Journey to Justice

May 22, 2011 1 comment

If some of you were beginning to feel a bit down. You are not alone. The degree of hostility and hate directed at DP and its partners by these fundamentalist anti-abortion groups is hard on the spirit. Worse still is knowing that many influential people within our Catholic Church know these accusations to be false… but are too afraid to speak up…

If some of you had begun to expect to appear before you a white rabbit with gloves and a top hat. You are not alone. How far down the rabbit hole have we gone — when lies and half truths spread like wildfire, when unsigned letters “from Mexico” pass as official Church positions, when people who defend the poorest and the weakest are not even given the benefit of the doubt? What has happened to our Church? What has happened to Christian Charity? What has happened to the struggle for social justice, the struggle to get to the root causes of injustices?

But we have to keep from despairing. We have to, for DP’s partners.

It is not and it has never been easy to do the right thing, to defend those in need. And it is precisely when it is the HARDEST that we need to struggle on.

Here is a great piece from Joe Gunn — from the Prairie Messenger — that we hope inspires you.


By Joe Gunn

Ecclesial politics shouldn’t trump development potential

Like most teens these days, my daughter received the notice electronically. She was to sing at a benefit for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) on a Saturday evening, and was anxiously awaiting the performance. For my part, I was looking forward to meeting the guest speaker from Mexico, Jesuit Father Luis Arriaga, director of the renowned Miguel Pro Centre for Human Rights.

But the electronic message my daughter received reported that the event would not take place.

Later, CBC Radio news reported why: Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast had decided to cancel Arriaga’s presentations. According to the archdiocesan press release, “the centre’s support of groups in favour of abortion rights in Mexico is incompatible with the church’s defence of the right to life from conception to natural death and the mission of Development and Peace.”

The implications of this decision for CCODP and the Canadian church are wide-ranging, and ominous.

Although I have still to meet Rev. Arriaga, in my decade-long role as chair of the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (while working for the Canadian bishops) I know that our churches regularly used the in-depth and accurate reports of this centre. When Ottawa wanted to sign the North American free trade accord (with a Mexican state that had been ruled for 70 years by the same anti-democratic party) the views of this Mexican partner were regularly solicited by Canadian Christians.

Much more recently, a couple of websites in Canada, variously describing themselves as “pro-life” but others declaring themselves as “socially conservative,” levied accusations that five CCODP partner groups supported abortion rights in Mexico. Were these accusations well-founded?

The Canadian church decided that they were not. In 2009, two Canadian bishops with long missionary experience in Latin America travelled to the region with the then general secretary of the bishops’ conference (who was also fluent in Spanish). Their report not only exonerated the Miguel Pro Centre and other CCODP partners, but went on to state, “We are convinced that when a group makes allegations, accusations and denunciations against another, this can bring nothing positive for our church and is counter-witness to that Gospel spirit that should guide all Christians. Negative actions of this kind encourage suspicion, scandal and division in the church.”

Before April 2011 the electronic accusations against the Miguel Pro Centre began anew. Some persons threatened to protest Arriaga’s events. When the Ottawa archdiocese contacted the Archdiocese of Mexico, they received a reply that the Miguel Pro Centre was not pro-life.

And so the speaking tour was aborted and for the first time in 43 years, a CCODP partner was returned home.

Pope Benedict in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate states that, “. . . respect for life . . . cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples.” Nobody involved in this controversy can dispute that. In fairness, we should hear this Jesuit centre’s defence of the accusations against them. (I tried to contact Rev. Arriaga in Mexico City in order to ascertain his views, but he was on retreat.)

If CCODP cuts its funding relationship with the Miguel Pro Centre, social conservative groups will feel emboldened and will only continue their accusatory campaigns. Will CCODP then need to obtain approvals from every local ordinary in order to fund projects overseas? Decades old development relationships could be threatened.

Let me speak frankly: ecclesial politics shouldn’t trump good development potential. I lived in Mexico for two years, working with four dioceses that attempted to care for the physical and pastoral needs of more than 100,000 Guatemalan refugees. Various hierarchies might not have given their approval to all of the work those dioceses did — but our efforts saved lives and defended the rights of vulnerable people (as well as challenged, at times, the Mexican government’s policies and actions.)

Who gets to decide what happens next?

When CCODP was created in 1967, the bishops designed a lay movement for development, rather than an institution to promote the church’s needs. Two bishops admirably serve on the national council of elected lay people. In comparison, the USA’s Catholic aid agency has a majority of bishops on its board, and the chair is always a bishop.

CCODP’s national council must play a key role in this controversy, but neither they nor staff has yet made any public defence of their partner or a statement on the matter. A committee of six bishops, mandated by the bishops’ conference to study CCODP, has yet to meet. It will be key to resolving these relationships.

