MONTREAL, Jan. 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, a long-time proponent of legal abortion who has been described as an "anti-Christian bigot" for his harsh criticism of conservative believers, has pulled his support from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) as the agency struggles to convince the faithful of its Catholic identity. 

The Montreal politician, who stepped down as leader after 15 years in 2011 when he lost his seat in the House of Commons, made the announcement Jan. 11th in a short post for Le Journal de Montréal.

But one pro-life leader is questioning how the bishops’ official development agency was ever able to win his support in the first place.

“The only reason I could see that Duceppe could accept to donate to D&P for so many years is that in all that time D&P never did anything that would distinguish it as being particularly Christian,” said Georges Buscemi, president of Campagne Québec-Vie. “It may even be that D&P's approach to alleviating poverty corresponded to Duceppe's Marxist, materialist outlook."

Buscemi noted that during his tenure as leader of the Bloc Quebecois, Duceppe consistently whipped his caucus to vote against pro-life measures whenever they came up.

In his post, Duceppe says he has supported D&P “for years” but stopped this year because the organization has too closely aligned itself with the Vatican’s moral stance on contraception and abortion, and the Harper government’s “ideological obsession” that is “inspired by a certain religious right.”

“The orientation imposed recently on this group by the Harper government and Canadian bishops no longer meets the needs of the population of countries that received assistance up until now,” he writes. “The question of family planning is at the centre of this change in orientation. These fundamentalists can't accept the right to abortion as a last resort as being an integral part of family planning.”

“The Vatican’s policy goes farther: all methods of contraception are unacceptable!” he continues. “How can we oppose the use of condoms in Africa, for example, where there is rampant extreme poverty and child mortality? How can we preach religious principles that have nothing to do with faith in countries that face the AIDS epidemic?”

“I find this behavior not just inhumane, but downright criminal. I will therefore no longer support a movement that aligns itself with such orientations,” he concludes.

The separatist icon joins a growing list of defectors from D&P in recent months as the organization walks a careful line between calls for an improved Catholic identity from Canada’s bishops and demands to maintain the status quo from long-time activists.

After the agency delayed its fall education campaign after complaints from bishops that it was too politically-focused, both its In-Canada Program Director and a member of the theology committee announced they were resigning, and the Francophone youth wing called a boycott of the upcoming Share Lent fundraising campaign.

The pressure on the organization intensified in March after the federal government announced it was cutting the group’s federal by 65%, meaning a loss of $34 million in the period up to 2016.

D&P executive director Michael Casey told the Catholic Register last week that the loss of funds “puts more emphasis on our support from the Catholic community.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has been guiding the agency through a process of renewal since 2010 and the current CCCB president, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, has insisted that the bishops “would not have patience for one minute to be supporting any partner that would in any way be pro-abortion.”

Yet researchers continue to uncover D&P partners that advocate legalized abortion.

In September, LifeSiteNews reported that the agency was funding the NGO Forum on Cambodia, a consortium of development NGOs in Cambodia that has called for greater access to “safe abortion” and joined a coalition that promotes a pro-abortion interpretation of the UN’s Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Last 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.

it is unclear whether or not the funding has remained in place, but both groups are still highlighted on D&P’s website. Neither Development and Peace nor the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has commented on the funding relationships.

The pressure on the group to clean itself up is expected to mount all the more as the Pope himself entered the fray in December, issuing a formal legislative document, called a Motu Proprio, insisting Catholic charitable agencies must act in complete compliance with Catholic teaching.

He re-emphasized the point on Saturday, insisting in an address to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum that Catholic charities should refuse partnerships that even indirectly support acts opposed to the faith. “We must exercise a critical vigilance and at times refuse funding and collaborations that, directly or indirectly, favour actions or projects that are at odds with Christian anthropology,” he said.

The papal intervention came after Vatican officials expressed concern over several years that the Caritas network of Catholic charities, in which D&P represents Canada, needed to strengthen its Catholic identity.