By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN)—Catholics can be confident that money they contribute to the Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) “will be properly spent and properly supervised,” said Msgr. Patrick Powers.
In a Nov. 12 interview from Rome, the secretary general of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said the work of an ad hoc committee established a year ago has produced “substantive results” and has “brought everyone together.”
The ad hoc committee’s summary report, posted on the CCCB’s website, has drawn mostly favorable responses from online news services and blogs that criticized CCODP for funding projects with overseas partners they alleged were “pro-abortion.”
Powers said the ad hoc committee examined all 248 of CCODP’s project files and found 13 that merited a closer look. Of these, two posed a problem he said.
“Even one is too many,” Powers said, noting that CCODP is rewriting the “manner in which people become partners” as well as devising “an exit strategy” for canceling any controversial projects. Some projects that had been identified online had already come to a natural end, he added.
“CCODP is preparing protocols to ensure that organizations requesting future funding are fully aware that CCODP is a Catholic agency which adheres to Catholic principles,” said the ad hoc committee’s report. “Furthermore, any organizations requesting funding will also be obliged by the same protocols to disclose any projects that they may be involved in which would contradict Catholic principles of respect for life.”
CCODP will also consult with the local bishops’ conference which must approve of partners and projects in their countries.
“Overall, we were very, very happy with the spirit of it, the collaboration with the bishops and ourselves,” said CCODP executive director Michael Casey in an interview from Montreal Nov. 11.
Casey said much of the problems resulted from partners’ being involved in coalitions or with other groups “one or two removed” that pursued agenda’s contrary to Catholic teaching. Some of the problems came in ambiguity around human rights issues, he said.
According to pro-life news sites, reproductive “rights” is a euphemism for abortion.
“We wanted to make sure we have explicitly outlined in the rule of engagement that the Catholic identity issue for us is paramount,” Casey said.
Most of CCODP’s protocols had been focused on sound fiscal management and accountability, he said.
Powers said the ad hoc committee addressed the gap that had developed over the years between CCODP and the CCCB as the two “worked more and more in their own way, apart from each other.”
The ad hoc committee provided a “wonderful way to work together,” each “recognizing they needed more dialog,” he said.
The ad hoc committee also advised a permanent standing committee be established to allow for a “regular exchange of information.” The members of this new committee will be named in December at the next meeting of the CCCB’s executive committee and permanent council.
CCODP is preparing a new five-year plan and a new funding proposal for CIDA, Casey said. “We have to look at some of the advocacy positions of some of our partners.”
Partnerships are long-term, but CCODP plans to rationalize and reduce the number of projects from nearly 250 to 130-150, he said. CIDA is stressing aid effectiveness and accountability, and “we’re bringing it in house as well.”
“We’ll have fewer but larger, more complex projects,” he said.
But the focus will still be on effecting “meaningful change” in the developing world and addressing social inequities, he said. “We’re the social justice guys of the Catholic Church.”
Some of those inequities result from government regulations, the effects of international agreements such as the Free Trade Agreement’s impact on farmers, he said. Other areas of concern for CCODP and its partners include the participation of women, the rights of indigenous people, the protection of the environment and other social justice causes.