The future of work in various Catholic social ministries — not just CCODP — could be at stake.

Gunn is the Ottawa-based executive director of Citizens for Public Justice,, an ecumenical social advocacy organization.

Categories: Uncategorized

A letter from Halifax

May 11, 2011 1 comment

Samedi Saint le 22 avril 2011

Cardinal Monseigneur Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archevêque de Montréal
Archevêché de Montréal
Montréal (Québec)

Je vis un grand malaise et beaucoup d’indignation quant au sort réservé à Développement et Paix qui a dû annuler dernièrement la visite d’un partenaire du Sud soit du Mexique. Des groupes d’idéologie conservatrice qui prétendent être « les vrais catholiques » se permettent de remettre en question votre intégrité et votre autorité morale; de diffamer des prêtres tel l’Abbé Gravel qui exercent légitimement leur ministère en s’attaquant à leur réputation par des mensonges, des insinuations et des rumeurs non fondées; de s’attaquer vicieusement depuis des années à Développement et Paix, ce qui a des conséquences désastreuses pour les personnes et les groupes qui, dans une quarantaine de pays du Sud, bénéficient d’un soutien qui leur est essentiel.

Ces groupes intégristes, dont LifesiteNews basé à Toronto et Ottawa, reviennent à la charge dans leur tentative de diviser l’Église en mettant en opposition certains évêques conservateurs qui les appuient et la Conférence épiscopale canadienne dans son entier qui, selon ces fanatiques, aurait abandonné la vraie foi et les enseignements du magistère!

« Les objectifs de Développement et Paix, inspirés des valeurs de l’Évangile et en particulier de l’option préférentielle pour les pauvres, consistent à appuyer les actions des peuples du Sud pour qu’ils puissent prendre leur destin en mains et à sensibiliser les Canadiens et Canadiennes sur les questions liées au déséquilibre nord-sud ».

Cette organisation est aussi celle de laïques mais aussi celle de tous ceux et celles qui sont épris de justice sociale et de tous ces catholiques, pratiquants ou non et qui soutiennent par leurs prières, leurs dons et leurs engagements à D&P; ce joyau de l’Église catholique canadienne créé en 1967 soit il y plus de 40 ans. Au nom des centaines de partenaires qui, au Sud, contribuent à bâtir un monde de justice et de paix, je vous demande d’appuyer fermement et publiquement Développement et Paix dans ses orientations originales et ses actions de partenariat solidaire qui ont fait leurs preuves depuis 1967.

Recevez, Excellence, l’expression de mes sentiments les meilleurs.

Montréal (Québec) H1X 3P2

Development and Peace needs you!

WHAT IS THIS BLOG ABOUT? This blog has been created to talk about the crucial life-giving work of Development and Peace and its partner organizations. We invite you to join us in standing up for human rights organizations in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and to encourage our Canadian Catholic Church to reaffirm its commitment to human rights and supporting human rights’ defenders as an absolutely integral part of living out the gospel.

WHY NOW? For the past few years Development and Peace has been the object of a smear campaign and are victims of defamation. Development and Peace as an organization, it’s staff, and members in schools and parishes across Canada have been the targets of vicious rumours based on distortions of the truth. This is a travesty that must end. Let’s tell Development and Peace and our Church communities that we support D&P partners and that we are tired of having to defend ourselves against blatant lies and false accusations.

Do you think Development and Peace does good work with our brothers and sisters in the Global South and that this work should continue and flourish? Does your Catholic faith motivate you to step forward and speak for the voiceless? We need you more than ever!

We encourage you to communicate your support for human rights work with Development and Peace but more importantly, with your fellow members, your local priest, your bishop and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Please join us and share your reflections, opinions, ideas and letters here on this blog. Email us at

In Solidarity and Truth!

Stop the persecution of Development and Peace

April 29, 2011 2 comments

“This is the risk of any prophetic mission of the Church: to be criticized even by your own people and even to find yourself alone, but able to feel the satisfaction of having tried to be faithful to the gospel” (Archbishop Oscar Romero)

“The Church that fulfills its duty cannot exist without being persecuted” (Archbishop Oscar Romero)


Development and Peace does not fund abortions. It never has. It is an organization that supports important social movements and NGOs that work on a large diversity of social justice issues and works with the landless, the homeless, the displaced, the poor, the victimized, the brutalized…  It works with people that are victim of constant intimidation and death threats. It works with people who put their life on the line for what is right.

Why does Life Site News insist in associating DP with abortion when it does just about everything but? Why this great obsession with discrediting DP and the important work of its partners?

