Sept. 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In 2010, the Canadian bishops pledged a reform of their aid organization Development & Peace after it was rocked by scandal over its funding of groups in developing nations that advocated legal abortion, contraception and other policies contrary to Catholic teaching. D&P apparently then did an overhaul of its aid recipients’ list, but the list was never made public.

Three quarters of the way into 2012, Canadian Catholics have no idea exactly who their donations have been funding since 2010 and how much has been given to each group.

Canada’s bishops will meet for their annual general assembly in Quebec on Sept. 24-28. As always, D&P will be on the agenda and D&P reps will be attending as usual, with plenty of opportunity to engage the individual bishops. As the bishops prepare for that meeting, we would respectfully ask them to pose just one simple question: Where’s the money going?

Since the pledge of reform in 2010, the aid organization has run two Share Lent campaigns – its major annual fundraiser in Catholic parishes across the country – without releasing the list of its grantees. We are now approaching the third Share Lent campaign.

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D&P has apparently been so desperate to keep the list a secret that they went to federal court to block an access to information request.

The page of their website listing grantees has stated for well over a year now:

“We are currently finalizing our new 2011-2016 International Program and will be updating our listing of programs and partners. We invite you to visit our website regularly for new information.”

Canadian Catholics are repeatedly asked to support the Church’s official development agency. It only makes sense: the Church’s relief efforts are crucial to her very mission. But in the face of a funding scandal, how can we possibly trust D&P will use the money responsibly, especially when D&P refuses to reveal where it’s going?

If the Canadian bishops’ official international aid group is serious about reform, why haven’t they increased the transparency about their funding relationships?

We’ve been assured that the bishops expect D&P to partner with groups that are not pro-abortion. Archbishop Richard Smith, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, says the bishops “would not have patience for one minute to be supporting any partner that would in any way be pro-abortion.” If all D&P’s grantees are now thoroughly pro-life as Archbishop Smith says they should be, why not publish the names as had been done in previous years? And why not also publish exactly how much is being given to each group?

How else can D&P possibly win back the trust of Catholic donors and assure the bishops and the faithful of their commitment to Catholic teaching?

Sadly, the evidence suggests D&P is withholding the list because they know it would spark another scandal. Just from the sample of grantees they’ve discussed in recent promotional materials, we know D&P is still funding pro-abortion groups.

It could also be that there is an internal struggle still ongoing among the bishops over D&P’s Catholic identity. Note the following on the D&P website:

“We currently work in 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East on the following themes:

  • Empowering women, indigenous groups and other marginalized people;
  • Building democracy;
  • Promoting peace;
  • Local management of natural resources; and
  • Strengthening respect for human and environmental rights.”

From that it seems D&P is still clinging to its failed and very problematic 1960s model of a purely secular-liberal agenda of social and political reform.  That model is totally out of sync with the Catholic evangelization model presented by Pope Benedict in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

Catholics desperately want to get behind the Church’s development efforts. They want to respond generously to their bishops’ repeated calls to support what should be crucial overseas activities – works that Pope Benedict says have ‘openness to life’ at their centre.

So, for devout Catholics, it’s truly sad that they have to ignore pleas from their shepherds to support Development and Peace. Experience has shown that they simply cannot trust D&P with their money, and nothing substantial has been done yet to win back that trust.  In fact, this complete withholding of information about what is being done with their money has made the situation worse than ever.

Catholics should be calling on the bishops, at their upcoming meeting, to demand that D&P release the names and the dollar amounts. If the reform has been authentic, it shouldn’t be a problem. Real transparency is crucially needed at this time.

Parish priests, when the Share Lent collection comes around in five months, may be forced to tell D&P they will withhold the cheques until a complete list is published – one that does not contain even one group that opposes Catholic moral teachings.

And finally the list should also include woefully underfunded pro-life organizations in the developing nations, who are fighting powerful, massively funded population control groups intent on destroying their family-centered and religious cultures. Supporting these pro-life groups is an essential work of true social justice.

No matter what side of this debate you find yourself on, how can one credibly ask people to support an organization that refuses to tell donors where their money goes?