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LifeSiteNews’ Detailed Response to Canadian Bishops’ Whitewash Report on Development and Peace

LifeSiteNews.com

Editorial by John-Henry Westen and Steve Jalsevac

OTTAWA, June 29, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Yesterday, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released their report concerning the Mexican partners of their international development arm - Development & Peace. Given the very clear and incontrovertible evidence made available by LifeSiteNews.com confirming that the groups have advocated for abortion, it was astonishing that the report whitewashed the matter, saying: "we believe the allegations by Lifesite News … are not founded on the facts."

Distortion of LSN Allegations

The report says that "the allegations by Lifesite News" consisted of the claim "that financial assistance by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) aided projects related to the promotion of abortion."  However, LSN never reported that CCODP (D&P) was aiding "projects related to the promotion of abortion." Instead, we provided substantiated evidence that the groups, which received funding for various non-abortion related projects, were also engaged in pro-abortion advocacy. 

Given that three members of D&P led the bishops in their investigations, such distortion is probably not surprising.  It was D&P that began misrepresenting our reports by claiming we were making such allegations.  As early as March 24, only 12 days after LSN broke the story, we were already addressing the misrepresentation and D&P's avoidance of the real issues.  We repeated over and over again that the evidence in our stories confirmed that the funded groups were involved in abortion and contraception advocacy - not that D&P was funding abortion-related projects.

Only Addressed One Piece of Evidence - the Least Significant - and Ignored Rest

The report was limited to evidence regarding the first five groups identified by LSN in Mexico.  However, the CCCB formal investigation was undertaken in the context of dozens of other LSN reports finding incontrovertible evidence - photographic, direct interviews, website materials, and other - on groups involved in abortion and contraceptive advocacy funded by D&P all over Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Moreover, the report did not even address all the evidence provided in LSN's reports on the first five groups.  It took up only one piece of evidence, which was also the least significant of the pieces of evidence of pro-abortion activity on the part of the groups—the very same "straw-man" tactic that D&P used in attempting to discredit our original reports.

The report focuses on a single pro-abortion UN document signed by three of the groups, a decision that the report admits was "imprudent." Thankfully, the bishops do note that the UN document that the groups "endorsed contains several orientations not in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church." However, we have to wonder, if the UN document included advocacy for racism or anti-Semitism, instead of abortion, would the groups' formal endorsements be labeled as merely "imprudent"? 

The CCCB report ignores the irrefutable evidence that one of the five groups, the "All Rights for Everyone Network" (Todos los Derechos Para Todos y Todas) publicly supported Mexico City's abortion-on-demand legislation, which mandates the provision of abortions in the city's public hospitals.

The All Rights for Everyone Network also states in its own "Agenda" that one of its goals is the "putting into effect the right on women who are impregnated as a consequence of rape to interrupt their pregnancy."

Another group, the "Agustin Pro Juarez Center for Human Rights" (Centro de Derechos Humanos Agustín Pro Júarez) signed a public declaration whose only purpose was to denounce a proposed right-to-life amendment to the constitution of the state of Jalisco, which protects life from the moment of conception.

In addition, LSN has revealed that various members of the orginal five groups signed two other "human rights" statements that support the availability of abortion.

No reference is made in the report to subsequent LSN reports providing strong evidence of three more D&P sponsored Mexican groups as being pro-abortion. See "Development and Peace" Funding Sixth Pro-Abortion Organization in MexicoDevelopment and Peace "Partner" Admits Helping Women Obtain Abortions, Opposes Vatican UN Status, Advocates Depenalizing Abortion, and Interview Confirms Eighth Mexican Pro-Abortion Organization Being Funded by Development and Peace


Response of Mexican Bishops Not Noted

The report notes that the Canadian delegation met with three bishops and two staff representing the Mexican Episcopal Conference. Nothing is said in the report, however, about what concerns or comments the Mexican bishops may have expressed on the issue. This seems to be a glaring omission.

Surely it would be appropriate to give some indication in the report, which is primarily intended for the rest of Canada's bishops, what the response of their brother bishops in Mexico was to the controversy.

