OTTAWA, Ontario, June 29, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Development & Peace supporters upset over efforts to end the Catholic aid agency’s partnerships with pro-abortion organizations should “go off and start something else,” says Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa.
“If the name Catholic is attached you have to be 100 per cent in favor of the cause of life,” the prelate told Deborah Gyapong of Canadian Catholic News in a piece published Wednesday. “If they want to go off and have a group that doesn’t have a Catholic character, let them go off and start something else.”
He said organizations with ties to problematic groups cannot claim to be Catholic. The Church’s outreach is “for the sake of the Gospel, therefore we cannot have a contradictory message,” he explained. “[The] dignity of the human person is found in the child in the womb and in the person on the deathbed. Anything that mitigates against total protection and the support of their dignity from conception to natural death we can’t have anything to do with.”
Archbishop Prendergast was vaulted into the heart of the D&P controversy in April when he was forced to cancel a talk at the last minute by Fr. Luis Arriaga, then-director of Mexico’s Centre PRODH, because of the group’s support for abortion. D&P was forced to defund the group shortly thereafter, when the cardinal archbishop of Mexico City wrote to the Canadian bishops attesting that it “has supported pro-abortion groups and promoted the purported woman’s right over her body, against unborn life.”
The incident has reignited the debate over D&P, and called into question the Canadian bishops’ 2009 report that exonerated Centro PRODH and four other Mexican D&P partners.
D&P supporters and its employees’ union, who have become accustomed to the organization’s independence over the last four decades, have decried the bishops’ intervention and PRODH’s defunding.
In a report by D&P’s employee union, they revealed that when Fr. Arriaga arrived in Ottawa for his ‘D&P solidarity visit’ at the end of March, he had refused to sign a declaration asserting his group’s commitment to life “from conception to natural death.” According to the union, Fr. Arriaga said signing it would have been “a violation of basic human rights.”
Archbishop Prendergast confirmed the union’s report in his interview with Gyapong. He noted that he did not know what Fr. Arriaga meant by the statement, and suggested the priest may have thought his own rights were violated by being required to sign the declaration.
“I wanted him to reassure me that I could support his Centre and that my people could make a contribution without worry,” Archbishop Prendergast said of the declaration. “I did not get that reassurance. That’s all I’m going to say.”
The archbishop pointed out that Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the crucial connection between the Church’s teachings on social justice and human life in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate. “I think what he said was brilliant. It really brought the two aspects together,” he said.