TORONTO, Ontario, April 8, 2011 ( – Canada’s largest Catholic paper came out swinging against Development & Peace this week after the Archbishop of Ottawa was forced on Friday to abruptly cancel talks by a D&P partner because of its “support of abortion rights.”

“Someone is guilty of either appallingly poor judgment or blatant incompetence,” wrote the Catholic Register in a Wednesday editorial.  “Either way, it begs the question: how many questionable agencies are still endorsed by D&P?”

Insisting this is a “critical question,” the editors warn that Catholics’ “generosity will dry up unless D&P can provide rock-solid assurance that donations only support groups in harmony with Church teaching.”

Lamenting the position in which the Ottawa Archbishop was placed the editorial stated, “How could D&P, his own staff, fellow bishops and the priest himself, Fr. Luis Arriaga, put the Archbishop in such an awkward position.”

The strong reaction comes after Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa cancelled a D&P “solidarity visit” in his diocese over the weekend by Mexico’s Fr. Luis Arriaga, executive director of the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center.  After a personal meeting with the priest, the archbishop judged that his organization’s actions were “incompatible with the Church’s defence of the right to life from conception to natural death.”

The cancellation was especially significant because Centre PRODH was one of the five original D&P partners reported on by LSN in March 2009, and cleared of wrongdoing by a delegation of Canadian bishops.  The CCCB has now launched a re-investigation through inquiries with the Mexican bishops’ conference.

The Catholic Register also ran an op-ed this week by prominent columnist Fr. Raymond de Souza, entitled ‘Does D&P not get it?’, who says the Ottawa affair clearly calls into question D&P’s commitment to life.  “Does the actual work of D&P advance the Gospel of Christ, including the Gospel of life?” he asked.  “The answer should be clear. The events of the last week demonstrate that it is not.”

He said last week’s events show that D&P continues to act as though it’s “business as usual,” despite promises of renewal, and that they raise questions about “the prudence of contributing money to its annual Share Lent campaign.”

After Archbishop Prendergast had decried Centre PRODH’s “support of abortion rights,” D&P executive director Michael Casey sent a letter to supporters defending Fr. Arriaga’s “inspiring work,” and praising the group as “highly respected for its outstanding work in defending the lives of the most vulnerable in Mexican society.”

Fr. de Souza called Casey’s letter a “most unworthy statement” that “obscur[ed] rather than address[ed] the main point of the archbishop’s decision.”  He said Casey “notably” omitted the unborn from the list of Mexico’s “most vulnerable.”

The priest noted that D&P has insisted they are pro-life, while also defending their partnerships with pro-abortion groups on projects unrelated to abortion.  But, he said, “If D&P was deeply convinced that abortion is an ‘abominable crime,’ to use the words of Vatican II, it would not consider pro-abortion agencies to be partners in the struggle for justice, which always begins with the right to life.”

“One could ask D&P whether it would consider a bottled water company a suitable partner,” he added, commenting on D&P’s campaign against bottled water.  “Perhaps that would be beyond the pale.”

If the organization continues to maintain partnerships with pro-abortion groups, “the very Catholic identity of D&P, already greatly attenuated, would definitively be in jeopardy.”

The Catholic Register editorial included a word of critique for the Mexico investigation by the bishops, noting that it “somehow found D&P guilty of nothing more than ‘imprudence’.”

Find the Catholic Register editorial, ‘Questions still’, here.

Find Fr. Raymond de Souza’s column, ‘Does D&P not get it?’, here.