However, on a positive note, the CCCB report does state its regret that "the Mexican organizations have so little or no relation with the Episcopal Conference of their country." It also adds, "We consider it important for Development and Peace to foster good relationships with the Bishops of those countries where groups receive CCODP financial assistance." LSN has also stressed the serious need for such a policy.


CCCB Report Did Hint at Deficiency in CCODP Decision Making

Although the CCCB report does not directly criticize CCODP (as it does LSN) nor accept the validity of the LSN reports, it does include a welcome paragraph indicating that the bishops see that there are indeed problems that demand an improvement in CCODP's decision-making process. The paragraph states,

We hope the present circumstances encourage Development and Peace to be more vigilant in analysing requests for financial assistance and more demanding about receiving information from possible partners. … we would encourage Development and Peace to ensure more thorough consultations with the Bishops of Canada, particularly the two Bishops who are appointed as members of the Development and Peace National Council, especially when there are questions involving moral issues such as abortion and contraception.

We could not agree more. These recommendations do not address nor resolve the overall systemic problem, but they are a step in the right direction.


LSN Not Contacted During Investigation

As already mentioned, the report even gets LSN's assertions wrong.  This leads us to wonder if the two Canadian Bishops who authored the report have read our many investigative reports on the matter - and if not all of them, at least the first 20 which were completed prior to their trip to Mexico.  Since the three-page report addresses LSN numerous times, it is also a wonder that none of our staff were contacted by the investigating bishops or their representatives.


Discuss it With the Bishops? - LSN has Tried to do so From the Beginning

The report appeals directly to LSN leadership asking us to "dialogue" with the Bishops of Canada.  "We also hope there will be a means for frank and transparent dialogue between Lifesite and the Bishops of Canada," says the report.

In fact, this was a process to which LifeSiteNews gave high priority and was engaged in from the beginning of this controversy.

In addition to repeatedly and personally speaking with several bishops on the matter - some of whom were very critical of our reports - we offered to be available to answer questions from bishops at the meeting of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops - an offer that was politely declined.  Moreover, we attempted to make the same offer to the general secretary of the CCCB but our call was not returned.  And again, the bishops who undertook the investigation did not contact us for their report, perhaps on the advice of others.

The report also makes an "urgent appeal" to LSN "that it establish an open and fruitful dialogue with Canadian Catholic groups."  LSN has however, since its beginnings done just that.  We have worked fruitfully with the CCCB's own Catholic Organization for Life and Family, with the Catholic Civil Rights League of Canada, with Priests for Life Canada, with the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, and Catholic groups all over the world too numerous to mention. We have always been very open to working with Catholic groups - if they are also willing to work with us.


A Counter-Witness to the Gospel?

In a strong rebuke of LSN, the report states: "We are convinced that when a group makes allegations, accusations and denunciations against another, this can bring nothing positive to our Church and is a counter-witness to that Gospel spirit that should guide all Christians. Negative actions of this kind encourage suspicion, scandal and division in the Church."

As for LifeSiteNews making "allegations, accusations and denunciations," that has been the language of Development and Peace in response to our investigative reports. In reality, LifeSiteNews merely presented the readily available evidence that showed pro-abortion advocacy on the part of the groups.

Prior to publishing our first story on the matter, LifeSiteNews directly contacted D&P - an official arm of the CCCB - and we were told by their Director of International Programs that the organization did not concern itself with the abortion stand of the groups funded but merely funded projects of whatever groups that suited D&P's non-abortion related objectives.

Negativity and denunciation only entered the picture when D&P accused LSN of being "dangerously irresponsible and slanderous" and of using "ill-conceived conjecture and hypothesis, to deliberately misinterpret the social justice initiatives of our southern partners in this light."

Rather than responding in kind, we specifically noted that we were assuming "good will on the part of D&P" and that "they were misled about the activities of the pro-abortion groups in Mexico which they fund." 

LifeSiteNews Reports Always Have Positive Intent

We at LSN had every reason to believe that when presented with the facts, the bishops of Canada would be thankful and divert their much-needed development funds to groups more worthy of such funding in the developing world. 

