TORONTO (CCN) — The Canadian bishops and their development agency are developing a statement of principles in the hope of heading off future social media attacks.
The Canadian Catholic Organizations for Development and Peace will model its statement of principles on the CRS Guiding Principles developed by the American Catholic aid agency Catholic Relief Services.
The idea for a Canadian version of the statement of principles came up at a joint meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops standing committee on Development and Peace and Development and Peace’s own standing liaison committee for relations with the bishops.
Like Development and Peace, the CRS has been criticized by online journalists and bloggers accusing it of working with organizations that support abortion and contraception. In 2010 LifeSite News questioned Development and Peace’s funding of a Jesuit-founded human rights organization because the Mexican organization had been cited along with organizations that advocated for legal access to abortion in a joint NGO report to the United Nations. Despite denials of any involvement in pro-abortion activities or any formal relationship with pro-abortion organizations, the accusations spurred a formal investigation by the CCCB and caused a crisis for Development and Peace’s public image and its fundraising efforts.
A clear statement of Development and Peace’s grounding in Catholic social teaching should help protect the organization from future confusion, said national council president Ray Temmerman.
“Our work is not to respond to those attacks. Our work is to do our work with the poor and to educate in Canada. That’s what we’re about,” Temmerman said.
Trying to answer to information that is repeated over and over on the Internet can distract the organization from its core work, Temmerman said.
“It’s kind of this amorphous thing that has a capacity to get its members waving the flag and contacting bishops,” he said.
The 450-word American statement of principles is a good summary of the purpose of Catholic international aid, but Development and Peace wants to put its own Canadian spin on it.
“The sense was that it was perhaps reacting to a situation that CRS was experiencing, which is what we went through some years ago,” said Temmerman. “Given the work we have already done on our principles of discernment for partnerships and other documents that we have already produced, (we thought) we would look to produce one which reflects the Canadian situation rather than the American one.”
Temmerman wants the Canadian principles to be positive rather than defensive.
The American statement claims CRS “draws upon a rich tradition of Scripture and Catholic social teaching.”
The first principle in the CRS list is Sacredness and Dignity of the Human Person. Other principles in the list include solidarity, the common good and the option for the poor. Produced well before Pope Francis released the encyclical Laudato Si’, the CRS statement also emphasizes stewardship.
“There is inherent integrity to all of creation and it requires careful stewardship,” it reads.
The Canadian bishops and Development and Peace also discussed the vacant executive director’s position at their June meeting. The previous executive director, Michael Casey, left Development and Peace in May having served two five-year terms.
The bishops expressed confidence in the selection process, said Temmerman.
“That isn’t an issue. That wasn’t an issue at all. They just said, ‘Keep us informed,’ ” he said. “They are not in any way saying, ‘Thou shalt select’ or ‘Thou shalt not select.’ ”
Temmerman expects the organization will be able to announce its new executive director in September.