EDMONTON (CCN) — Development and Peace has issued a letter to its members from executive director Serge Langlois following Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith’s decision to withhold from D&P all donations made through the 2018 Together We Serve appeal.
In the letter, Langlois said, “Development and Peace - Caritas Canada, with the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops, is in the process of carrying out a review of our partners in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. As a long-standing organization it is a natural process for us to ensure that our partners and their projects are supporting integral human development, creating real positive change, are effective in their work, and are faithful to the values and the social teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Smith sent a letter to parishioners April 4 in which he said “An estimated 40 partners appear to show evidence of conflict with Catholic moral and social teaching and, in particular, that they do not demonstrate full respect for the sanctity of human life.”
“For this reason, the Archdiocese of Edmonton will withhold the D&P portion of the 2018 Together We Serve donations from Development and Peace. The funds will be withheld until such time as we receive clear assurance that funds received from present and future Together We Serve collections will be used only by agencies whose mission, values and practices cohere with the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the criteria of Caritas Internationalis, of which the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is the Canadian representative.”
Smith was reacting to a report presented to the February meeting of the 25-member Assembly of Western and Northern Canadian Catholic Bishops in Winnipeg which indicated that a review of partner agencies raised questions about non-compliance with Catholic teaching in such areas as abortion, contraception, sterilization, same-sex relations and gender theory.
“The archbishop has raised serious questions and they need to be answered,” said Romain Duguay, deputy executive director of Development and Peace, in a telephone interview from D&P headquarters in Montreal. “We will do our due diligence to respond to them and demonstrate that we are not doing anything against the position of the church.”
“We understand that there should have been more communication on our part. But we are confident that this process will strengthen the relationship with the bishops, and they will see that we are actually very strong about the position of the church and all the values that the church wants to promote.”
Duguay said the review by CCCB staff was prompted last fall by an inquiry from the Catholic Women’s League regarding a women’s health clinic in Haiti which is a D&P partner; they’d heard that the clinic director expressed support for legalized abortion. When D&P looked into the claim, they discovered it was unfounded, and they provided a letter from the local bishop expressing support for D&P’s assistance to the clinic.
Funding anything to do with abortion, contraception, or “reproductive rights” is simply not on the table for Development and Peace, Duguay said.
“If we believe that an organization is doing something that is not right for us, not right for the church, we won’t do it. There are plenty of other organizations that can do that work, but we will not do it.”
He explained that Development and Peace works with local partners because they want to empower local people and groups that are helping the poor in their own countries and working to address social justice issues. But organizations and projects may evolve over time and come to embrace values that are not in keeping with church teaching. “If that’s the case, D&P will not work with them and will go in search of another partner.”
The latest issue underlines the importance of D&P conducting regular reviews of partner agencies and projects, he said.
Duguay said the organization remains committed to upholding church teaching, is co-operating with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in investigating the issues raised by the review, and aims to improve communications with the bishops.
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is the official international development organization of the Church in Canada, and one of 160 members of Caritas Internationalis. It was established by the bishops of Canada in 1967 to foster justice and integral human development in the southern hemisphere.
Each bishop will issue his own response to the review. Duguay said “several bishops” have expressed concern. Among them are Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary and Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul, who have published similar letters to their parishioners about withholding D&P donations.
“We’ve told them the same thing we are telling Archbishop Smith, that this is a natural process (of ensuring accountability) . . . and we are hopeful that it’s going to be resolved in a quick manner and a very strong manner.”
Dioceses across Canada have strongly supported the organization’s annual Share Lent campaign. In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, $8.3 million was raised through Share Lent. Development and Peace recorded a total of $41.6 million in revenues, compared with $44.3 million in expenses, to finish the year with a $2.7 million deficit.
In most dioceses, the Share Lent campaign is conducted through a special collection. In some dioceses such as Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto, Development and Peace is supported through an annual appeal that includes several other charities.
Duguay invited donors who have concerns to contact Development and Peace.
“We still want them to believe in Development and Peace, that we are very strong in our belief that we are doing the best that we can with the money they provide us, that our position is very clear and in line with the social justice teachings of the church, that we are committed to demonstrate and communicate better what we are doing in the field, and that we hope they will continue to work with us.”