Development and Peace Attacks Pro-life Movement: Catholic Insight

Wed May 12, 2010 - 12:15 pm EST

By Fr. Alphonse de Valk

TORONTO, May 12, 2010 ( - Many readers are aware that in 2009, LifeSiteNews uncovered the fact that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P), the arms-length international development side of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, was partnering with overseas agencies which on the domestic front had adopted pro-abortion or pro-homosexual policies. (We should note here that D&P describes itself as “an independent lay organization” with two bishops on its board.) Subsequent to the damning news, several dioceses in Canada—Toronto, Pembroke and Peterborough among them—took measures to scrutinize the Lenten funds collected for D&P. Later on, the Canadian bishops conference set up an ad-hoc internal committee to provide oversight to and dialogue with D&P. Its first meeting was held in February 2010, but no details have surfaced.

Although D&P states that its 5-year plan is up for renewal and it is “reviewing” its partnerships, it has affirmed that it is looking for ways to find a “common understanding” with its partners. One difficulty is that at no time has D&P admitted that it may have questionable partners whose mission and activities are at odds with Catholic Church teaching. In fact, its president, Michael Casey, continues to affirm that “our Catholic identity is central to everything we do.” What then is one to think of the following document circulated among D&P staff?

The D&P document

The document is entitled: The Controversy: Questioning Development and Peace (D & P). In the first five Questions and Answers it comments on allegations made against it; in the remaining sections it reflects on itself. We deal with sections 1-5. (Emphasis is ours)

D&P writes first that “a militant anti-abortion advocacy organization… raised unfounded accusations against D&P.” It calls the questioning of its activities “attacks,”“They represent a concerted, organized and planned campaign deliberately targeting our organization.”

The “attackers” are labeled by D&P as “single issue, militant, advocacy groups … who continuously misrepresent facts and distort reality to serve their purpose.” And, “They … slander people and organizations … Those who do not adhere to their dogmatic view of social issues will be kept in their crosshairs.”

Then D&P attempts to segregate the pro-life movement from the rest of society by stating that it is “part of the far right wing fringe element in North American society…” and “collectively and individually, bishops have been targeted by these groups in various media campaigns.”

Not content to offer a general statement, D&P names names—“This slanderous attack campaign was initiated by a militant, anti-abortion, lobbying group Campaign Life Coalition …” (It will not come as surprise to readers that Campaign Life Coalition is considering legal action.)

In the document, D&P re-iterates that it always acts “in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” It states that it has several ‘partnership principles,’ chief of which is the principle of “shared values,” with a “preferential option for the poor…” It recruits its staff for their professional expertise and competence, not on the basis of their religious affiliation.”

With respect to its work, D&P says it is “fighting the structural causes of injustice and poverty” and it is out to “transform social structures and peoples’ lives.”

At the end of the document, D&P professes that it values “transparency.”


1. The language employed would seem to indicate that D&P has neither understanding nor respect for forty years of pro-life work in Canada. Insofar as they recognize pro-life work at all, they see it as just another minor “option” which may or may not be of interest to their associates in international development. There is no understanding that there is a veritable battle underway against the “Culture of Death,” nor of helping the unborn, their mothers and their families to which many people have dedi-cated their entire lives.

2. As the recent encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI Caritas in veritate explained again, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum progressio with its “option for the poor” and his 1968 Humane vitae in defence of human life and the family, are connected. The protection of human life is essential to the work of de-velopment, and the “option for the poor” must always include respect for the dignity of all hu-man life. It cannot be a purely political effort.

3. The wording of the docu-ment indicates an attempt to drive a wedge between Catholic pro-life activists and the rest of the Catholic community. There is a special push to get the bish-ops on the side of D&P and to marginalize pro-lifers as a “far right-wing fringe element,” an expression frequently used by Planned Parenthood and other anti-theistic secularists who consider Catholic moral teach-ing outdated rubbish. Will Canadian bishops read this document?

4. In a more general way this document appears to hark back to a long standing align-ment with liberation theology thinking, following essentially secular political norms, not the religious social teaching of the Church with its emphasis on loving people. One recalls how for 21 years Tony Clarke as Co-director of the Social Affairs Office of the Bishops’ Conference pushed in that direction, including al-liances with radical feminists, until he lost his position as the bishops’ chief social policy advi-sor in 1992.1 At any rate, D&P’s flat re-fusal to acknowledge anything wrong with its “partners” and, therefore, with itself, confirms last year’s analysis which sug-gested that it may be necessary to start over again.2 The bishops’ enterprise for overseas development needs a fresh beginning. It should be integrated completely into the Vatican’s Caritas internationalis.


1 See Tony Clarke Behind the Mitre. The moral leadership crisis in the Cana-dian Catholic Church, 1995, pg.132 (The report (1989) charged that “certain social analysis is ideologi-cally tainted in comparison with that used in papal statements.”)

2 Development & Peace. “Misdirected zeal,” C.I., May 2009, 27-30.

This article was republished with persmission from the May edition of Catholic Insight Magazine

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