WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
Archbishop Richard Smith addresses the Council of Consecrated Women April 21 in Edmonton.
EDMONTON - Controversy over the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has created "an awful lot of hysteria" on both sides of the issue, says Archbishop Richard Smith.
Smith said in his position on the national executive of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) he is "in the middle of a lot of conflicting views and misinformation around Development and Peace."
On one side, people have maintained that some Development and Peace partners in the developing world are not fully in line with Catholic teaching, said Smith, the CCCB president.
"That's obviously something the bishops are going to take very seriously and have," he said April 21 in comments at the annual conference of the archdiocesan Council of Consecrated Women.
The bishops, he said, have responded by setting up a committee to meet with CCODP leaders and discuss issues such as governance, policies and partners.
"On the other end of things, I hear comments like, 'Why are the bishops getting involved in Development and Peace at all? This is a lay organization and this is something the bishops should have no say in and just leave us alone to do our own thing.'"
Said Smith: "Any organization that calls itself 'Catholic' and doesn't expect some degree of episcopal oversight is simply naïve."
He also hears comments such as that the bishops are trying to put Development and Peace under their thumbs or that in the future it will only be allowed to fund Catholic partner organizations.
"We're all sitting around the executive table and I say 'What! Where is this coming from?'"
Discussion, he said, needs to focus on the mission of Development and Peace. "We have to keep before us the face of the poor."
Smith said that point was driven home to him when, with others, he visited Haiti before Christmas and met some of the desperate poor served by Development and Peace's partners.
"I was able to see the transformation, the hope and the new life that they were receiving from Development and Peace's partnerships with these various agencies on the ground."
CCODP, like any organization, needs to develop and grow. It, nevertheless, is an organization, "which is dear to all of us," he told the group of consecrated women.