By John-Henry Westen at the CCCB Plenary Assembly

CORNWALL, October 20, 2009 ( – While discussion amongst the Canadian Bishops regarding the controversy over the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) will be held largely in closed session at the bishops’ annual Plenary this week, an initial report on the topic presented during an open session on Monday sparked public objection.

The verbal report on the activities of D&P was presented by the newly appointed Bishop of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Richard Grecco, who is one of two Bishops on the governing board of D&P.

The written version of the report said that D&P “came under a concerted Internet-based media attack by certain militant advocacy groups and individuals, alleging that DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE was financing and promoting abortion programs and advocacy through our partner network.” In the verbal report, however, Bishop Grecco specifically mentioned (LSN) as the source of the allegations.

At the conclusion of the presentation of the report, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins both raised objections.

Initially, CCCB President and Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber, who was chairing the meeting, attempted to quell any public discussion of the matter, beyond the presentation of the report, by reminding all the bishops that they would be discussing the controversy at length in the private sessions in the coming days.

Nevertheless, Archbishop Prendergast said that the bishops of Ontario were very concerned with the situation. He referred to a letter circulated to bishops from D&P, saying that he felt that here the bishops were being asked to continue with “business as usual” with D&P. The Ottawa Archbishop added: “I’m not sure we can accept that.”

Again Archbishop Weisgerber interjected to note that they were only to be discussing the current report presented by Bishop Grecco.

Archbishop Collins acknowledged that the bishops would be having a “lengthy discussion” about the matter later in the week, but noted that there were problems with the report as presented. He noted that the report had misrepresented or misunderstood the criticisms of D&P.

The Archbishop referenced the top of page six of the report as problematic, which says that D&P was accused of “financing and promoting abortion programs and advocacy.”

Archbishop Collins pointed out that D&P was “not accused of that.” He thus suggested reviewing the text of the report. “It is important,” he said, “to be accurate.” He continued: “When one is criticized it is important to either admit when the criticism is just or prove that it’s not.” He concluded, “It’s important to I think listen to what the criticism is.”

LSN had never accused D&P of funding or promoting abortion programs, but rather of contributing money to the non-abortion related programs of groups that are involved in abortion advocacy. LSN has specifically clarified the nature of its accusations on several occasions, in response to distortions by D&P, and the misstatement of the accusations in a previous report produced by the bishops, which related the results of the bishops’ investigation of several of D&P’s Mexican partners.

In reaction to Archbishop Collins’ objection, Archbishop Weisgerber had a very brief exchange with Bishop Grecco acknowledging they would reconsider the wording in the report.

The written report, a copy of which was obtained by LSN, indicates that the controversy did little to dampen D&P fundraising efforts. “Among the individual and regular monthly donors to DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE, we have had 34 individuals (of our 6,110 donors) cancel their monthly contributions as a direct result of the controversy, representing 0.5% of our donor database.”

The report also noted that a smaller group of bishops would be addressing the matter of D&P again in November of this year.

See related LSN coverage:

All the reports on D&P

Toronto Archbishop Will Only Allow D&P Funds to go to Groups Approved by Local Bishops

Pro-Life Leaders Representing 170 Nations Praise Bishops Who Withheld Funds from Development and Peace