CORNWALL, Ontario, October 20, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development & Peace, the official development arm of the Canadian bishops, could fund a project in the Third World even where the local bishop does not endorse it, according to one of the bishops appointed to oversee D&P.

“We are not asking for the local bishop to give a kind of a nihil obstat to the project,” Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary told Salt + Light TV at the bishops’ plenary assembly in Cornwall on Wednesday.  “But what we’re looking for is to inform, communicate with the local bishop and have him become an active partner in the project itself and the selection of partners.”

The bishop’s use of the phrase “nihil obstat,” a declaration in the Catholic Church indicating that “nothing hinders” Catholic faith in a specified book or activity, follows the publication of a major document under that title last month by a member of D&P’s theology committee.  The document, published on the leading blog opposing the reforms at D&P, denounced the prospect of “interference” by local bishops in D&P’s activities.

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Bishop Henry said that if problems arise in the effort to obtain a local bishop’s support, they should be handled by the Canadian bishops’ standing committee on Development & Peace, which has been appointed to oversee the organization.

“In some instances, it may be we back away from a project or a partner.  In other instances we may decide to opt to go ahead with it,” he explained.

Earlier this year, D&P defunded Mexico’s Centre PRODH after the Cardinal Archbishop of Mexico City wrote to the CCCB insisting that the group “has supported pro-abortion groups and promoted the purported woman’s right over her body, against unborn life.”

“We couldn’t take a position against the highest ranking authority of the Church in Mexico on this,” commented Michael Casey, D&P’s executive director, at the time.

The idea to require the approval of the local bishop was originally proposed by Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, who insisted back in 2009 that funds from his diocese could go only go to D&P partners endorsed by the bishop.

“We must always act in concert with the local bishops who are responsible for the Church in distant lands,” he explained in a July 2009 statement.  “This is required by natural courtesy, and also by the way the Church is structured.”

“The bishops on the scene are also the ones who can verify that organizations in their country are appropriate partners, and are not in any way supporting anything contrary to our faith,” he added.

The CCCB seemed to indicate they were backing away from that stance in a September communiqué following a recent meeting of their D&P standing committee with D&P’s National Council.  The CCCB and D&P agreed it is “important to involve” local bishops in the discussion about funding partners, it said.

In response to LifeSiteNews’ question about the statement, CCCB media relations director Rene Laprise explained that D&P cannot always obtain the local bishop’s permission for a project.

“There will … need to be [flexibility], especially in situations when communication is difficult within a diocese, such as during civil war, or when government is antagonistic toward Church efforts on behalf of literacy or democratic movements, or during other forms of social unrest,” Laprise said.

In such situations, he continued, D&P may need to consult with a neighboring bishop or the local bishops’ conference instead.

“There are times when a local Bishop cannot authorize a CCODP project without endangering himself or his diocese,” Laprise said.

“One of the purposes for the CCCB Standing Committee for CCODP is so Development and Peace can talk these challenges and difficulties over with our own Bishops, and also so the CCCB can work with CCODP in helping it extend its contacts with Bishops in the Global South.”

Bishop Henry, who serves on that standing committee, has in the past maintained that it is acceptable for D&P to fund projects run by “pro-choice” groups.

“CCODP is not supporting abortion but a project to help the poor and their partners also happen to [be] pro-choice,” the bishop wrote in an e-mail to concerned pro-lifers in 2009.  “There is an important difference between the two.”

“Lifesite’s position seems to suggest that before we cooperate with anyone or any organization in supporting a good action, our opening question must be: ‘What is your stance on abortion?’ and that as the litmus test should override everything else. I don’t think that this would be the starting point of Jesus.”

Archbishop Collins, on the other hand, has insisted that “it is not enough to examine the suitability of individual projects.”

“Catholic organizations could not in conscience join together with any organization that goes against Gospel principles, specifically those related to the sanctity of life,” he wrote.

Those sitting on the CCCB standing committee are Bishop John Boissonneau, Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto, who serves as chair; Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier of Rimouski; Archbishop André Gaumond, who recently retired from Sherbrooke; Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary; and CCCB General Secretary Msgr. Pat Powers.

The two bishops on D&P’s National Council - Claude Champagne of Edmundston and Richard Grecco of Charlottetown – are consultors and will join the committee when their terms on the National Council end.

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Contact Information:

Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada
724 Manor Avenue
Ottawa, ON KIM OE3
Phone: (613) 746-4914
Fax: (613) 746-4786
E-mail: apostolic.nunciature@rogers.com

Msgr. Patrick Powers, General Secretary
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
2500 Don Reid Drive
Ottawa, ON K1H 2J2
Telephone: (613) 241-9461 ext. 209
Fax: (613) 241-8117
E-mail: Use this form.

Bishop Frederick B. Henry of Calgary
Catholic Pastoral Centre, Room 290
120 - 17 Avenue S.W.
Calgary (AB) T2S 2T2
Tel: (403) 209-3130
Fax: (403) 264-0272
E-mail: bishop.henry@calgarydiocese.ca

See Composing Effective Communications in Response to LifeSiteNews Reports.