TORONTO, April 27, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Archdiocese of Toronto has reached an agreement with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) regarding funding. Responding to concerns raised by LifeSiteNews (LSN) last year the archdiocese withheld $1.125 million in funding from D&P until the organization could ensure that each partner and project to be funded with funds from the Archdiocese of Toronto would be approved by the local bishop in the area where the project undertaken. Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins was the first bishop in the country to react to LSN’s revelations about D&P. Less than a week after the original LSN investigative report, Collins sent a statement to all pastors of the archdiocese, which noted that the “serious allegations” were to be “investigated in detail.” That March 17, 2009 letter added: “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.” In a statement to be released to Toronto parishes this weekend, the archdiocese explains: “With the cooperation of our partners at CCODP, the conditions stipulated by Archbishop Collins have now been met, ensuring that all contributions to ShareLife are used in accordance with the outlined criteria for the 2009 and 2010 campaigns.” The statement explains that, “Fifteen projects were identified in developing countries for ShareLife funding and endorsements have now been received by either the President of the Episcopal Conference, the Secretary-General of the Episcopal Conference, or the local Ordinary where the project is taking place, attesting to the suitability of the partner carrying out the work.” Bill Steinburg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese told LSN that projects were approved in Brazil, Honduras, Peru, Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Philippines, East Timor, Pakistan, Gaza, Iraq and Lebanon. He also noted that many of the organizations are Caritas groups, the Catholic Church’s official development agency. The funding agreement extends into the current year 2010 campaign. The statement explains that the archdiocese has “pledged an allocation of $900,000 to CCODP as part of our overall fundraising efforts,” for the 2010 collection. LSN asked Steinburg about the most recent controversy over D&P slamming LSN, Campaign Life Coalition and International Right to Life as the “far right wing fringe element of North American society” and claiming falsely that the pro-life groups were associated with groups that have used violence. Steinburg explained that the Archdiocese was leaving the conflict resolution between the pro-life groups and D&P to the bishops. He noted further that D&Ps statements about the pro-life groups would not affect the positive relationship of the archdiocese with the groups.
While this is definitely good news from a momentum perspective, the actions taken by the Archdiocese of Toronto are still not foolproof:
1. Fungibility still a problem. Notice the number of countries listed above? That likely means D&P is shifting Toronto’s money around to existing partners who have not yet been identified as being anti-life. Nothing has really changed. The only thing that has changed is that Toronto’s money has been ear-marked to go to these particular groups, but none of the other dioceses have had their donations likewise ear-marked. For Toronto’s initiative to have real teeth, at least a third of the dioceses in Canada have to adopt the same measure. Otherwise, it’s not going to be effective. It’s very easy for the management of Development & Peace to keep their existing pro-abort partners, even with Toronto’s conditions. In fact, it is very likely that none of the partners identified to date will be affected by this measure.
2. Episcopal endorsements are no guarantee. While relying on the endorsement of other countries’ church officials is good, it is not as effective as having collaboration with Canadian and the recipient country’s pro-life groups. It is very possible that one or more groups being funded is still pro-abort. Church officials, depending on who they are and their own pro-life sensitivities might be as dismissive of pro-life concerns as Development & Peace is. Or, they might not be aware of all of the activities of the groups in question. These kind of funding decisions must be made in collaboration with the pro-life organizations who know the score – otherwise the problems could continue.
So, in the interests of full disclosure, Development & Peace should release the names of the groups who are being funded by the Archdiocese of Toronto.