Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 30, 2009
CCCB exhorts Catholics to support Share Lent
Abortion controversy causes bishops to ask for clarification of some Mexican funding
BY DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is urging Catholics to give generously to its overseas development agency, despite online reports linking some Mexican partners with a pro-abortion agenda.
“Over the past few days, several serious questions have been expressed about projects involving five groups in Mexico, which the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) has assisted with financing,” said a March 19 message to Catholics from CCCB president Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber.
The CCCB is working closely with CCODP “to clarify these questions and to ensure that, if necessary, rectifications are made,” he said.
Weisgerber stressed the importance of the Share Lent collection that in most parts of Canada takes place on the Fifth Sunday in Lent. It raises about a third of CCODP’s budget.
Economic instability is already causing violence in Africa and the world’s poorest countries may see an income decline of up to 50 per cent, he said. “While the current financial crisis is certainly having a painful impact for us in Canada, it is disastrous for those living in the Global South.”
In addition, the CCODP leadership has rejected the “troubling inference” that “by association” the agency supports abortion.
In a March 20 letter to the bishops, CCODP president Patrick Hogan and executive director Michael Casey said the organization “has never supported abortion services” and will “never enter into any organization offering such services.”
“Development and Peace is committed to remaining vigilant regarding any partner’s actions that would place us by association at variance with Church teaching,” the letter said.
WEBSITE SOUNDS ALARM
The controversy erupted after Life-SiteNews.com published a story March 11 that said five “pro-abortion” Mexican groups had received a total of $170,000 from CCODP.
The U.S.-based National Catholic Register followed up with a report claiming a Bolivian partner was also pro-abortion.
On March 20, the CCODP’s governing board launched a formal process to “develop a policy reaffirming our principles and our criteria for selecting and maintaining partnerships,” the letter said. “We will be able to feature this policy prominently in response to any possible future allegations and innuendos of this nature regarding our work.”
Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, who issued a March 17 statement that he would withhold any portion of Share Life funds to CCODP pending an investigation, said in a March 23 interview he was glad to see the agency’s firm stance against abortion.
The CCODP letter explained the Mexican partner organizations had contributed to and signed an “omnibus document” along with 100 other groups.
They had brought their areas of interest to the report, such as indigenous peoples’ rights, environmental protection, a fair judicial system, press freedom, social and economic justice, and equality between men and women.
CCODP said their signing the report represented their participation in the process, but not their endorsement of all the recommendations, which included liberalizing the abortion laws.
“It’s problematic to be joining together in a report that includes these other elements,” Collins said.
Though the CCODP letter indicates the Mexican partners have written them to “clearly dissociate themselves from these points in the report,” Collins said he hopes the groups will also publicly distance themselves from the abortion-related recommendations.
“The many, many good things that Development and Peace does need to be praised, but we need to be very, very sure we are not into just political things and certainly not anything that comes near to giving the impression, or the perception of supporting policies that are against the faith of the Church,” Collins said.
Collins cautioned against putting social justice in service of a political ideology that neglects seeing the right to life as the “most fundamental right.”
NO FORMAL INVESTIGATION
The CCCB is not conducting a formal investigation of CCODP.
“Why would we do that?” Weisgerber said in an interview March 23. The archbishop said CCODP is an independent organization that is overseen by a board that includes two bishops.
“The bishops’ conference does not have any direct oversight of Development and Peace,” he said.
However, the bishops do have a “great interest” in how CCODP is run, he said.
“Development and Peace has to make it very, very evident to the bishops that it is following the rules of the Church.”