MONTREAL, March 18, 2013 ( – As the Canadian bishops’ development arm nears the end of its annual Lenten fundraising drive, a prominent priest-commentator is warning that the organization is out of step with the vision of the Church expressed by Pope Francis in his first homily on March 14th.

Writing in the National Post Monday, Fr. Raymond de Souza says Pope Francis’ insistence that the Church always “profess Jesus Christ” and not become merely a “charitable NGO” is a challenge to “the standard operating procedure at Development and Peace for decades, where the Christian faith has been downplayed in favour of generic good works.”

Fr. de Souza has been a strong proponent of reform at Development and Peace in the wake of reports by LifeSiteNews and Catholic bloggers beginning in 2009 that the organization was funding over two dozen groups advocating expanded access to abortion, as well as other activities contrary to Catholic teaching.


In 2011 he wrote in Toronto’s Catholic Register that D&P has “a tenuous claim on Catholic dollars” because “they have a tenuous relationship with any distinctively Catholic mission.”

“In their operations they are largely — and by their own proud design — indistinguishable from any number of peace and justice NGOs working in the developing world,” he added.

The Canadian bishops launched a reform of D&P in 2010, but concerns remain.

Even though the organization has withheld its full list of partners since 2009, among those few they profile are two groups that advocate legal abortion: APROSIFA, a Haitian group that has produced literature on how to obtain abortions; and the NGO Forum on Cambodia, which has called for greater access to “safe abortion.”

On March 4th, launched a petition campaign calling on Catholics to support the bishops in carrying out a meaningful and transparent reform of D&P.

Sign the petition to reform D&P at!

Among the concerns the campaign has highlighted is the fact that D&P’s fundraising drive this year is under the theme ‘Human Dignity’ yet the campaign materials fail to even mention the right to life, and focus exclusively on issues like the option for the poor, care for creation, and economic justice. The Church’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states that “promoting human dignity implies above all affirming the inviolability of the right to life, from conception to natural death.”

In a last minute appeal on Friday before Sunday’s Share Lent collection, CCCB President Archbishop Richard Smith seemed to shift the language around D&P’s campaign slightly by referencing concerns about life in connection with the promotion of human dignity.

“Our former Pope, Benedict XVI, referred to human dignity some 15 times in his last Encyclical from 2009, Caritas in Veritate,” wrote the Archbishop. “It is the ‘transcendent dignity of men and women’ (n. 29), Benedict said, that together with justice and peace must link ‘life ethics and social ethics’,” he wrote.

In the same letter, the Archbishop indicated the bishops’ renewal of their development arm is an ongoing process. “We have established a Standing Committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops which works closely with CCODP, encouraging and assisting it in its ongoing renewal and revitalization,” he said.

“With the members and staff of Development and Peace, we continue to search for ways so that CCODP can be even more effective in ‘helping people to appreciate the importance of sharing, respect and love in the spirit of the Gospel of Christ’, while also accomplishing its ‘valuable educational function’ within our Christian communities,” he added, quoting Pope Benedict’s December Motu Proprio on charity.

Archbishop Smith also referenced the life issue in an interview on Saturday with Vatican Radio to promote D&P’s fundraiser. “All that we teach in reaching out to the poor; all that we teach in terms of protecting human life from its conception to its natural end, all of this is rooted in the truth of human dignity, which is inalienable, which is inherent and which is grounded in the beautiful fact that we are created in the image and the likeness of God,” he said.

The petition surpassed 1,000 signatures on the weekend. The campaign will continue until Good Friday.