By John-Henry Westen

TORONTO, June 22, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Archbishop James Weisgerber, the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), has claimed that there is "no evidence" of abortion involvement on the part of groups funded by the bishops' official development arm, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P). The remarks were made in response to questions about the results of a recent investigation into five of D&P's Mexican partners, which LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) had reported in early March were involved in abortion advocacy.

Weisberger indicated in an interview with a local Catholic TV station that the report, which has been released to select bishops, and will not be made public for two or three more weeks, states that D&P is not involved in funding pro-abortion groups. "The delegation found that there was no foundation to these allegations," he said. "We can assure you that none of the money was spent to promote abortion, nor for support of abortion with the funds of Development and Peace."

The archbishop made his statements in support of D&P despite a recent letter from the family commission of the Peruvian Bishops Conference, in which the Peruvian bishops formally requested the Canadian Bishops to stop funding three pro-abortion groups in their country. LSN has also documented evidence - including interviews and photographs - that over 20 of D&P's partners around the world are involved in abortion and/or contraception advocacy (read all the evidence here).

Archbishop Weisgerber said that he interpreted the whole issue as one of "authority," juxtaposing that of the bishops with that of "websites," apparently a reference principally to LSN, which initiated the investigations that revealed D&P's endemic funding of pro-abortion groups.

The archbishop made his comments in two interviews with Salt and Light Television in both a French and an English-language interview on the same subject (read transcript here). "It seems that there is a tendency on the part of some people to trust allegations on websites more than they trust the bishops," he said. "That's the role of the bishops in the Church and when the bishops investigate something, when the bishops look at things and when the bishops teach, according to our theology, we should have confidence in that."

In the French-language interview Weisgerber was more explicit: "What is at issue is authority in the Catholic Church. Is it websites or is it the Catholic Church?'

The interviewer noted that the allegations came from the internet but called into question the "Catholic" label of Development and Peace. Weisgerber replied: "Who is going to pronounce or judge that? Groups on the internet that we don't know, or bishops who are designated by the Church, by the Good Lord, to do that?" Speaking of D&P and presumably for the Canadian bishops, he continued: "We assume our responsibilities. We support this organization. It's been forty years. We are very proud."

Despite Archbishop Weisgerber's assertions, the bishops of Canada do not appear to all be on the same page when it comes to the question of D&P. Insiders have informed LSN that most of the bishops of Quebec are onside with the organization, with a few notable exceptions. However, most Ontario bishops have taken the allegations seriously enough to withhold funding until the results of the investigation have been considered. 

That Archbishop Weisgerber has come out in support of D&P, however, may come as no surprise, given that the bishop made a statement on the subject even before the official investigation into the matter was underway. The archbishop issued a March 23rd letter to his archdiocese saying the allegations against D&P were "untrue." 

The recent report is based on an investigation conducted in Mexico from the 15 to 18 April, 2009, by officials from D&P and the CCCB, including two Canadian bishops. The committee was established in response to reports initiated by LifeSiteNews.com that D&P, the official development arm of the bishops' conference, has been funding groups in Mexico involved in pro-abortion advocacy.

While the original LSN report mentioned only five groups in Mexico who received $170,000 in total last year, later reports have found evidence for D&P funding of pro-abortion and pro-contraception groups throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia, including more groups in Mexico, one of which admitted in an interview with LSN to trying to help a woman abort her child.

The LSN evidence demonstrating the pro-abortion activities of the D&P funded groups has been independently confirmed by Priests for Life Canada, who issued a statement condemning the pro-abortion funding by D&P, as well as the head of American Life League, Judie Brown - a Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life - not to mention the Peruvian bishops conference.

The issue received coverage today on Vatican Radio, which reported on the fact that the Peruvian bishops have demanded that the Canadian Bishops halt funding for pro-abortion groups in their country (read the letter here). Vatican Radio interviewed Alejandro Bermudes, the head of the Catholic News Agency and ACI Prensa who noted that in addition to the bishops of Peru, "the bishops in Bolivia and Mexico, have expressed their concern that the Committee for Development and Peace ... has been providing ... significant financial support to organization that actively are involved in the promotion of abortion."

See related reports:

Stephen Mosher Expresses Serious Concerns About Canadian Bishops' D&P Investigation

Vancouver Diocesan Editorial: "Writing Could be on the Wall" for Development and Peace

Editor of Canadian Catholic Magazine on D&P Scandal: "Let D&P rest in peace for eternity"

Canada's Largest Catholic Newspaper Calls for Open Investigation into Development and Peace

See all LSN reports on Development and Peace scandal