PRODH of Mexico is a great example of a wonderful partner organization doing important and dangerous work in defense of the poor and voiceless.

But because Father Luis Arriaga, a Jesuit priest from PRODH, was taken in photo at a public event (where he and other people and other organizations were being awarded human rights prizes) next to a woman who advocates the decriminalization of abortion, he is guilty of supporting abortion! HOW can this be possible? How could something so ridiculous be thought of someone who is doing such important human rights work? Who has so little concern for the important human rights work of the PRODH? Does Life Site News even care about human rights? This important question really begs asking. And it certainly seems that they don’t care…

They are prepared to find people and organizations GUILTY by association without any concern for the validity or factualness of the accusations and without any concern for the consequences — and the numerous lives that would be endangered and lost without the important work of the PRODH.

It is 2011 and people are guilty by association?!!

And because they are in a photo found online, taken out of context!

Wouldn’t it be funny if Life Site News people were taken in photo on the street next to someone who is pro-choice. If the same “logic” applied to Father Luis Arriaga, a human rights defender that risks his life for the poor and excluded, then these people would also be guilty by association.

Guilty by association…

How can support for an important human rights organization be questioned because of association?

And in a world with bigger and bigger social problems, when the need to work in networks and coalitions is more and more important, those who struggle for justice end up collaborating with all kinds of people. This is a fact. And if we all had to agree on all things, with everyone we work with, then we would always work alone. How can injustice be overcome if we work alone? Human rights defenders know this more than anyone – and many Catholic martyrs like Monseigneur Oscar Romera know this:

“This is the risk of any prophetic mission of the Church: to be criticized even by your own people and even to find yourself alone, but able to feel the satisfaction of having tried to be faithful to the gospel”

“The Church that fulfills its duty cannot exist without being persecuted”

Yet, if guilt by association were applied to all, we would all be guilty of horrible things. The problem with this line of thinking is not only that it wrongfully places guilt on people. The real serious problem is that these wrongful accusations lead to real and damaging consequences in the real world.

And if guilt by association were applied to all then the Vatican would have to withdraw from the United Nations (The Vatican has both voice and vote at the UN), for instance, because the United Nations advocates reproductive rights and sexual health for women (which for Life Site News is a euphemism for only one thing: abortion). But we believe the Vatican should continue to be a part of the UN and that international coalitions are important and that people who do not agree, even on abortion, can come together to work on other issue, for the greater good.

People have to stop listening to Life Site News and look at the real facts (that DP and its partners are the victim of lies and slander). And it is urgent that members of DP and friends and allies of DP, including Bishops concerned with social justice, recognize the terrible damage that these malicious attacks are having on the millions of poor and vulnerable that are supported by DP.

I am a Catholic that had strayed from my faith due to scandals in the Catholic Church. Support for dictators in Latin America, alliance with wealth and power, opulence, sex-abuse scandals with children… But as a member of Development and Peace and through my involvement in Development and Peace I have made peace with my faith and the Catholic tradition. Jesus was close to prostitutes, to the weak, to the sick, to the poor, to women in general, and to all those who were marginalized. He said we should not judge them (“May he who has never sinned cast the first stone.”) And he preached love and forgiveness.

Development and Peace represents to me the true spirit of Catholic faith.

And I am truly shocked that people could want to discredit or worse yet destroy this wonderful organization that gives hope and dignity to so many people.

Entraide Missionaire letter to the CCCB

Archbishop Oscar Romero, believed that:

“Faith lived out in isolation from life is not true faith”. And for this — for his his faith and love for the poor and voiceless he was killed. But his love, courage, conviction and faith live on in the hearts of those who  like him struggle to defend to poor and the voiceless.

“The church would betray its own love for God and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being the “voice of the voiceless” ” he said.

And he knew firsthand, as Development and Peace knows, as Father Luis Arriaga knows, and as the PRODH knows that the struggle would not be easy: “The Church that fulfills its duty cannot exist without being persecuted”.

“This is the risk of any prophetic mission of the Church: to be criticized even by your own people and even to find yourself alone, but able to feel the satisfaction of having tried to be faithful to the Gospel”

Here is l’Entraide Missionnaire’s letter in English:

As you read it I encourage you to keep Archbishop Oscar Romero’s prophetic words in your mind and in your heart and I encourage you to BE the change you seek in the world. Write your own letter in support of DP and be a part of this important movement and jewel of the Canadian Catholic Church.

