Toronto archdiocese investigates claims against Development and Peace

  • March 22, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - The archdiocese of Toronto and ShareLife are leading an investigation into the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s policies based on a web site’s report that it is funding “pro-abortion groups.”

In a March 17 statement, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins said, “ShareLife was established in 1976 as a direct result of our commitment to uphold the sanctity of life at all stages... Be assured I will not allow any money raised in the archdiocese of Toronto to be used for pro-abortion activities or organizations.”

He added the archdiocese has expressed its concerns to Development and Peace.

Collins launched the investigation following a report which alleges five organizations that receive funding from Development and Peace are pressuring the Mexican government to legalize abortion. Development and Peace is the development and humanitarian aid arm of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Canada’s member of the world-wide Caritas network. The bishops’ conference is also participating in the investigation, said ShareLife executive director Arthur Peters. Latin America correspondent Matthew Cullinan Hoffman reported that the Miguel Augustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Centre , the Mexican Network for Action Regarding Free Trade, the Centre for Economic and Political Research for Community Action, the National Centre for Social Communication and the All Rights for Everyone Network signed a civil society report on a range of issues from the environment to torture which included “67 mostly positive references to the practice (of abortion) or its legalization.”

The Miguel Augustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Centre told The Catholic Register that the charges are right out of left field.

“That’s just ridiculous. Incredible,” said Madeleine Penman, the centre’s co-ordinator of international relations.

Hoffman did not interview or make enquiries with any of the five organizations he accuses of supporting and promoting abortion.

“I did not speak to any of them directly. I took the information from documentation that their own web sites provide and that is also provided by the United Nations,” said Hoffman in an interview from Mexico.

Hoffman did interview Development and Peace’s international programs director Gilio Brunelli in Montreal. Brunelli told Hoffman it is not Development and Peace’s responsibility to avoid funding groups which might advocate for abortion rights.

“It was a badly handled interview, let’s put it that way,” said Brunelli’s boss, Development and Peace executive director Michael Casey. “Some of the explanations he offered were misconstrued — maybe poorly communicated and misconstrued.”

Development and Peace is not worried about any review the bishops may wish to conduct on its operations, said Casey. But he is worried about the timing and the damage to Development and Peace’s reputation.

“We’re just trying to get clarity on this,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe the reactions this has provoked from all across the country — and this from good, genuine, honest people who support us, like us, have supported us for a long time.”

Development and Peace raises more than half its private funding during Lent, from Share Lent and ShareLife campaigns run by dioceses across the country.

“This is taking up a lot of time at a very important time for us,” Casey said.

Peters expects the investigation to be complete before the usual date for forwarding the archdiocese of Toronto’s contribution to Development and Peace in about four months.

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