Archbishop Terrence Prendergast

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast

July 11, 2011

OTTAWA — The union representing Development and Peace employees says tighter supervision by the Canadian bishops threatens the democratic nature of the lay-run organization and undermines the prophetic vision that motivates their work.

The union report, prepared for a meeting of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace's (CCODP) national council in June, said the world "is increasingly turning towards a conservative ideology."

"There is clearly a turn to the right in several societies, as well as in the universal Church," it said.

The seven-page document, published June 25 on the blog Soutenons Developpement et paix (, claims the shift "runs counter to the prophetic vision that gave rise" to CCODP's creation 45 years ago.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' (CCCB) directive requiring a support letter from local bishops approving partner organizations and their projects risks "profoundly transforming" the agency's approach to development through coalition building, the report said.

Many partner organizations might not want to get a bishop's approval, especially those involved in the empowerment of women, the union report said.

The CCCB has been offering guidance to the agency it founded 45 years ago to brings its policies in line with Pope Benedict's latest social encyclical Caritas in Veritate. CCODP has been criticized in online reports for funding projects in the developing world with partners who have been accused of being "pro-abortion."

Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast defended the bishops' insistence that respect for life be integrated with the agency's development work overseas.

"If the name 'Catholic' is attached, you have to be 100 per cent in favour of the cause of life," he said. "If they want to go off and have a group that doesn't have a Catholic character, let them go off and start something else."

"But let the Church's outreach be evangelically motivated," he said." We do this for the sake of the Gospel; therefore we cannot have a contradictory message."


"We have to be engaged in loving the poor and seeing in them the dignity of the human person," he said. "That dignity of the human person is found in the child in the womb and in the person on the deathbed."

Delivered to the national council in June, the union's report outlines the latest controversy over the Centre PRODH, which was one of the first Mexican partners and pro-life blogs identified as pro-abortion two years ago.

The union reports on the Ottawa archbishop's cancellation of the visit by the centre's former executive director Jesuit Father Luis Arriaga on April 1.

The union claims Arriaga was asked to sign a declaration saying, "The Centre PRODH supports the cause of life from conception to natural death; the director and staff reject any link associating the centre with abortion rights."

"Lawyer and human rights defender Luis Arriaga refused to sign such a declaration which, in his own words, is a violation of basic human rights," the report said. and pro-life blogs have reported this statement as proof the Centre PRODH is pro-abortion and views abortion as a human right.


But Prendergast said he does not know what Arriaga meant in that statement; perhaps the priest felt his own human rights were being violated.

"I wanted him to reassure me that I could support his centre and that my people could make a contribution without worry," Prendergast said. "I did not get that reassurance."

Shortly after Prendergast cancelled the Arriaga visit, CCODP cut funding to Centre PRODH because Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Carrera wrote to the CCCB the centre "does not represent the sentiments of the Church and has been characterized by its support and encouragement of groups and activities that are an affront to Christian values."

"With respect to the theme of defence of life, the organization has supported pro-abortion groups and promoted the purported woman's right over her body, against unborn life," said a translation of the letter, according to The Catholic Register.

Prendergast said he did not jump to conclusions about an online photograph showing Arriaga receiving an award with the leader of a group which supports abortion rights.

He said he needed an explanation because the controversy "threatened to unravel support in my diocese for Development and Peace." He would have been satisfied with a verbal assurance.


The issue has now snowballed in a different way, he said.

"I have been saying things consistently," he said. "Justice and the defence of life go together. There are all kinds of places in the world where we can support projects where we have no doubt about it."

"Where people are not supporting things contrary to life, let's choose those places," he said.

Prendergast said the prophetic vision that created Development and Peace is that of the prophetic vision of Pope Benedict, who linked the teachings in Pope Paul VI's encyclicals on social justice and on human life in his latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate.