Canadian Bishops clear Development and Peace of any wrongdoing

  • June 25, 2009
{mosimage}The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s Mexican partners were “imprudent” when they signed a civil society submission to the United Nations on human rights, but Canada’s bishops have found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Development and Peace or its partners, Archbishop James Weisgerber has declared.

The report into allegations made by that Development and Peace funded Mexican groups lobbying in favour of legal abortion will include recommendations for tighter protocols on future partnerships, but those recommendations won’t be revealed until all the bishops have had a chance to read the report, said the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president.

Weisgerber reversed his earlier decision not to speak about the investigation findings before all the bishops had read the report, prepared by two bishops who travelled to Mexico April 15 to 18 to speak to Development and Peace partners and to Mexican bishops.

“This thing is heating up,” he said. “Before we release all the recommendations, I’m just giving an overall impression — given the fact that the group found no difficulty.”

Development and Peace is prepared to re-examine its protocols for engaging partners, said spokeswoman Wanda Potrykus. But it’s not as if it just hands money out with no strings attached, she said.

“Anything we allocate money to, we have written reports that have to be submitted showing how the money was spent and whether it was spent as it was intended,” said Potrykus.

The archdiocese of Toronto won’t decide whether it will release ShareLife money to Development and Peace before the report has been read by all the bishops and the CCCB has agreed on a course of action, said spokesman Neil MacCarthy. Archbishop Thomas Collins has vowed that no ShareLife money will go to Development and Peace if there is evidence it is helping fund pro-abortion advocacy.

But, MacCarthy added, “We also recognize that we need to make a decision on the 2009 allocation before the end of our fiscal year, which is July 31.”

“I would hope on the basis of that (report) the dioceses would give their money,” said Weisgerber.

Weisgerber is urging Catholics to turn to their bishops rather than blogs and web sites when it comes to defining who or what is Catholic.

“People are taking interpretations and making them fact. People are believing these facts as though they were indisputable, when clearly they are very disputable,” said Weisgerber. “They are interpretations from a political standpoint.”

It is not necessary that Development and Peace work only with groups that espouse Catholic moral teaching, said Weisgerber.

“It is also very clear from the direction given by Pope John XXIII and by the (Second Vatican) Council that the church is to work with other people — but not, in a sense, blindly,” he said.

Weisgerber used the example of yearly Vatican contributions to UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children with which the Vatican has disagreed on contraception and abortion policy. Vatican donations are earmarked for specific programs or projects which reflect Vatican priorities.

“We give money to projects, not to organizations,” he said.

The bishops are seeking clarification on a letter sent from the president of the Peruvian bishops’ Commission on Family, Childhood and Life to Weisgerber. The May 28 letter from Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi claims three Development and Peace partners in Peru are “very committed with the pro-abortion movement here in Peru.”

“For this to come, again from a commission to me and to be released to the public before I receive the letter — there’s an agenda at work here,” Weisgerber said.

Weisgerber regrets the controversy has distracted people from the bishops’ development agency’s core purpose.

“Our first responsibility ... is to help poor people,” he said.

The role of web sites in stirring controversy has become a challenge for bishops.

“These bloggers who claim to be more Catholic than anyone — I think first of all they’re not part of the church, they’re not Catholic in the sense that they have no mandate, they have no authority, they have no accountability. And they speak very, very definitively about what it means to be Catholic, and they’re followed by so many people... the bishops I think take a more reasoned approach to the whole thing.”

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