Friday, 5 October 2012

Cancellation of D&P Fall Campaign Materials is Disheartening

Cancellation of D & P fall campaign materials is disheartening

The Editor: I am greatly disheartened by Archbishop Richard Smith’s and Msgr. Patrick Power’s decision to halt the distribution of Development and Peace’s Fall Campaign materials.

What is so “political” about a campaign to encourage a national conversation on and to get our government to form a Special Parliamentary Committee to investigate the impact of the drastic changes in direction of Canada’s Development Aid? Even the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has commented on how these changes are hurting the most vulnerable around the world.

I also wonder what are the items on the bishops’ political agenda that they are worried will be “compromised” by encouraging such a conversation and committee.

I thought, as Catholic Christians, we are to be about transforming our societies to ones with authentic cultures of life where life with dignity is valued from conception to natural death. To me, D & P is the best and only truly “pro-life” organization that works faithfully to do this within the church.

How can you be “pro-life” while promoting policies that contribute to a culture of death through social arrangements that generate poverty, materialism, consumerism (all of which increase abortion rates) and war — not to mention eco-cide? I don’t understand.

As for the concern about divisiveness . . . how does the archbishop interpret Matthew 10:35-39? —Y.A. Zarowny, Qualicum Beach, B.C.

CCCB process on D&P decision damages church’s influence

The Editor: The article “D&P fall campaign is put on hold” (PM, Sept. 26) calls for some clarification. It also raises serious questions.

It may appear that the campaign, developed by the staff of Development and Peace (D&P), came out of nowhere. That is not the case. In regional meeting after regional meeting this spring, faithful and active Catholic D&P members called for a campaign to critique and challenge the change in government foreign aid policy, a change clearly demonstrated through cuts not only to D&P but also KAIROS, the Mennonite Central Committee and others.

The campaign was not intended to pressure the government to reinstate funding for these organizations. Rather, it was to challenge not just the government, but all Canadians, to reflect on the moral values underlying the policy changes.

As such, it was indeed an educational enterprise.

That said, the decision by several bishops, then proclaimed as one of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), to block the campaign raises serious questions.

Given that the materials were not prepared until late in the summer, did the few bishops involved in the decision actually see the materials before they decided to block the campaign? Given that a liaison committee was established between D&P and the CCCB, why did that committee not function as it ought?
Given that it seems few bishops were aware of the contents, do we have a situation where significant decisions are made through a process of “first in gets their say and everyone else follows suit for fear of appearing divided”? Have the bishops just signalled to government that Catholic silence on foreign policy can be bought as a quid pro quo on other laudable matters such as immigration and abortion?
While this decision has done significant damage to D&P, and through it to D&P partners, has it effectively done more damage to the church in Canada than to D&P? Is the CCCB being replaced, de facto, by a Canadian Forum of Catholic Bishops? Finally, is there need for a prophetic voice for justice, not only within our country, but within our church as well? — Ray Temmerman, Winnipeg

Update:D&P Fall action campaign is put on hold

Updated: Development and Peace fall campaign is put on hold
Written by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
Friday, 21 September 2012 16:25
The traditional fall education campaign of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is on hold until Oct. 15 while staff and volunteers scramble to come up with less political material that will gain the backing of all of Canada's bishops.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Archbishop Richard Smith and general secretary Msgr. Pat Powers informed Development and Peace Sept. 5 that several bishops had objected to the fall campaign and did not want the material distributed in their diocese. It is the first time in the 45-year history of the Catholic development agency that the bishops have intervened to block an education campaign.

Neither the CCCB nor Development and Peace could tell The Catholic Register how many bishops have objected to campaign materials, which have been printed but not yet distributed. Through a spokesperson, Smith declined to be interviewed for this story as "the bishops have not had a chance to discuss the issue."
Bishops on the CCCB's Standing Committee on Development and Peace were not consulted on the move to halt the campaign and have not seen the materials.

"I haven't had it explained to me, so I can't really comment," said Toronto's Bishop John Boissonneau, chair of the committee. "I was aware that the president of the conference sent out a letter, but there's been no follow-up with me directly."

"I kind of feel out in the cold on this," said committee member Bishop Richard Grecco of Charlottetown.
The last time the bishops' committee met was May 31 for a consultation with the Development and Peace liaison committee for relations with the bishops. Meanwhile, work on the fall education campaign had been delayed until June while the organization dealt with major restructuring to accommodate a drastic cut in Canadian International Development Agency funding.

