OTTAWA — Catholics can be confident money they contribute to the Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) "will be properly spent and properly supervised," said Msgr. Patrick Powers.
In a Nov. 12 interview from Rome, the secretary general of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said the work of an ad hoc committee of bishops established a year ago has produced "substantive results" and has "brought everyone together."
The ad hoc committee's summary report, posted on the CCCB's website, has drawn mostly favourable responses from online news services and blogs that criticized CCODP for funding projects with overseas partners they alleged were "pro-abortion."
Powers said the ad hoc committee examined all 248 of CCODP's project files and found 13 that merited a closer look. Of these, two posed a problem.
"Even one is too many," Powers said. CCODP is rewriting the "manner in which people become partners" as well as devising "an exit strategy" for cancelling controversial projects. Some projects that had been identified online had already come to a natural end.
"CCODP is preparing protocols to ensure that organizations requesting future funding are fully aware that CCODP is a Catholic agency which adheres to Catholic principles," said the ad hoc committee's report.
"Furthermore, any organizations requesting funding will also be obliged by the same protocols to disclose any projects that they may be involved in which would contradict Catholic principles of respect for life."
CCODP will also consult with the local bishops' conference, which must approve of partners and projects in their countries.
"Overall, we were very, very happy with the spirit of it, the collaboration with the bishops and ourselves," CCODP executive director Michael Casey said in an interview from Montreal.
Casey said much of the problems resulted from partners' being involved in coalitions or with other groups "one or two removed" that pursued agendas contrary to Catholic teaching.
Some of the problems came in ambiguity around human rights issues, he said. According to pro-life news sites, reproductive "rights" is a euphemism for abortion.
"We wanted to make sure we have explicitly outlined in the rule of engagement that the Catholic identity issue for us is paramount."
Powers said the ad hoc committee addressed the gap that had developed over the years between CCODP and the CCCB as the two "worked more and more in their own way, apart from each other."
The ad hoc committee was a "wonderful way to work together," each "recognizing they needed more dialogue," he said.
The ad hoc committee also advised a permanent standing committee be established to allow for a "regular exchange of information."
Casey CCODP's focus will still be on effecting "meaningful change" in the developing world and addressing social inequities, he said. "We're the social justice guys of the Catholic Church."
Some inequities result from government regulations and, the effects of free trade agreements on farmers, he said.