Donations to Development and Peace withheld

05 April 2018

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

After receiving the results of a review of Development and Peace partner agencies, the Archbishop of Edmonton has decided to withhold from D&P all donations made through the 2018 Together We Serve appeal.

In a letter to parishioners dated April 4, Archbishop Richard Smith described the initial results of the review as alarming. “An estimated forty 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,” he wrote.

“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.”

Archbishop Richard Smith

Archbishop Smith said he was shocked to learn of the problems in a report presented to the February meeting of the 25-member Assembly of Western and Northern Canadian Catholic Bishops in Winnipeg. The bishops were told that the 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.

Romain Duguay, deputy executive director of Development and Peace, said the organization remains committed to upholding Church teaching, is cooperating with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in investigating the issues raised by the review, and aims to improve communications with the bishops.

“The Archbishop has raised serious questions and they need to be answered,” Duguay said 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.

Romain Duguay

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.

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.

Parishioners in the Archdiocese of Edmonton have been generous supporters of Development and Peace over the years, initially through the annual Share Lent Campaign and most recently through   Together We Serve, which raises funds for 11 different charities including D&P. In 2017, the Archdiocese forwarded a total of $239,670 to Development and Peace through the annual appeal.

The Archbishop said he had no choice but to withhold the 2018 donations, given the “disturbing results” of the review. Bishops and parishioners alike, he said, expect Development and Peace to honour its Catholic identity and mission in all of its activities.

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.”

Archbishop Smith’s letter also assured parishioners that the Archdiocese would continue to respect the intent of their donations, and expressed gratitude for their support.

“I recognize that there are many people in the Archdiocese who give of themselves generously in support the good works of Development and Peace, whether by donation or by assisting in the organization’s educational and advocacy initiatives. I write this letter in a spirit of transparency and accountability, and promise to keep you posted on developments regarding this current issue.”

It’s not the first time such questions have been raised. In 2009, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) assigned a fact-finding delegation to Mexico to investigate allegations that five groups in that country that received project funding from D&P had demonstrated support for abortion. The Committee of Inquiry found that neither the groups nor the projects funded by D&P supported abortion, and recommended that the CCCB continue to support Development and Peace.

Given the seriousness of the questions raised, however, the Bishops established an ad hoc committee aimed at renewing the mandate of Development and Peace, ensuring that its partners maintain close ties to their local bishops, and restoring the confidence of Catholics who finance its programs with their gifts. The committee was given more weight in 2010 when it was established as a Standing Committee of the CCCB.

The Standing Committee’s mandate included ensuring that D&P is in conformity with Church teachings; receiving pertinent information from D&P on a regular basis regarding its current projects and partners; ensuring that any future cases of concern regarding D&P projects are appropriately reported and addressed; and encouraging D&P in implementing the principles of Caritas in Veritate, the 2009 encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI on Integral Human Development. Respect for life, the Pope wrote, “cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples.”

However, problems arose again in the spring of 2017, when, author of the 2009 allegations, published a series of stories alleging that D&P was funding a total of seven “anti-life and anti-family organizations” in Latin America.

At the time, Development and Peace issued a statement assuring supporters “unequivocally, that we do not support any programs related to abortion. Our actions are firmly guided by the teachings of our Catholic faith; they are the foundation upon which Development and Peace was built.”

“Our activities, and those of our partners abide by a set of key principles supported by the Bishops of Canada and are evaluated according to these principles.

“Because of the very serious nature of these accusations, however, we are in discussion with the Bishops of Canada and our Board of Directors to ensure that our programs and partners are in line with our mission and mandate.”

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.”

This article was updated on April 6, 2018.