Article updated March 5, 2021
By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
[Ottawa – Canadian Catholic News] – At the end of a three-year investigation, Canada’s bishops and their Development and Peace / Caritas agency have revealed they will discontinue relationships with 24 of 63 organizations included in the inquiry.
Another 20 Development and Peace partners received a “no objection” judgment as a “result of satisfactory clarifications received from the partners, as well as communications with the local diocesan bishop where the partner is based.” No recommendations were made on 19 others where the partnership had already concluded or was about to end.
The 24 partnerships that were severed were not named in the final report released Feb. 25, 2021, because of sensitive information contained in the report and “in fairness to the reputations and, in some cases the safety, of all partners,” said a Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) media release. The investigation began with a list of 205 Development and Peace partner organizations.
The joint subcommittee of the CCCB and Development and Peace investigated concerns that some of the activities and positions of partner organizations might be in conflict with the Church’s social and moral teachings.
The 24 partnerships that were severed were based on “a lack of clarification to resolve serious questions regarding support for positions or actions in conflict with the Church’s social and moral teachings,” the report said.
The total number of partners investigated was a surprise. For two years the CCCB and Development and Peace said there were 52 partners under investigation. Only with the final report completed in the summer of 2020, approved by Development and Peace’s National Council in September last year, then approved by the CCCB in November, have the two bodies revealed that “the review initially identified 52 organizations for closer study and later added 11 more.”
Whether partners were disqualified because they had in fact done or said things contrary to Catholic social teaching, or because they refused or failed to answer questions put to them is not revealed. At least two of the groups publicly and strenuously objected to the process.
Although every issue that came to light over the course of the investigation concerned online discussion of abortion, gay rights, gender politics and feminism, the CCCB insists its concerns were not limited to sexual morality and abortion.
“What can be shared is that the review considered all areas of the Church’s social and moral teachings,” said CCCB spokesperson Lisa Gall.
Reforms at Development and Peace coming out of the investigation will concentrate on the relationships with partners. A new partnership policy has been developed and was approved by the National Council at the end of February. Development and Peace staff will work with CCCB staff on a new “international partnerships committee.”
The new committee does not anticipate that CCCB members will have the development expertise needed to assess projects, said Development and Peace deputy executive director Romain Duguay.
“The committee’s role will be to ensure that the proposed partner meets the newly established criteria in the partnership policy that was recently approved by the National Council,” Duguay said in an e-mail.
The new partnerships committee will be working under a National Council of Development and Peace that now includes four bishops.
“That the bishops will no longer be able to distance themselves from the fray, to pile on D&P for alleged non-Catholic activities, may prove a very good thing for D&P,” former National Council president Ray Temmerman said in an e-mail, indicating “the deep commitment the bishops of Canada have to D&P.”
Throughout the investigation, Development and Peace’s Share Lent revenues have dropped. “That money is likely gone, the work it would have done brought to a halt, never to bear fruit,” Temmerman said.
The bishops want to see revenues recover, said Gall, evidenced by a letter of support for the 2021 Share Lent campaign from CCCB president Archbishop Richard Gagnon.
A nearly three-year process of investigation and review resulted in a slimmed-down national council with four bishops appointed to the development agency’s governing body.
Calgary Bishop William McGrattan, Pembroke Bishop Guy Desrochers, Ste.-Anne-de-la-Pocatiére Bishop Pierre Goudreault and St. John’s, Nfld., Archbishop Peter Hundt represent the CCCB on a new national council. The remaining 11 representatives will be elected by D&P’s 10,000 members.