LSN reports always have the intention of bringing positive change. When we report on difficult situations such as this, we do so with the understanding that often, positive change to certain problems can and will only occur if the problems are brought into the light of public scrutiny. Otherwise, in those situations, nothing is likely to happen to correct the errors involved.

In the case of Development & Peace, this is certainly not the first time the organization has been found to be supporting pro-abortion groups, and not the first time it has vigorously resisted correcting the problem. Our latest reports have simply revealed the problem to be systemic in the organization. We have given Canada's bishops much previously unknown information that should help them gain the knowledge and support needed to take the actions necessary to correct the problems.

Just prior to our original reportage, the Obama Administration, to the dismay of the US Bishops and the Vatican struck down the Mexico-City Policy that prohibited US federal funding for groups that perform or even promote abortion. We believe that if a secular government was willing and able to institute such an admirable policy, an official arm of the Canadian bishops should also be willing and able to implement a similar policy.

If the Development & Peace problem is however denied and not corrected, then yes, there will be "suspicion, scandal and division in the Church" - not because of our reports, but because our information was not welcomed as a service to the Church and not acted upon.


This is NOT Over

This story is not over.  Many bishops have withheld funding from D&P over this and the CCCB report has not yet changed that, and we suspect that it won't. 

Because it is a whitewash, the report will cause even greater scandal.  Readers have already told us that the Development and Peace denials and deception are all-too evident and reminiscent of similar tactics employed in previous years with other scandals.

We hope that the report will cause other bishops in the developing world to re-double their efforts to insist that the Canadian bishops halt funding of pro-abortion groups in their countries and re-direct the funding to more faithful and worthy groups.

As a Peruvian Archbishop said in a May 28 letter, in which he "formally" requested that the bishops of Canada cease funding pro-abortion groups in his country: "It is very disturbing to have groups which work against the Bishops of Peru by attempting to undermine legal protection for the right to life of unborn children, be funded by our brother bishops in Canada."


Composition of Investigation Team Raises Questions

The report revealed that the two bishops who undertook the investigation were "assisted" by three D&P officials. Archbishop Martin Currie, of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Bishop François Lapierre of Saint-Hyacinthe were the authors of the report. They were assisted by Msgr. Carlos Quintana, C.S.S., Executive Director of the National Collection for the Church in Latin America of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Msgr. Mario Paquette, P.H., General Secretary of the CCCB; and three persons from Development and Peace who saw to travel arrangements and other organising: Messrs Michael Casey, Executive Director, Paul Cliche, Deputy Director of the International Programs Department, and André Charlebois, Program Officer for Latin
America.

Based on comments LifeSiteNews received from numerous other sources, many of them experienced professionals, the bishops of Canada will only be able to properly assess the Development and Peace controversy by engaging a fully independent, professional agency to investigate the groups named by LifeSiteNews and others. The absence of trained independent investigators, plus the inclusion of three senior CCODP officials in the investigation team, created a situation that could not possibly have resulted in a fully credible report.

LifeSiteNews encourages Canada's bishops to have their staff carefully review all the information in every one of our reports on this issue.  An independent professional audit of CCODP funding policies and groups which are in receipt of its funding is essential.


LifeSiteNews Still Confident That Canadian Bishops Will Correct CCODP Problems

LifeSiteNews still expresses confidence that at least some of Canada's bishops will take the needed action to correct the serious problems with CCODP funding. We believe that this now public controversy will in the end be of substantial benefit for the Church and especially for the good of the people in the developing world who dearly need the support of Canadian Catholics.


The Truly Great Social Justice Issue of our Day

And finally, we believe that our series of investigative reports will benefit the protection of a true culture of life and family in the developing world which is currently under relentless assault by wealthy anti-life, anti-family international forces. The Church and other genuinely pro-life minded groups in these nations desperately need financial and other support from sympathetic organizations for this battle.

This is the truly great social justice issue of our day. Nothing else comes close to it in importance and degree of influence upon these vulnerable nations, their people and cultures.

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