Catholic Saga in Canada

LifeSiteNews has been a mainstay of accurate reporting on breaking stories, not only on the North American continent but around the world. Its identification with cutting-edge coverage of crucial issues, particularly for pro-life Catholics, is legendary. So when its investigation uncovered support for pro-abortion organizations by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, we became more than interested on several levels. This organization was founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as their “official agency for development work and emergency relief in the Global South.”

In order to confirm any concerns we might have, since we knew that the CCODP was accusing LifeSiteNews of reporting false information, we engaged the services of a researcher to independently investigate the reports that have all been posted on the LifeSiteNews web site. The news agency provided direct evidence from the web sites of the abortion groups in question showing their advocacy. Direct links to the web sites of the groups allow for verification of the facts.

We also noted, that, preceding the investigation, when the CCCB announced its annual collection for CCODP on March 18 of this year,V. James Weisgerber, Archbishop of Winnipeg and president of the CCCB stated,

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is the official development agency of the Church in Canada, and respects the sacredness of human life from conception to its natural end [emphasis added]. By contributing to Development and Peace this year on 29 March, our gifts can bear fruit for the life of the world. To serve Christ, we are invited to follow his example – to give of ourselves, that others may live.

But apparently, respect for the sacredness of human life is not quite the way those administering the funds see things.

One of the most telling articles LifeSiteNews has published is the interview with Gilio Brunelli, director of International Programs for the CCODP. Even though his English is broken and his exact intent was not always easy to understand, it seems that what he is intending to convey is that Development and Peace has a certain agenda to follow regarding organizations involved in poor/third world countries. Below are his words as reported by Matthew Hoffman of LifeSiteNews:

That is a very good question, Matt. We have a number of tools by which we make sure that our money goes where we want it to go. Sometimes we target in a more direct way these monies for that particular piece of the program. Sometimes we have a mechanism by which we know that some organization already gives money for, let’s say, the abortion clinic, if they have, or the lobbying for abortion so we know that our money will not be there. And that’s part of the expertise that we have been building up over the last 40 years. We have a pretty good sense of where our money goes in the sense independently because we have a number of mechanisms to know that. What I can say, and I know that it’s important for you to understand that, that certainly no money of Development and Peace goes into supporting lobbying for abortion or abortion practices.

Brunelli seems to be saying that CCODP supports organizations for certain aspects of what they do, because that particular activity supports the goals of CCODP’s agenda. Brunelli, however, does not seem to mind the other things these organizations may or may not do, and may not even bother to research or ask. It’s almost as if those in charge of distributing the funds for the CCCB Development and Peace agency are turning a blind eye to the actions of the organizations they’re trying to help. Or maybe, it just never mattered to them. And that’s the difficult part to swallow – that an arm of the Catholic Church would be so nonchalant in its distribution of funds – especially funds that come, in part, from parishioners. We must, in all that we do, stand up for and convey what the Church teaches. Laziness, ignorance or indifference are not adequate excuses and cannot get in the way of the Church’s mission.

The more one reads the interview with Brunelli, the more confused one becomes regarding whether or not CCODP is even concerned about whether or not its funding recipients approve of and advocate for legal abortion. Brunelli said,

As I was saying, we do not have a particular policy on abortion, something like that; we believe that kind of principle are coming down by the bishops not by (chuckle) an organization like Development and Peace. We receive proposals from a number of organizations across the world. They are analyzed and studied by our staff here in Montreal. They are sent back to local committees in the country. Our supporters, they don’t track records on coherence and the relevance of the proposals. I take your word that we do not support pro-life organizations. That is new to me. For us, it is not a criteria. For us, the criterion is not pro-life or pro-abortion, it is “do the piece of work that they propose to us is something we want to support and something within our parameters?” If it is yes, we support them and if not, we don’t. Or do they have the capacity for carrying out the piece of work that they ask money from us for. If they do have that capacity. So that is basically our role. When you come back to town – we can have a number of conversations. I am always at your disposal. We do not have a policy either for or against.

It occurs to us that, indeed, the CCCB should be doing a thorough investigation of the matter which, according to an official April 7 statement, is currently underway. The comments Brunelli freely told the LifeSiteNews reporter should have been sufficient to suspend the activities of Development and Peace until the investigation was completed.

That, however, has not occurred as far as we know. And there are others sounding the warning as well, for as one reporter put it, “Some groups, like Priests for Life Canada, say nothing short of a thorough, independent investigation will do. Granted, there’s something a bit fox-like about CCODP examining its own henhouse, since it’s accompanying the bishops on the investigatory trip.”

Regardless of how this investigation is handled, one fact is clear. A Catholic charity, which is extending the hand and the money of the Catholic Church to those in need around the world should be totally faithful to Church teaching, regardless of what other work it is involved in. It would seem to us, at least, that the first priority would be to make certain that those charities receiving support are free of all advocacy for abortion.

I recall that when I was in Toronto last month delivering a series of speeches to Alliance for Life, a wonderful bishop, his Excellency Anthony Tonnos, stood up to speak to the audience at the April 24 gala banquet. In his presentation, he apologized to the attendees for the mess that been stirred up over the financial dealings of Development and Peace. He went on to explain that the CCCB was involved in an ongoing and thorough examination of the matter and he knew that a resolution would be reached that would be acceptable to all Canadian pro-life Catholics.

So, when I read the most recent report from LifeSiteNews, dated May 22, I was astounded. Apparently, CCODP is insisting that it was not involved in any sort of wrongdoing.

D&P continues to claim simply that it is “not supporting, has never, and never will support abortion or any programs that contravene our foundational Gospel values and Catholic Social Teaching.” As LSN has reported previously, however, D&P’s carefully chosen wording is deceptive, since LSN has never accused D&P of specifically funding abortion or pro-abortion “programs.” Instead, LSN presented evidence that hundreds of thousands of dollars of D&P funds are being awarded to organizations that are involved in pro-abortion and pro-contraception advocacy – many of them quite heavily – ostensibly for non-abortion related projects. However, since D&P funds are fungible, the organization’s sizable contributions to the pro-abortion groups have the effect of freeing up funds for their pro-abortion and pro-contraception activities.

Something is clearly wrong; there is indeed a bit of double-speak going on, and that does suggest corruption to us.

At this point, one can only hope and pray that when the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops investigation is completed, LifeSiteNews will be vindicated, CCODP will be cleaned out and Canadian Catholics can once again donate to a truly Catholic charitable outreach to the third world. It would be reassuring to know that from now on, Catholic donations are not in the least way involved with any organization that promotes the vile act of abortion, or provides contraception, sterilization or other such horrendous “services” to the poor.

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  • Joe DeVet

    Hooray for Judie Brown and all the efforts of her organization. I hope she continues to press this issue. It’s tough being a bishop nowadays, since one’s own curia can easily undermine his policies…even tougher to be a bishops’ conference. They need our help to expose violations of Catholic intent such as this one. And if they are deaf to the help, then turn up the volume!

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