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Development and Peace investigation results: ‘No evidence’

June 19, 2009
Archbishop James WeisgerberDevelopment and Peace, the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada, has been mired by accusations that some of its partner agencies have promoted abortion access using Canadian funds. On Thursday, the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops received the results of an investigation of five such organizations in Mexico. Today on Zoom (in English and French), Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the CCCB, revealed that the as-yet-unreleased report clears Development and Peace of the allegations.
Kris Dmytrenko: A report was recently released to the Permanent Council regarding allegations that Development & Peace provided money for abortion-related services. The question is, how do these allegations relate to other allegations in other countries? Does this report address those, as well?
Archbishop Weisgerber: Well, of course, the investigation was simply of those five Mexican groups that were alleged to have been involved in things that are contrary to the teaching of the Church. Now, the report was received, but we are a conference of bishops, so all the bishops have to be informed about the report before it is made public, but that will be done fairly soon. But I can assure you that in the report, the bishops found very clearly that there was no evidence that Development and Peace in any way funded abortion-related activities. And, in fact, that’s not the allegation. The allegation is that they funded partners who were involved. And that also, there is no evidence of that. Now they could have been involved with other groups who were doing things. That may be. But we have very clear guidelines within Catholic moral theology around how we do that. Because we’re faced with that everywhere. The leadership of the Catholic Church wants the Church involved with other people, even people who don’t agree with us, provided that the disagreement that they have with us not be supported in any way or be given umbrage by our presence there. So it’s always kind of a prudential thing. But there’s no evidence that any of that has gone on in Mexico.
Obviously, we can’t send bishops everywhere in the world. But these are all allegations coming through websites. And it’s kind of the same sort of allegations coming, more or less, from the same kind of people. So we simply have to take our own responsibilities and move forward. We have the wisdom, we have the vision as a Church, and we have the goodwill of Development and Peace to be able to more forward, to give everybody confidence that we are acting as an agency of the Catholic Church.
Dmytrenko: Now there has been some criticism of the president of Development and Peace, Michael Casey, having been part of that investigative team in Mexico. How would you respond to those criticisms?
Archbishop Weisgerber: Well, the bishops don’t know Mexico and they don’t know the network and they don’t know the work. So Michael Casey’s job was to bring them together, to get them to see everybody. The bishops created the agenda. The bishops spoke with these five groups at very, very great length. They spoke to the bishops’ commission and the bishops—only the bishops—wrote the report. So I don’t think there’s any difficulty with that. It would have taken a much, much longer time to kind of find your way in all of these sorts of things.
Dmytrenko: How confident are you that Canadians are going to have restored trust in the mission of Development and Peace?
Archbishop Weisgerber: There’s a big issue there. It seems that there is a tendency on the part of some people to trust allegations on websites more than they trust the bishops. That’s the role of the bishops in the Church and when the bishops investigate something, when the bishops look at things and when the bishops teach, according to our theology, we should have confidence in that. That’s up to individual people to determine who really has the authority in the Church to decide what is Catholic.
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