The fall campaign was to have veered off-course from Development and Peace's five-year plan of environmentally themed education campaigns. This campaign, which included postcards addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was conceived as a national consultation on the direction of Canada's foreign aid policy.

A copy of a Development and Peace postcard addressed to Harper was obtained by The Catholic Register. It asks Harper to "launch a national consultation on the future of Canadian development assistance." The card also urges a "Special Parliamentary Committee to examine the new direction of Canadian assistance."
"The trend in how Canada's foreign aid programs are administered has changed quite dramatically," Development and Peace executive director Michael Casey told The Catholic Register. "The role for civil society organizations like us is becoming less apparent. More of the money is going to multilateral institutions, private sector development.... We wanted to see if a constructive critique of this policy from our perspective could get a hearing."

The campaign did not mention the $35-million cut over five years in CIDA funding to Development and Peace, said Casey, and is not an attempt to revisit the funding decision, he said.
"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," said Ronald Breau, Development and Peace national council president.

Archbishop Smith
Archbishop Smith
- Register file photo
Breau wrote to the Development and Peace membership Sept. 17 to explain the delay.
"We are fully aware that our decision will disappoint many of our active and engaged members," Breau wrote.
While the campaign will be modified, the fall action campaign will remain focussed on Canada's development aid policies. But the national council is heeding Smith's warning that the original campaign would "lead to division among our base, among bishops and among our supporters," Breau wrote.
"The bishops are concerned that ongoing dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Government of Canada on some important, timely and sensitive issues might be compromised by our approach at this time."
Parish Development and Peace leader Greg Kennedy is left wondering what his group will do while it waits for the campaign to launch.

"Traditionally Development and Peace at the parish level operates basically two times a year — one in the fall with the education campaign and then the Share Lent or ShareLife in (the Toronto archdiocese)," said the Jesuit, who is studying for the priesthood and helping out at Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Toronto. "Without those bookends, really there's not much to do until Lent."

The appearance that the bishops are divided or opposed to Development and Peace has become a challenge for parish groups, said Kennedy. And the idea that the bishops' conference did not inform its own standing committee will be even more confusing.

"The bishops set up these avenues through which both they and Development and Peace would work and all of a sudden that gets over-ridden. That's disturbing," he said. "What's the point of having them if they're not going to be used."

But lobbying the government on policy does not amount to education, said Grecco.
"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."

D&P, Bishop Continue Close Collaboration

Development and Peace, bishops continue close collaboration

Written by Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 10:10
CCCB general secretary Msgr. Patrick Powers and CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith at the bishops’ plenary in Ste. Adele, Que.
OTTAWA - During the annual plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in Ste. Adele, Que., Sept. 24-28, the bishops reaffirmed their ongoing collaboration with their overseas development agency, both respecting its lay-run character and ensuring its Catholic identity.
The lay-run character of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace came under fire in recent weeks when its fall education campaign was put on hold after several bishops objected to the campaign for being too political, as first reported in The Catholic Register. The National Post and its sister papers picked up on the story Sept. 26.

The stories saying the bishops intervened, blocked or stopped the fall program are inaccurate, said CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith in a post-plenary interview from Edmonton Oct. 1.
“The most important thing to emphasize is the bishops are working with D&P on their fall campaign,” said Smith.

The bishops support the principle of D&P’s annual fall educational campaign which raises consciousness about the needs in the developing world “to make people aware of the plight but also the reasons behind it,” he said.

D&P can embark on education programs, but when the strategy includes working through the parishes in local dioceses, “nothing should be taking place without the consent of the local bishop,” he said.
This year’s fall campaign departed from D&P’s plan of focusing on environmental themes to raising questions about Canada’s international aid policies, following substantial reductions in CIDA grants over the next five years. The agency, founded by the bishops more than 40 years ago, was “formulating a campaign as part of a broader movement of development agencies,” Smith said.

“Some of the material was becoming a little more direct political lobbying than we’re accustomed to,” Smith said. Some bishops, Smith included, expressed concern the materials might cause divisiveness in parishes and among donors.

The bishops must ensure “whatever’s done fosters the unity of the Church and is in no way divisive,” he said.

Smith said he spoke to the leadership of D&P about the concerns, which they received graciously, openly and with a “readiness to understand.”

D&P’s leadership “gave some thought to the impact on the life of the Church” of their campaign and told the bishops they would “adjust their literature to reflect their concerns.”

