Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 29, 2010
CCODP memo renews conflict with LifeSite News
Internal document responds after staffers harassed, receive abusive phone calls, postcards
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - A document that accuses "anti-abortion" groups of being associated with violence has put the executive director of the Canadian bishops' overseas development agency on the hot seat.
But Michael Casey said the 10-page series of questions and answers was created to help Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) staff deal with the misinformation stirred up by "anti-abortion" groups and blogs in their "concerted," "organized" and "slanderous" attacks on the agency.
Now it's the turn of pro-life groups to cry foul. The document calls them "a far right fringe element of North American society."
"The language is hateful," said Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary-Ellen Douglas.
The Q&A was intended only for internal use but it "regrettably, unfortunately" became public, Casey said.
While he did not apologize, Casey agreed Campaign Life does not advocate violence and noted members of CCODP are also members of the pro-life advocacy organization. He also acknowledged both Liberals and Conservative MPs join Campaign Life's annual March for Life each year in Ottawa as did about a dozen bishops last year.
But Casey said the assassination of American abortion doctor George Tiller last year is an example of how in any social movement there is "a broad spectrum of manifestations" that includes "this kind of extremism."
"You have to understand what our staff are going through," Casey said, citing threatening, abusive telephone calls at home and postcards of "bloodied, aborted fetuses" in fundraising envelopes.
"Where's the sanity in this?" he asked.
The Q&A was circulated to staff, key leaders and the CCODP board, including its two bishops, but Casey said CCODP had no specific feedback from the bishops on it.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment as the CCCB had nothing to do with the document.
LifeSiteNews.com editor John-Henry Westen said several people forwarded the Q&A to him in mid-March. He posted it and a reaction story March 16, days before the annual Share Lent collection on the weekend of March 20-21.
The leaked Q&A is the latest escalation in a recrimination war that began in the run-up to last year's fundraising campaign, when LifeSiteNews launched a series of reports, alleging some of CCODP's overseas partners were "pro-abortion."
Other bloggers also began digging and posting problematic links to overseas partners' web pages.
In answer to a question on whether there are any foundations to these charges, the Q&A answers: "Absolutely not!"
The Q&A explains the advocacy issue fueling the "attackers" is the issue of "de-criminalization of abortion which remains a highly contentious issue in many societies."
"It is not a highly contentious issue by Catholic standards," said Westen, noting the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for legal protection of the unborn.
But Casey pointed out the issue of how closely a Catholic development agency may work with non-Catholic partners that support the decriminalization of abortion is not entirely settled.
"What we're looking for is some guidance here," Casey said. "We work actively engaged in the messy, imperfect world. When these things happen, what should our response be?"
These issues have been laid before a four-bishop committee chaired by Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau. Casey said they were looking for the bishops to provide leadership, guidance and support.
Casey bristled at LifeSiteNews concluding that partners who are sometimes two or three times removed from groups that support decriminalization are "pro-abortion" or "abortionist."
"What we need in the Church is to find a reasonable dialogue on this, not all these accusations going back and forth and this poisoned journalism," he said.
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