Unprecedented: Cdn Bishops block D&P’s fall campaign as dioceses refuse to distribute materials
Patrick B. Craine
MONTREAL, Sept. 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In an unprecedented move, Canada’s bishops have put a halt to Development and Peace’s fall education campaign after several bishops refused to allow the materials into their parishes.
The bishops’ beleaguered aid organization was forced to delay its traditional campaign until mid-October for revisions after complaints that it was too politically-focused, reports the Catholic Register’s Michael Swan. According to the news agency, it is the first time the bishops have directly intervened to stop one of D&P’s education campaigns.
CCCB President Archbishop Richard Smith and General Secretary Msgr. Pat Powers contacted D&P with the news Sept. 5th and apparently did so without consulting members of the CCCB’s Standing Committee on Development & Peace.
“I kind of feel out in the cold on this,” Bishop Richard Grecco of Charlottetown, one of the committee members, told the Register.
“I was aware that the president of the conference sent out a letter, but there’s been no follow-up with me directly,” said Bishop John Boissonneau, an auxiliary in Toronto and another committee member.
It appears the campaign was essentially a lobby effort in response to the Conservative government’s foreign aid policy, which resulted in massive cuts to Development & Peace in March.
But Bishop Grecco told the Register that lobbying is not the same as education. “We can have that dialogue (on Canadian development policy). I just don’t think it should be a campaign. That’s not what D&P should be about,” he said.
D&P’s current five-year-plan has focused on “ecological justice”, but they took a new direction for this fall after they learned in March that the Canadian International Development Agency had cut their funding by about 65%, or about $30 million over the next five years.
Michael Casey, D&P’s executive director, told the Register that the campaign was focused on challenging the government over recent cuts to groups like Development & Peace. “The role for civil society organizations like us is becoming less apparent,” he said. “We wanted to see if a constructive critique of this policy from our perspective could get a hearing.”
Casey said the funding cuts to D&P were not mentioned in the campaign, and it was “not an attempt to revisit the funding decision,” in the Register’s paraphrase.
But D&P’s June newsletter linked the fall campaign to its lobbying efforts over the funding cuts.
After noting their petition campaign to MPs over the cuts, they wrote, “Mobilization will continue in the Fall, when our new education campaign will look at the changing face of Canadian overseas development assistance and its effect on poor communities in the Global South.”
D&P’s campaigns have traditionally had a strong political focus so it’s unclear what the specific concerns were in this case. René Laprise, the CCCB’s director of media relations, directed LifeSiteNews’ questions to D&P, and Archbishop Smith declined an interview with the Catholic Register, saying “the bishops have not had a chance to discuss the issue.”
Ronald Breau, president of D&P’s national council, told the Register, “Concerns were expressed regarding the nature and methodology of the campaign with respect that it could create some divisiveness within the Church community and that perhaps there should be some more consultations within D&P and also with the broader Church.”
This latest intervention from the bishops comes as their official aid organization continues to be dogged by criticisms over its overseas funding partnerships with groups that promote abortion, contraception, and other activities contrary to Catholic teaching.
The bishops had launched a renewal of the organization in 2010 in response to the criticism, but D&P’s leadership has remained intact, they have refused to release a full list of partners, and have continued to partner with questionable groups.
In March, LifeSiteNews reported that D&P is funding a Haitian woman’s group, named APROSIFA, that openly hands out free contraceptives and has produced literature on how to obtain abortions.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is scheduled to meet for its annual general assembly in Saint-Adele, Quebec from Sept. 24-28.