KINGSTON, Ontario, March 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite the Canadian bishops’ call for increased support to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development & Peace in the wake of massive funding cuts by the Canadian government, Fr. Raymond de Souza has expressed hope that the organization’s financial crisis will instigate the needed reforms to its Catholic identity.

Reacting to the scandal swirling around D&P due to its funding of pro-abortion organizations, Canada’s most prominent priest-commentator wrote in the Catholic Register last year that the bishops’ official development arm has a “tenuous claim on Catholic dollars” because they “have a tenuous relationship with any distinctively Catholic mission.”

But, he notes in a new Catholic Register op-ed, “the pastors of the Church have a different collective judgment.”

“I wish I shared that view, but honesty — and the written record — requires me to say that I do not,” he wrote on Tuesday.

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D&P announced last week that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has cut its funding by 65%. While the organization had requested $49.2 million over the next five years, they will only receive $14.9 million. They had received $44.6 million from 2006-2011.

As a result, D&P is turning to the pews to make up the shortfall, and on March 22nd the CCCB issued an urgent appeal calling on Catholics “to do everything they can” to support the beleaguered organization. The bishops also pledged to take up D&P’s cause with government officials.

Nevertheless, D&P is preparing for a funding crisis, with plans for significant layoffs and reductions in their third world partnerships.

In his op-ed, Fr. de Souza explains that the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shifted its development funding to focus on programs in fewer countries and less on social and political activism.

“Both those shifts hit CCODP hard. Its long-standing approach has been to seek out partners in dozens and dozens of countries, and those partners are very much directed to social and political activism,” he writes.

While Catholics’ concerns have centred on D&P’s support of pro-abortion groups, the priest explains, the CIDA cuts came “because CCODP offers in large part a program no longer in keeping with CIDA priorities.”

Fr. De Souza stresses that Catholics must make up their own minds about whether to support D&P, noting that his judgment as a commentator “is by no means of equivalent weight to the bishops’ recommendation.”

Nevertheless, he expresses the hope that the crisis instigated by the government cuts will somehow spark the needed reforms that have been called for by numerous Canadian bishops, including especially Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto.

“The massive cuts in CCODP’s government aid have brought about an unexpected moment of crisis,” he writes. “It remains to be seen whether that crisis may produce the thoroughgoing reform of CCODP that, for example, Cardinal Collins of Toronto called for two years ago.”

Fr. de Souza’s op-ed is available here: Is D&P worth donating to? You decide

* See the LifeSiteNews Development and Peace Scandal Feature Page.