MONTREAL, Nov. 14, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has been rocked by internal divisions this fall as members chafe over the Canadian bishops’ increasing oversight of their official development agency.
D&P’s Francophone youth wing has launched a boycott of the annual Share Lent campaign and D&P’s Canadian programs director has resigned, alleging that the organization’s identity has been “shaken to its very foundations.”
The internal struggle, described variously as a “crisis” and a “catastrophe,” was sparked by the delay of D&P’s fall education campaign in September after objections from some bishops. But the frustration of D&P members had built up since 2009 as the bishops responded to revelations that the agency had been funding dozens of organizations in the Third World that advocate for the decriminalization of abortion. The struggle also comes amidst increased pressure as the organization grapples with a 65% funding cut from the Canadian government, which was announced in March.
On September 5th, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops took the unprecedented step of intervening in the traditional fall campaign after several bishops complained it was too politically-focused, reportedly refusing to allow the materials in their parishes. Now underway in a modified form, the campaign targets the federal government’s decision to cut funding to foreign aid groups.
Much of the criticism from D&P membership has been leveled against the organization’s leadership, particularly the National Council and executive director Michael Casey. Members claim Casey and the Council have focused too much on appeasing the bishops at the expense of D&P’s member-focused, democratic character.
The French-language Radio-Canada profiled D&P’s internal crisis in a 13-minute documentary on Nov. 4th, highlighting the so-called “virulent attacks” levied against it by LifeSiteNews and the SoCon or Bust blog.
After learning of the delay of the fall campaign, D&P’s national Francophone youth wing announced in October they were launching an “internal campaign” to restore D&P’s democratic governance by boycotting the fall campaign and the Share Lent fundraising drive.
“We have shed tears together and shared our pain and anger as a result of the decision made by the leaders of this movement to cancel the original advocacy portion of the 2012 fall campaign,” they wrote in an official declaration Oct. 16th, published on the We Are a Movement blog. “This decision attacks the very heart of the mission of our organisation and it is this mission which unites us.”
“The decision made by our leaders undermines the credibility of our movement and renders it almost impossible to recruit new members or to retain active members in our local youth groups,” they added.
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On Oct. 18, D&P’s In-Canada Program Director, Claire Doran, announced her resignation, saying the “abrupt cancellation” of the fall campaign was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“Faced with these pressures on our organization, I can only note that the fundamental values of Development and Peace seem to have collapsed within its leadership,” wrote Doran, a member of D&P’s management team. “An exclusive concern for the survival of the institution is bringing the leadership of Development and Peace to eviscerate the mission of our organization.”
“This situation has existed for some years but is now deteriorating rapidly,” she continued. “Already in 2011, Development and Peace abruptly cut its support to a Mexican human rights organization – the highly respected Center PRO. Subsequently, it would be the entire program of human rights in Mexico that would disappear.”
D&P was forced to cancel its longstanding relationship with Center PRO after Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa cancelled a talk at his diocesan centre by the group’s former executive director Fr. Luis Arriaga. The Jesuit priest had refused to sign a statement assuring his belief in the right to life of the unborn, reportedly on the basis that such a stand would be a “violation of basic human rights.”
D&P’s national president Ronald Breau responded to concerns over the fall campaign’s delay in a joint statement with CCCB President Archbishop Richard Smith on Nov. 5th.
“You are aware that changes have been made to the campaign material,” they wrote. “Speculation in the media and among some of the membership as to the reasons for the changes has caused considerable anxiety for many. We want to assure you there is no cause for worry.”
“The reason for the change was simple. In a meeting of the CCCB President and General Secretary with the President and Executive Director of Development and Peace, concern was expressed that elements of the original materials could be a source of division among Bishops, priests, parishioners and donors,” they continue. “Lack of unity compromises our Christian witness to justice and charity. These concerns were taken very seriously, and Development and Peace decided to revise its campaign literature.”
The general reaction from D&P members to the statement is unclear, but it was quickly denounced by Richard Beaucher, president of D&P’s Diocesan Council in Sherbrooke.
“This joint declaration is disappointing; it is empty, soporific and partially mendacious with respect to the sequence of events, the reasons invoked and the surrounding context, according to witnesses on the ground,” he wrote.
After LifeSiteNews began reporting on D&P’s problematic funding relationships in 2009, the Canadian bishops launched a renewal of the organization, but D&P’s leadership remained intact and they have since refused to release a full list of partners.
In March, LifeSiteNews reported that D&P is funding a Haitian woman’s group, named APROSIFA, that openly hands out free contraceptives and has produced literature on how to obtain abortions. Then in September, LifeSiteNews revealed that D&P is funding the NGO Forum on Cambodia, which has called for greater access to “safe abortion” and recognition of “reproductive rights.” Both groups are still highlighted on D&P’s website.
Important: see Composing Effective Communications in Response to LifeSiteNews Reports.
Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada
724 Manor Avenue
Ottawa, ON KIM OE3
Phone: (613) 746-4914
Fax: (613) 746-4786
Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton
Edmonton (AB) T6A 0L1
Tel: (780) 469-1010
Fax: (780) 465-3003
To contact any Canadian bishop, find contact information here.