A review by Canada’s bishops of Development and Peace that arose from allegations the agency was aligned with some questionable partners is completed and will be presented by the end of September.
Development and Peace/Caritas Canada, the overseas development arm of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, has faced intense scrutiny since 2017 following reports that some projects it funded were being carried out by organizations which advocated for abortion or engaged in other activities contrary to Catholic teaching.
Several dioceses and the Catholic Women’s League (CWL) suspended contributions to Development and Peace in early 2018. Development and Peace subsequently suspended funding to 52 partners as the bishops conducted a review of the agency’s practices.
Following a preliminary report on the study last year, the dioceses withholding funds and the CWL released funds to Development and Peace provided that no money went to any of the 52 questioned agencies pending the final review.
In May this year the CCCB commissioned the consulting firm Deloitte Canada to prepare a report looking at ways to “facilitate greater alignment” between the CCCB and Development and Peace.
In a joint Sept. 9 statement, the bishops and Development and Peace said that review is complete and Deloitte’s final report will be presented later this month.
“Though the process is not ended, it is an important step that has been arrived at together,” the statement said.
The Deloite review is among the agenda topics for the bishops’ annual plenary Sept. 23-27 in Cornwall, Ont.
Religious freedom and overseas missions are also on an agenda which this year does not include the clerical abuse crisis that continues to dog dioceses around the world.
Last year, the sexual abuse crisis loomed high on the agenda following revelations of abuse that exploded with the release of a grand jury report that detailed decades of abuse in Pennsylvania.
Coinciding with that scandal, the CCCB published a long-awaited document entitled Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformation that had been in the works since 2011.
This year, the about 80 bishops and eparchs will address challenges to religious freedom and freedom of conscience through an interfaith and ecumenical panel of Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu representatives.
The past year has challenged the notion of religious freedom in Canada, including: the introduction of Quebec’s Bill 21 which bans the wearing of religious symbols by public sector employees; a Supreme Court ruling that found B.C.’s Trinity Western University’s community covenant on sexual conduct violated the Charter; and a pro-abortion attestation on applications for Canada Summer Jobs funding.
Evangelization and overseas missions will also figure prominently in the plenary. Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies, is the keynote speaker.
The Pontifical Mission Societies represent the Catholic Church’s official overseas missions in evangelization and charitable works and are under the direct supervision of the Pope.
The plenary will also include a discussion of Canada’s northern dioceses, which have undergone a recent change in status from being missionary dioceses to being normal dioceses, as well as discussions on ongoing efforts for reconciliation and provision of pastoral care of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil will chair his final plenary as he wraps up a two-year term as president. Traditionally, the presidency alternates between a French language speaker and an English-language speaker. If the pattern continues, the current vice-president, Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, will become president for the next two years.
Though the bishops are free to depart from the previous electoral pattern, if it holds, the French-language co-treasurer Archbishop Luc Cyr of Sherbrooke will move into the position of vice-president.
About 20 guests, including ecumenical and interfaith partners, and heads of various Catholic associations, have been invited to the public session on Sept. 23 through to noon on Sept. 24.
For the first time, Salt + Light TV will be live-streaming the public sessions on the Internet via its website (saltandlighttv.org) and its Facebook page. Salt + Light will also broadcast the daily Masses and evening prayer (Vespers), and a daily media briefing.