More than three months after LifeSiteNews.com broke open the story of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (or D&P for short) funding five Mexican organizations that support abortion, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a report exonerating D&P of any wrongdoing.
On March 12, LifeSite revealed that D&P, the Catholic bishops’ international development arm, had partnered with five groups in Mexico on poverty-relief projects, despite the fact those organizations have supported abortion.
Among the revelations, which were substantiated with links to the groups’ websites and interviews, was that Todos los Derechos Para Todos y Todas (the All Rights for Everyone Network) supported Mexico City’s liberal abortion-on-demand law. Another group, Centro de Derechos Humanos Agustín Pro Júarez (the Agustin Pro Juarez Centre for Human Rights), had signed a public declaration whose only purpose was to denounce a proposed right-to-life amendment to the constitution of the state of Jalisco.
La Coordinadora Interregional Feminista Rural Comaletzin (the Comaletzin Rural Feminist Inter-regional Co-ordinator) promotes the legalization of abortion, has criticized natural family planning and is calling for the revocation of the Vatican’s status at the United Nations. Other groups D&P has worked with have signed various “human rights” statements that endorse abortion.
When the story broke, Gilio Brunelli, Development and Peace’s director of international programs, said that D&P does not concern itself with the abortion stands of the groups it funds, because the mandate of D&P is to assist in poverty-relief projects. He stressed that D&P has funded non-abortion related activities (indeed, LSN has never claimed it did so).
Since the initial reports, the National Catholic Register in the United States, the blog Socon or Bust, and further LifeSite reports have revealed more D&P partners that support abortion and liberal family planning measures in Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, East Timor, Haiti, Guinea, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru and Togo. In all, dozens of groups D&P works with have been identified as being pro-abortion.
After Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and Peterborough Bishop Nicola De Angelis called for an investigation into the revelations, as well as after pressure from the laity, the CCCB announced it would look into the matter. Michael Casey, D&P’s executive director, said he was confident the bishops’ investigation would exonerate his organization of any wrongdoing.
The CCCB picked members of D&P and two bishops to investigate whether the aid organization funded pro-abortion groups. Stephen Mosher, head of the Population Research Institute, said the CCCB should have used outside auditors to investigate. “I don’t think that sending Development and Peace staff and two bishops down to Mexico is going to produce anything but a whitewash,” Mosher said during the investigation.
On June 28, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released its three-page report and, despite the extensive evidence made available by LSN, said: “We believe the allegations by LifeSiteNews … are not founded on the facts.” The bishops’ report claimed LifeSite alleged “that financial assistance by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) aided projects related to the promotion of abortion.” But LifeSite never reported that D&P funded “projects related to the promotion of abortion.” Rather, LifeSite provided substantive evidence that the groups receiving funding for various non-abortion related projects were also engaged in pro-abortion advocacy.
Steve Jalsevac, director of LifeSiteNews.com, has stated that by funding the non-abortion activities of partner groups, D&P frees up other funds for these groups to promote abortion. Pro-life and religious leaders from several countries where D&P partners were promoting abortion and contraception urged the Canadian bishops to cease such funding.
Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren, president of the Episcopal Commission on Family, Childhood and Life of the Peruvian Bishops Conference, wrote to the CCCB, saying, “It is very disturbing to have groups, which work against the bishops of Peru by attempting to undermine legal protection for the right to life of unborn children, be funded by our brother bishops in Canada.”
Jalsevac also said it was strange that the investigating group never attempted to talk to LifeSite or any of its reporters about the stories that ran on the online pro-life news agency. In an editorial on the study’s conclusions, Jalsevac and LifeSite editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen noted that the investigation was limited to the five pro-abortion groups mentioned in the original story. Furthermore, they examined only one aspect of that original report, focusing on a single pro-abortion United Nations document signed by three of the groups. The CCCB report said the partner groups were “imprudent,” but did not castigate D&P.
However, the report did urge D&P to improve the process by which it makes funding decisions. It encouraged D&P to “be more vigilant in analyzing requests for financial assistance” and to be “more demanding about receiving information about possible partners.”
Jalsevac told The Interim that, considering the “overwhelming evidence we have accumulated, there must be substantial change to Development and Peace.” If there is no change, “it would be an ongoing scandal and the bishops and laity will not allow that to happen.”
As The Interim was going to press, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins released a two-page statement regarding funding of Development and Peace. He said in the statement, “We will set aside $1,125,000, which will be available for projects of Development and Peace which are operated by organizations endorsed by local bishops.” John-Henry Westen, editor of LifeSiteNews said, “The measure will serve to clear up the problems with such funding since none of the pro-abortion groups funded by D&P are known to be endorsed by their local bishops in the developing world.”
Archbishop Collins also called for a “through review” of D&P, saying “in this coming year there needs to be a comprehensive review of the organization, including its mandate, its governance and organizational structure, its policies and protocols related to the funding of projects, and the instruments of communication linking Development and Peace and the Canadian bishops.” He said that future funding for D&P will be contingent on reform of the organization.