that we all believe in pro-life,” he said. “The pro-life agenda has, in my mind, been co-opted by a specific political, ideological philosophy. It is those individuals who have that agenda who are trying to create a conflict between people who are pro-life and other people who are still pro-life.”

A discernment process with Development and Peace members meeting to read and discuss Caritas in Veritate has the potential to revitalize the organization’s membership and attract new members to embrace a spirituality of solidarity.

“What’s very important for the Catholic lay person to understand is that they need to be part of that (solidarity), and that’s what Pope Benedict is calling them to do,” Loyola said. “He focuses a lot on the political offices and the politicians and what they need to do, but also on the ordinary person and what they need to do — the call for them to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

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