MONTREAL, Quebec, October 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Three former executive directors of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development & Peace have accused Canada’s bishops of adopting “draconian measures” in an effort to stage a “total takeover” of the beleaguered group.  They warn that the bishops’ approach risks “over emphasizing” the moral norms of Humanae Vitae.

In three separate documents, dated September 9th, the directors say some bishops have used LifeSiteNews’ reports as a “pretext” to question D&P, and they accuse the CCCB of adopting “unjustified control measures in the hope of quieting critics.”

The documents, published by the ‘Soutenons DetP’ blog in advance of the bishops’ October 17-21 plenary meeting, were authored by Fabien Leboeuf, who served as executive director from 1996-2001; Gabrielle Lachance, who served from 1988-1996; and Jacques Champagne, who served in the 1970s.

In one of the documents, Leboeuf outlines the “history of tensions” between D&P and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), pointing out that the current “crisis” at D&P is only the latest of numerous crises dating to D&P’s beginning years in the 1970s.

In another, Lachance argues that recent and impending changes to D&P’s governance and practices signal a “total takeover of the organization by the bishops,” which he says “seriously undermines the importance given to the role of laypeople over the history of the organization.”

The directors are particularly upset over D&P’s decision to involve the local bishop in decisions about partnering with groups in their dioceses, as well as the CCCB’s creation of a standing committee to oversee D&P’s work.

Lachance likens the bishops’ standing committee to a “trusteeship,” and says that involving the local bishop “leaves the selection of projects to the discretion of the individual bishop’s opinion, rather than basing it on known, tried, professional, and consistent criteria.”

Leboeuf criticizes the CCCB for aligning itself with the Vatican’s effort to “rein [Catholic charitable groups] into a pre-Vatican II model of Church.”

And Lachance suggests that by focusing D&P’s renewal on Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate there is a risk of “over emphasizing the moral issues raised in Humanae Vitae,” which he says could result in “the questioning of projects to assist abused women and rape victims.”

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict highlighted the prime importance of respecting human life in the Church’s development activities. “Humanae vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics,” the pope wrote.

The directors tout the CCCB’s 2009 report from their investigation in Mexico that cleared D&P and said LifeSiteNews acted as “a counter-witness to that Gospel spirit that should guide all Christians.”  For example, they criticize the CCCB for “the instigation of tighter controls over Development and Peace despite the fact that the [2009] report cleared Development and Peace of all suspicions.”

According to Leboeuf, LifeSiteNews has been “relentless in its campaign to discredit Development and Peace,” and “to turn up anything that could be misconstrued to create the impression that the organization supports the right to abortion in any way.”

“It is abundantly clear that nothing short of its dismemberment, or the abandonment of the social justice principles incorporated into Development and Peace’s mandate, will satisfy LifeSiteNews,” he writes.

The D&P crisis today, as well as those going back to the 1970s, has shown “the timidity of most of the bishops in face of accusations by extreme rightwing groups” and “the bishops’ tendency to allow the position of a few bishops that basically distrusted Development and Peace to prevail,” writes Leboeuf.

LifeSiteNews did not hear back from Development & Peace by press time.

See all the documents here:
* DP email to staff
* History of tensions
* Impact of recent decisions