Archbishop Richard Smith
OTTAWA – Catholics are urged to make foreign aid a top priority as the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace launches its fall education campaign.
The campaign International Development-Do It Justice is "an urgent issue," said a joint Nov. 5 statement from the presidents of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and CCODP's national council.
"International development assistance should be a priority and concern for all Canadians, especially Catholics," said the statement from Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith and CCODP national council president Ron Breau.
According to the CCCB website, the statement also seeks to "respond to possible misunderstandings" that arose out of the delay of this year's campaign.
"You are aware that changes have been made to the campaign material. Speculation in the media and among some of the membership as to the reasons for the changes has caused considerable anxiety for many," the statement said. "We want to assure you there is no cause for worry."
At a meeting among officials of the two organizations, concern was expressed that some elements in the original materials could create division "among bishops, priests, parishioners and donors," it said.
"Lack of unity compromises our Christian witness to justice and charity," it said. "These concerns were taken very seriously, and Development and Peace decided to revise its campaign literature."
"International development aid needs to be a concern and a priority for our nation and for the world," the statement said.
"The fall campaign materials from Development and Peace are intended to encourage personal and group reflection, as well as discussions in parishes and families."
The campaign also invites concerned Catholics and others to contact their MPs, to become members of CCODP and to contribute to the organization's efforts to promote integral human development in the Global South, it said.
More information about the campaign as well as materials can be obtained at www.devp.org.
The statement came out a day after the Radio Canada program Second Regard broadcast a 13-minute documentary, saying CCODP, one of the oldest and most respected development agencies in Canada, was in crisis.
The documentary traced the roots of the Canadian bishops' development agency to teachings of the Second Vatican Council that stressed the role of the laity.
The report blamed "virulent attacks" from LifeSiteNews.com, which it called a top site for promoting anti-abortion views, for precipitating the crisis. It also claimed there was a rise in the number of conservative bishops in Canada in important dioceses.
Massive funding cuts to CCODP announced by CIDA earlier this year created a "catastrophe," according to former CCODP communications officer Francois Gloutnay.
The documentary is the latest manifestation of trouble among CCODP members and staff. High-profile CCODP staff from the Montreal office such as Claire Doran and Gloutnay have quit and, in the Radio Canada documentary, made public their concerns about the direction of the organization.
French-speaking CCODP youth withdrew their support for the campaign in mid-October, issuing an Oct. 16 declaration decrying the launch's delay.
The youth blamed the bishops for the delay and questioned whether CCODP's lay-run and prophetic character was being jeopardized.
The Centre justice et foi (Centre of Justice and Faith) in Montreal issued an Oct. 30 letter to Archbishop Smith expressing the think tank's dismay over CCCB decisions regarding social justice. It said political conservatism has nothing to do with the Gospel.