June 13, 2011
MICHAEL SWAN
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

TORONTO — New funding rules and the process of setting new directions for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) are running into stiff opposition in Quebec and New Brunswick.

Members of D&P in francophone Canada used their regional assembly meeting to demand restoration of funding to Centro PRODH, the Mexican human rights organization that has drawn heat for apparently endorsing a campaign for legal access to first trimester abortions throughout Mexico.

D&P had ended its funding relationship with Centro PRODH based on doubts expressed by Mexico’s conference of Catholic bishops.

In April Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and D&P cancelled an Ottawa speaking engagement with Centro PRODH executive director Father Luis Arriaga. Arriaga was photographed accepting an award from an organization that promotes legal access to abortion.

The D&P members in Quebec and New Brunswick objected to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops standing committee on the future direction of the organization, saying it was up to members to determine D&P’s future.

RESTORE FUNDING

Quebec’s ecumenical coalition of Church-based aid and development groups, L’Entraide Missionaire, has written to the bishops and to D&P executive director Michael Casey calling for restoration of funding to Centro PRODH.

The bishops are listening to fundamentalist campaigners in English Canada rather than members of their own organization, L’Entraide’s executive director Suzanne Loiselle told The Catholic Register.

In 1967 Canada’s bishops envisioned a lay-led, democratic structure for D&P, said Loiselle. The current controversy has led to a “rupture,” she said.

“We know Centro PRODH. We know the important work this group does. We are very concerned.”

CRIPPLING DEMANDS

Demands that D&P seek endorsements from local bishops for every one of its 200-plus partners in 30 countries could hobble the organization and undermine the principle of solidarity with partners based on the work they do rather than their Church connections, Loiselle said.

Abortion is being used as a stick to beat D&P by people who don’t believe in solidarity, she said.

“The main thing is to fight for life, the life of everybody in the world, for the rights of everybody in the world,” she said. “It’s not really about abortion. It’s a way to discredit (Development and Peace).”

Meanwhile, Jesuit Father Luis Arriaga finished his five-year term as executive director of Centro PRODH May 27. He has been replaced by another Mexican Jesuit, Father José Rosario Marroquin Farrera.

DEFENDING THE DISENFRANCHISED

In his final address as executive director, Arriaga defended the work of his organization, saying its greatest achievements have been legal battles to defend the rights of poor, indigenous women.

A few days before leaving office, Arriaga was endorsed by the Jesuit provincial superiors of English Canada, French Canada and Mexico.

“People engaged in this field, as Father Arriaga and his team are, merit our support,” said the French-language statement signed by Fathers Jim Webb, Carlos Morfin Otero and Jean-Marc Biron.

The Jesuit statement calls Arriaga “a religious of excellent reputation in good standing with the Church who carries out the missions given to him by his Jesuit superiors.”

Spokespersons for D&P were unavailable for comment at press time.