Canadian Bishops’ Development and Peace Investigation Waiting Game – New Twists and Turns

The ongoing saga over the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) continues, as a selection of prominent Canadian Bishops is to receive the official report tomorrow of the results of an investigation into the group’s funding of pro-abortion groups in Mexico.

Francine Garneau of the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops (CCCB) told (LSN) that if the report is approved by the Permanent Council of the CCCB, it will be sent to the rest of the Bishops of Canada and thereafter made public.

The report is based on an investigation conducted in Mexico from the 15 to 18 April, 2009, by officials from D&P and the CCCB, including two Canadian bishops. The committee was established in response to reports initiated by that D&P, the official development arm of the bishops’ conference, has been funding groups in Mexico involved in pro-abortion advocacy.

From the beginning, pro-life and Catholic leaders have expressed concerns that the investigation could be biased, since it was led by representatives of D&P who had a vested interest in the final report turning out favorably.

In an interview with LSN , Stephen Mosher, the head of the Population Research Institute, pointed out that, “If the two bishops go down with the head of Development and Peace, then he’s (D&P head Michael Casey) going to hide the dirty linen. I mean, he is not going to hang out the dirty laundry for them to see. He’s going to cover up. That’s institutional behaviour in general.”

“In this case, you have to have an independent investigation,” said Mosher. “You can’t let the agency that has committed the abuses potentially be in charge of the review. You have to send in an outside group with no axes to grind to find out objectively what the situation is on the ground. And unless you do that you are never going to be able to find out the truth.”

Mosher was not the only individual to point out the need for an independent or more open investigation. In an editorial in the BC Catholic, editor Paul Schratz described the investigation into D&P’s Mexican partners as "too little too late."

"There’s something a bit fox-like about CCODP examining its own henhouse, since it’s accompanying the bishops on the investigatory trip," he said.

In a separate editorial in Toronto’s Catholic Register, similar concerns were expressed. “How realistic is it to expect an investigative team that includes several senior staff from Development and Peace to censure itself?" asked the editorial.

The editorial concluded: "An investigation should provide answers but this one seems only to raise more questions."

Last month LSN reported that the concerns about a possible cover-up may have some basis, after one of the D&P partners in question scrubbed its website of any reference to abortion. The group had originally had documents on the site praising Mexico City’s new abortion-on-demand law as an advance for “human rights.”

In addition, while the original LSN report mentioned only five groups in Mexico who received $170,000 in total last year, later reports have found evidence for D&P funding of pro-abortion and pro-contraception groups throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia, including more groups in Mexico, one of which admitted in an interview with LSN to trying to help a woman abort her child.

Last week LSN broke the news that the Bishops of Peru have now written to the CCCB formally requesting that the Canadian Bishops cease funding pro-abortion groups in their country. The development has awakened renewed interest in the story in Catholic media. The Western Catholic Reporter covered the story, as did the Catholic Register, the Catholic News Service and the Catholic News Agency .

A comment made to the Register in its report on the issue had many following the story concerned that a resolution D&P would still be months away. CCCB President and Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber told the Toronto diocesan paper that “he did not expect Canada’s bishops to make any definitive statement about the imbroglio over Development and Peace funding policies until after a gathering of all the bishops in October.”

The CCCB’s Garneau, however, told LSN that the report would be public before October, suggesting that communicating the findings to the rest of Canada’s bishops would happen very soon after the Permanent Council meeting tomorrow.

The issue will definitely have some manner of resolution by the end of August – although it may not spell the end of the story. Funds collected during Lent which were intended for D&P and withheld pending the results of the investigation, must be allocated by fiscal year-end – July 31st. Those allocations are usually public information and a withholding or doling out of funds to D&P will be a decisive act.

In his March letter, responding to the LSN reports of D&P funding of pro-abortion groups, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins wrote : “Development & Peace has not as yet received its funding from ShareLife for 2009. Be assured I will not allow any money raised in the Archdiocese of Toronto to be used for pro-abortion activities or organizations.”

Collins was only one of several bishops to similarly state that D&P would not receive diocesan funds if the organization was found to be involved in pro-abortion funding.

See the full list of coverage on D&P:

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