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It has been a very tough haul, but in the end the Catholic Bishops of Canada are making substantial reforms to one of their organizations which was using funds collected in Catholic parishes across the country to fund groups that advocate for abortion.  While still on-going, the purgation of Development and Peace of its funding of groups at odds with the right to life is finally becoming a reality.

Will you help us to continue the vital LifeSiteNews mission which fosters such major change for the good?

Let me give you an up-to-date overview of the entire, 21-month long Development and Peace news saga. This is a longer article than usual, but I think you will find it’s quite the story.

In an interview with Deborah Gyapong of Canadian Catholic News, Development and Peace Executive Director Michael Casey said the organization plans to reduce the number of projects from nearly 250 to 130-150.  That would seem to indicate that 100 or more of the usually funded groups will no longer receive Development and Peace money.  This is a huge change.

Moreover, Msgr. Patrick Powers, general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has said publicly that an ad hoc committee of Bishops did indeed find that D&P was funding problematic groups and was developing an “exit strategy” to “cancel any controversial projects.”

Who is responsible for this?  You are, with the help of our reports.

Even the LifeSiteNews breaking of the story in March 2009 was initiated in response to questions from faithful readers.  Strong appeals to the Bishops to take action came from many LifeSiteNews readers who took the time to respond to the investigative reports we published.

You respectfully contacted those in authority and persuasively urged that the scandalous situations be corrected. 

Your donations are what allowed LifeSiteNews to keep researching and writing those reports that gave you the necessary information to act with confidence.  And your prayers sustained us in what has at times been a stressful undertaking.

Change was slow in coming and very painful.  Our good name and reputation was repeatedly and unjustly assaulted and harmed. If you recall:

There was at first outright denial by Development and Peace who accused us of being “dangerously irresponsible and slanderous.” 

When a few bishops decided to withhold funding from Development and Peace pending investigation, D&P’s denials got all the more intense and nasty.

Development and Peace wrote to all the Canadian Bishops claiming with regard to the first five abortion-advocacy groups we discovered they were funding: “none of these organizations are involved in any activity related to abortion.”

That was followed with a D&P letter to their membership in which they said of our evidence “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

It’s not like we didn’t have the evidence and massive corroboration of our findings of funding of abortion advocacy groups by Development and Peace all over the world

We even had a copy of a letter in which a Peruvian Archbishop practically begged the Canadian Bishops to “stop funding pro-abortion groups in our country.” We know from our recent visits with Vatican officials in Rome that other bishops have also been complaining about the types of groups that D&P was funding in their dioceses.

But that didn’t stop at least two Archbishops (that we are aware of) from slamming LSN in letters to their dioceses. Archbishop James Weisgerber said that the accusations against D&P are “untrue.” Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan went further saying the LSN reports were “false” and even a “malicious attack on this important and sacred work that the Catholic people in Canada do for the poor in the world.”

We were encouraged when the CCCB decided to send a delegation to Mexico for a quick official investigation of our evidence on the first five problematic groups we profiled in that country.

However that hope quickly turned into concern as it was reported that the investigation, while headed by two Bishops, would be guided by executives from D&P.  Those same concerns were voiced by The Catholic Register, Priests for Life Canada and pro-life leaders as they called for an independent investigation rather than one guided by D&P.

Even before the investigation report was sent to the Bishops of Canada, then CCCB President Archbishop James Weisgerber went on a virtual press tour – thanks in large part to Salt and Light television – denouncing LSN and claiming there was “no foundation” for our reports.

But worse than this was Archbishop Weisgerber wrongly calling on the authority of the office of bishop to legitimize the false charges.

“It seems that there is a tendency on the part of some people to trust allegations on websites more than they trust the bishops,” he said. “That’s the role of the bishops in the Church and when the bishops investigate something, when the bishops look at things and when the bishops teach, according to our theology, we should have confidence in that.”

When the report was finally released, it too stated the LSN allegations were not “founded on the facts.” The report made the serious charge that our actions were a “counter-witness to that Gospel spirit that should guide all Christians.”

In addition to not addressing the key evidence we raised about these groups, no one from the investigation team had the courtesy or sense of justice to contact us even once during the ‘investigation’.  Moreover the report implied we had not been in contact with Bishops or Development and Peace about the matter, when in fact our repeated efforts to contact Bishops and D&P were continually rebuffed.

Given what was happening it was not surprising that many Catholics condemned us, especially those who had never read any of our reports.  Even some of our friends backed away from us.  Zenit News Agency refused to run a paid ad, some Catholics cancelled their LifeSiteNews subscriptions and refused to donate to us.

One prominent Toronto priest was symptomatic of the situation. Friar Rick Riccioli castigated LSN as “anti-Catholic” for our reports on the Bishop’s social justice arm D&P. “I have checked the LifeSite response to the Bishops’ Reports … I can see that the reports from LifeSite, if accurate would be very problematic. I am left with a dilema [sic]. Do I believe the Catholic bishops of Canada or not? To me, there’s not much of an option. I’ll stick with the bishops,” he wrote on his blog.

At that crushing time your prayers, financial support and encouraging notes kept us afloat.

Our spirits picked up again when we learned that despite the conclusions of the whitewash report, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins was nevertheless going to restrict funding to Development and Peace.  Since the Archdiocese comprises more than 10% of D&P revenue from Canadian dioceses, that was substantial.

Good news came again at the CCCB Plenary session when Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast objected to business as usual” with Development and Peace. It was at that meeting that the Bishops started the ad hoc committee which soon found that D&P was indeed funding problematic groups.

Things were quiet then for some time as the committee did its work.  But the story picked up again in March of this year when we were leaked a copy of an astonishingly defamatory Development and Peace document.  It labeled LSN and the pro-life groups supporting our reports on D&P “the far right wing fringe element of North American society and have themselves been associated with groups and individuals who have resorted to violence to publicize their cause and achieve their objective.”

D&P was forced to apologize to one of the groups, Campaign Life Coalition, after being threatened with legal action. But LSN decided against making a similar legal threat, and thus received no apology.

The story is of course not over yet. Vigilence is still required. There are still many in Canada’s Catholic institutions who have no problem with funding projects undertaken by groups who are “pro-choice”, pro-gay or pro-contraception.

Gratitude and praise is due the particular bishops and members of the ad hoc committee who have accepted that there are serious problems and that major reform of Development and Peace is needed.  They need encouragement to complete the full reform and to reject pressures to weaken the reform measures.

The US Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development is another very similar issue that we have been extensively covering. Major reform is thankfully also happening there. But that is another story.

These extensive investigative projects involve substantial manpower and other resources. We therefore need your financial help to continue to do such effective, change producing series of news reports.  We need you as partners.

Watchdogs who hold large organizations true to their ideals are often trodden under foot, and attacked.  We are willing to take those attacks if you will support us; but without you we cannot continue.

Are you with us?

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John-Henry Westen
Editor-in-chief
LifeSiteNews.com

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