The bishops also heard a report from Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau, from the Liaison Committee composed of D&P leadership and the CCCB’s Standing Committee on Development and Peace, about the progress of documents outlining the principles guiding D&P’s relationship with its overseas partners, contracts with partners, the integration of Pope Benedict XVI’s social justice encyclical Caritas in Veritate into the agency’s work and the training of its staff.

Smith said the documents are “close to final draft stage” and “are still being reviewed.”
In other plenary news, the bishops approved next year’s budget and saw nothing unusual in the present financial pictures of the conference. There will be no hike this year in the per capita rates charged dioceses based on the numbers of Catholics living there.

The bishops also had an off-the-record meeting with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and that went well, Smith said.

“The conversation was very respectful, open and very frank... It was a welcome opportunity to speak to the minister as a voice for the voiceless,” Smith said. “He certainly did hear us.”
The bishops also marked the upcoming 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Smith spoke of how Pope Benedict XVI in his emphasis on the Year of Faith is the clearest voice calling for people to read and understand the documents of the Second Vatican Council so the new evangelization can be based on the beauty of the Catholic faith articulated in them.

Bishop block D&P Campaign as "being partisan"
Archbishop Reverend Richard Smith.

Archbishop Reverend Richard Smith.

OTTAWA — Canadian Catholic bishops have taken the unprecedented step of blocking an annual education campaign organized by the church’s foreign aid wing, Development and Peace, after deeming this year’s edition too partisan.
The bishops are reported to have been concerned that the campaign, targeting the Harper government’s controversial changes to Canadian international assistance, would divide parishioners and hurt the church’s work with the Conservatives on other issues.
Organizers say they can appreciate the bishops’ concerns and are toning down the campaign so it is less political.
But the issue raises questions about the degree to which the Conservatives’ history of brooking no criticism — particularly from aid groups — was a factor.

Development and Peace was created in 1967 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) as the Canadian Catholic church’s official organization for tackling poverty in developing countries.
Part of its mandate includes raising public awareness of international development issues, which is done through an annual fall education campaign that has previously tackled such issues as the mining industry’s activities in developing countries.

This past February, Development and Peace learned its government funding was being cut by $35 million over the next five years, to $14.5 million, while the number of countries in which it would be working was slashed from nearly 30 to seven.

Executive director Michael Casey said the news brought home the dramatic changes the Harper government has been making to Canadian foreign aid policy.

These have included severing ties with long-time development partners, a lack of transparency and consultation when it comes to decision-making, and a determined effort to link international assistance with Canadian trade and investment objectives.

The Conservatives have also cut funding to groups that have been critical of its policies, including the Canadian Council for International Co-operation and KAIROS, resulting in what many analysts and aid experts say is a chill within the development community.

“So we thought it might be a good moment for our membership and people to be aware of the policies governing this and to have a dialogue on alternative approaches,” Casey said.
The fall education campaign was to include postcards for Catholic parishioners across the country to send to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as well as posters in churches and other material calling for a debate on the direction of Canadian international assistance.

But those plans ground to a halt this month when CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith requested a meeting with Development and Peace officials.

“He (Smith) made us aware that there were some concerns about our traditional campaign” among some Catholic bishops across the country, Casey said.

“They didn’t disagree with the theme… They just thought some of the actions might be perceived as partisan and political and they expressed their concerns to us.”

The CCCB refused to comment for this story, directing all questions to Development and Peace.
But the Catholic Register newspaper obtained a letter from Development and Peace national council president Ronald Breau in which he wrote that Smith had warned the campaign would lead to divisions within the Catholic community.

Breau added: “The bishops are concerned that ongoing dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Government of Canada on some important, timely and sensitive issues might be compromised by our approach at this time.”

Casey said such objections were unprecedented even though previous campaigns have touched on government policy.

“We don’t know in living memory, at least among the people who are working here and that are involved in the movement, that there’s ever been this level of concern expressed about our fall campaign.”
In an interview, Breau acknowledged a bit of an “internal struggle” within the Catholic church over the campaign.

But he said the campaign was “fairly political, if you want, which was a sort of a going away from our traditional educational campaign.”

Neither man would say to what degree they believed the relationship between the church and government factored into the bishops’ concerns, but “there’s a very important relationship between the church and the government on a number of issues not related to us,” Casey said.

While the theme will remain focused on international development, the fall campaign has delayed the start of the campaign, likely until next month so the organization can respond to the bishops’ feedback.
“They very clearly voiced their concerns,” Casey said. “And we being an agency of the Catholic Church, we certainly listen. And we’re looking at adapting accordingly