Where is Development and Peace really headed?
We the members of the quartet behind the blog (soutenonsdetp.wordpress.com), read the September 26, 2011 joint communiqué of the CCCB’s Standing Committee and the Development and Peace Liaison Committee. It expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about the climate of the meeting and look forward to more frequent exchanges. Unfortunately, we do not share this enthusiasm.
Like so many others, the communiqué says nothing clear on the “nihil obstat” issue, in effect a veto right hidden in a declaration of “the importance of including Southern diocesan bishops in the dialogue, discussions and relationships that are an integral part of the work of development”. By virtue of it, the whole task of selecting partners and developing projects, until now the business of Development and Peace professionals and the partners involved, will be subject to alteration without any real regard for the nature of the Southern Bishop’s suspicions or concerns.
Until recently and for the last 46 years, the authority of the bishops was an integral component of Development and Peace’s solidarity in the form of two bishop representatives on the organization’s National Council. Modeled on that notion of Church, as the “People of God”, championed by Vatican II and lived by Development and Peace’s National Council, heretofore all members were equal with the same right to speak and to participate fully in decision-making. To extract the two “partner” bishops from the National Council and to superimpose a new structure outside of Development and Peace, i.e. a CCCB Standing Committee charged with meeting periodically with the 5 lay representatives of Development and Peace, is to severely undermine the democratic functioning and very autonomy of the organization.
It is clear to us that henceforth everything, including “questions or situations of concern”, as well as the organization’s statutes, orientation, and even its selection of Southern partners will depend on this Standing Committee. Henceforth, the bishops will be able to oversee and sanction Development and Peace’s decisions from the outside. In a June 11, 2011 interview with Proximo, Bishop Claude Champagne, one of two CCCB representatives on Development and Peace’s National Council, was already stating that the CCCB’s wished to review the role of the bishops on the National Council, and consequently to change Development and Peace’s statutes. For us, this reveals the opposition between the two notions of Church at play, i.e. the “People of God” united in action and in solidarity with the world, and the model of a pyramidal Church that stands over and above the world.
This new structure is in flagrant contradiction to the philosophy of partnership, with Canadian Catholics, their pastors and Southern partners acting together, that Development and Peace has epitomized to date. We do not subscribe to this new structure, which makes the National Council’s decision-making role subservient to that of the CCCB’s Standing Committee, in effect the equivalent of placing the organization in trusteeship, even if the act is camouflaged in benevolent language.
Lucille Plourde, Constance Vaudrin, Gérard Laverdure, and Normand Breault
Development and Peace members
October 3, 2011