Archbishop Richard Smith says parishioners should feel free to participate in the educational initiatives of Development and Peace while a joint review of the organization's international partner agencies continues.

"Some of our parishioners have been asking about participation in the upcoming annual general meeting of the Edmonton diocesan council of Development and Peace, and in the fall education campaign, Share the Journey, which focuses on Pope Francis’ call for us to create a culture of encounter with migrants and refugees in our communities," the Archbishop said in a statement July 27. "We continue to support these educational initiatives and the involvement in them by parishioners."

His comment followed a brief progress report issued July 18 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying their joint review with officials of  the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is continuing. The CCCB confirmed in April that preliminary research had suggested that some of the partner agencies funded by Development and Peace appeared to be in conflict with Catholic moral and social teaching, particularly around the sanctity of life. Those preliminary findings prompted several bishops, including Archbishop Smith, to announce that they would withhold the proceeds of parish collections from Development and Peace until their concerns were addressed.

That decision still stands, said Archbishop Smith.

"While the joint review of International partner organizations continues, the Archdiocese will continue to withhold that portion of donations to the Together We Serve appeal that usually goes to Development and Peace. I am confident that the CCCB and Development and Peace officials who have undertaken this review are working diligently to address our concerns, and I look forward to the results of their study."

No deadline has been set for the final report of the joint review committee.

"While discussions continue between the CCCB and CCODP, and further steps are taken to ascertain all the facts, including establishing contact with partners in the Global South, both the CCCB and CCODP remain committed to the importance and necessity of this review and its being completed over the coming months in a timely fashion with uncompromising regard for its thoroughness, integrity, and transparency," the CCCB said.

In a letter to parishioners dated April 4, Archbishop 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.”

Read more about Archbishop Smith's decision in Grandin Media