June 22, 2011 ( – At the annual general meeting of the Ottawa Diocesan Council of Development and Peace (D&P) June 8, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said that more needs to be done by D&P supporters to show “unquestioned support of the right to life issue.”

The archbishop added: “Pope Benedict has said that integral human development includes the right to life … Justice and right to life issues are joined together.” 

The archbishop’s remarks were reported on in an as-yet-unpublished article by Canadian Catholic News’ Deborah Gyapong that was distributed to D&P members in attendance at the meeting, which LSN obtained from one of the recipients. 

At the meeting D&P members expressed hurt and disappointment at Archbishop Prendergast’s cancellation of the speaking engagements of Fr. Louis Arriaga, the former leader of a group in Mexico that was formerly funded by D&P.  It’s funding was cut in the wake of Archbishop Prendergast’s decision and a letter from the Archdiocese of Mexico City stating that the group “has been characterized by its support and encouragement of groups and activities that are an affront to Christian values.”

Although the archbishop admitted that the controversy was painful and not “a happy time,” he suggested it was a learning opportunity. “I think this raises an issue of cooperation with partners who share some values with us but are in conflict with a major principle of Catholic teaching,” he said.  He noted also that even at the level of the Vatican the Church is looking at “charitable endeavors where we’ve made common cause with people but we are being co-opted by them into affirming things which we can’t affirm, one of which is abortion.”

Meanwhile the National Council of D&P has issued a statement on the controversy noting that while the bishops can advise the body on their partnerships, the final decision makers are the members of the National Council, comprised of 21 volunteer representatives from all provinces in Canada and two appointed Canadian bishops.

A press release from D&P said that a committee of five National Council members would “dialogue with” a Standing Committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).  It added however that, “All recommendations arising from these discussions will be forwarded and decided upon by National Council.”

Despite the statements from the Archdiocese of Mexico City against Fr. Arriaga’s group, the D&P National Council has also asked that the decision to defund the group be reviewed at the next meeting of the CCCB in November.

Following this, the Permanent Council of the CCCB also issued a statement, agreed upon at their June 15-16 meeting.  The statement notes that it was the Bishops of Canada that founded D&P, and expresses the bishops’ support for D&P and their continued intention that it be led by laity. 

The bishops note, however, that “certain questions have been raised during recent months about how this organization carries out its mission.”  They acknowledge the dialogue between D&P and the bishops, and conclude, “The Permanent Council is confident that this dialogue will provide responses to these questions and assist Development and Peace to continue its mission with serenity.”