LifeSite at odds with Canadian bishops' Development and Peace report

  • June 30, 2009

Allegations against the Canadian bishops' development agency are a "counter-witness to that Gospel spirit that should guide all Christians," say Bishops Martin Currie and Francois Lapierre.

Currie and Lapierre's inquiry into stories that accused the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace of giving money to groups which advocate for legal abortion in Mexico clears the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace of involvement in pushing for legal abortion in Mexico. Having consulted with Mexico's bishops and interviewed five Development and Peace partners whom said were promoting legal access to abortion, the bishops "did not find any evidence that they have been implicated in promoting abortion," said the report released publicly June 29 (see ).

Public release of the inquiry report came one week after it was mailed to all of Canada's Catholic bishops. editor John Henry Westen rejected the report's conclusions.

"They got our allegations wrong," Weston told The Catholic Register. reports have alleged that Development and Peace partners advocated for more liberal abortion laws and greater legal access to abortion throughout Mexico.

"It makes me wonder, really, whether they even read the LifeSite reports on this," Westen said.

Development and Peace executive director Michael Casey said his organization is anxious to seek reconciliation with and find closure on the issue.

"There needs to be much more of that spirit of openness and consultation and togetherness," said Casey. "That has been very, very lacking in this episode here. I hope we will be able to build from this."

But Westen sees no prospect of closure coming out of the bishop's report, saying, "there's a big difficulty now in terms of credibility with the bishops."

The archdiocese of Toronto has yet to make a decision about the 2009 ShareLife allocation to Development and Peace, but will make that decision before the July 31 end of the fiscal year, said archdiocese of Toronto director of communications Neil MacCarthy. The allocation was delayed pending the report.

Members of the CCCB's new committee on communications expressed anxiety about how the Development and Peace controversy has played out in the media, said CCCB communications manager Gerald Baril.

"They're not that happy with the way the CCCB is functioning in terms of communications," said Baril.

Communications has been the major problem from the Development and Peace point of view, said Casey.

"A lot of it is a basic misunderstanding and lack of awareness of the work of Development and Peace and our role," Casey said. "We have to be much more clear in articulating and explaining this, so that it isn't misunderstood and distorted."

Under the heading "Reflections and Hopes," Lapierre and Currie make recommendations for achieving peace on the issue. For the CCCB they recommend  continued support for Development and Peace, that bishops help its staff "develop a good and sound understanding of the social doctrine of the church," and that the bishops encourage Catholics to "continue being generous in providing humanitarian aid in the name of their Catholic faith."

For Development and Peace Currie and Lapierre recommend it ensure more thorough consultations with the bishops, particularly those on its board, and particularly when abortion, contraception and other moral issues are involved.

Currie and Lapierre appeal to to "establish an open and fruitful dialogue with Canadian Catholic groups."

In a separate statement, CCCB president Archbishop James Weisgerber urges Catholics to support Development and Peace at "a critical moment in the life of the world."

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