Michael Casey

Michael Casey

April 11, 2011

OTTAWA — The archbishop of Ottawa has cancelled a visit by a Mexican priest over concerns his human rights organization was too closely allied with other groups fighting to decriminalize abortion.

Father Luis Arriaga, director of the of the Miguel Pro Centre for Human Rights (PRODH), was scheduled to hold meetings and speak publicly on behalf of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) April 2-3.

Arriaga was a solidarity partner highlighting CCODP's overseas work.

But Archbishop Terrence Prendergast cancelled the visit by the priest whose organization opposed 2008 changes to the constitution of the state of Jalisco that, among other things, would have protected the life of the unborn child in all circumstances.

Prendergast "wishes to ensure that nothing be permitted to diminish the cause of life in the Archdiocese of Ottawa or through its outreach activities and charitable work," said a statement posted on the archdiocesan website April 1.

"He is gratified to learn of the concern many have expressed for the cause of life and wishes all to know that his own commitment to the cause of life remains undiminished."

The archbishop also urged continued support for CCODP.

The announcement came after LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) and Socon.ca posted a photograph of Arriaga receiving an award alongside the head of Catholics for the Right to Decide. The sites reported other instances where he seemed to support the pro-choice group.

The Ottawa Archdiocese said Miguel Pro Centre's support of groups that favour abortion rights is "incompatible with the Church's defence of the right to life from conception to natural death."

Arriaga had planned to speak to Ottawa's priests and parish CCODP representatives at the diocesan centre April 2. He had also been scheduled to give homilies in several parishes on April 3.

The cancellation was made in consultation with CCODP executive director Michael Casey.

"We didn't want the controversy to be the story instead of the content of the visit," said Casey.

He described Arriaga as "one of the foremost in leaders in addressing the human rights situation in Mexico, defending the poorest of the poor, the indigenous, the people who have no legal resource in country with some of the most egregious human rights abuses in the world."

Casey noted the Miguel Pro Centre also fights human trafficking and violence against women.

Arriaga is a priest in good standing in his diocese, and is an assessor on the Mexican bishops' conference's social affairs commission.

LSN editor John-Henry Westen praised Prendergast for "the courage of his convictions" and "strong statement of the Catholic Church's unwavering respect for the right to life."

Westen called the statement a "welcome vindication," after the vilification and ridicule the pro-life news service has received since LSN first started reporting on the Miguel Pro Centre and four other CCODP partners in Mexico in 2009.


A statement on the website of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the bishops' standing committee on CCODP will soon discuss the questions raised by the invitation to Arriaga.

"The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is committed to respect for life, and is making every effort to ensure its programs are in full compliance with Church teachings," said the CCCB statement.

"The recent questions and concerns that have been expressed underscore the need for the CCCB standing committee and the importance of Development and Peace continuing to work in full collaboration with it."