Monseigneur  Pierre Morissette
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
355 Place Curé Labelle
Saint-Jérôme, Qc, J7Z 5A9

Dear Monseigneur Morissette,
It is with deep disappointment and consternation that l’Entraide Missionnaire has learned about the officially sanctioned expulsion of the Mexican Jesuit priest, Father Lui Arriaga, who was invited as a guest to participate in Development and Peace’s Share Lent campaign. Father Arriaga is the director of the Center for the Defence of Human Rights (PRODH) in Mexico, an organization well known for its activism for the protection of human rights of all people, and for the high quality of its work. Our disappointment and consternation regarding the treatment accorded to Father Arriaga is made ever the more profound by the fact that this unjustified treatment was the result of repeated attacks made by religious fundamentalist groups, such as Life Site News, against Development and Peace. It should be noted that l’Entraide Missionnaire has had a special relationship of partnership with Development and Peace for more than 45 years.
We are living through times of profound trouble and injustice when the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops maintains complete silence regarding the destructive behaviour of conservative fundamentalist groups, such as Life Site News and Real Catholic TV, which for years have viciously attacked Catholic groups such as Development and Peace. The injustice is made worse by the Conference’s silence regarding the complicity of a few bishops, mainly Anglophone bishops, who support the destructive activities of those fundamentalist groups, which has had disastrous results on the programs and work of Development and Peace, and of its partners in the Global South.
We sincerely hope that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will not allow itself to be duped by the destructive, divisive manoeuvres of these religious fundamentalist groups, and that the Conference will publicly come to the defence of its official organization for international solidarity. The work and programs of Development and Peace are, in fact, widely recognized and respected in Canada and in the Global South. We also hope that the Conference will continue to support Development and Peace and its mission of international social solidarity, that the Conference’s members will continue to welcome Development and Peace’s guests for the Share Lent campaign, and that the funds collected will be transmitted to Development and Peace to support its important work.
For decades, l’Entraide Missionnaire has shared Development and Peace’s mission and objectives, which have been inspired by the Christian values of the Gospels and especially their strong focus of the Gospels on the welfare of the poor. This translates into supporting the actions of the people of the Global South, so that they can take their destiny into their own hands, and so that they can sensitize Canadians to the unjust inequalities between the people of the countries of the North and the South. This organization is ours, it belongs to us who support it with our prayers, our donations and our commitment and we see it is a precious jewel of the Canadian Catholic Church.
And it is because this jewel of the Catholic Church has enormous value that we will not be silent.
May you celebrate Easter in faith and justice.
Yours in solidarity,
The members of the Board of Directors of l’Entraide Missionnaire
Signed by Susanne Loiselle
Entraide Missionnaire

Development and Peace – a jewel that needs protecting and preserving

April 18, 2011 2 comments

You will find below a letter in French addressed to the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops from Entraide Missionnaire. It will soon be translated and made available to you in English. But in the meantime, those who read French can get a sneak peak at it in its original version.

If you, like Entraide Missionnaire, are outraged at the lies and attacks against human rights defenders and agree with the content of this letter — and believe that Development and Peace is a jewel within the Church that needs protecting and preserving, then why not say so? A social justice movement is only as strong as its members and Development and Peace and its partners really need your support. Why not write your own letter (and get your friends to do the same, after all “A single bracelet does not jingle” — Congolese proverb) and send us a copy, ether posting to the blog or sending us an email at

And you could let the General Director of Development and Peace know too, by sending a copy of your letter to

In this time of Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ we need to keep in our minds and hearts that millions are not as lucky as us and that their struggle for justice requires our support. Let’s put at end to the criminalization of Development and Peace and its partners, who are only guilty of defending the poor and the weak.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are people who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening.

That struggle might be a moral one; it might be a physical one; it might be both moral and physical, but it must be struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.

People might not get all that they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.” —Frederick Douglass, Abolitionist

Letter from Entraide Missionnaire

Monseigneur Pierre Morissette
Président de la Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada
355, Place du Curé Labelle
Saint-Jérôme, QC J7Z 5A9

Cher Monseigneur Morissette,

L’Entraide missionnaire (L’EMI) a appris avec consternation la mise à l’écart du jésuite mexicain Luis
Arriaga, invité de la campagne « Carême de partage » de Développement et Paix. Le Centre pour la
défense des droits humains (PRODH) qu’il dirige, est bien connu pour la qualité de son travail. La
consternation est d’autant plus grande que cette mise à l’écart du Père Arriaga est le résultat des attaques
répétées de groupes intégristes, dont LifeSiteNews, contre Développement et Paix avec qui L’Entraide
missionnaire a des relations de partenariat privilégié depuis près de 45 ans.
Nous vivons un grand malaise quant au silence de la Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada
(CECC), non seulement face au harcèlement de groupes d’idéologie conservatrice, dont Lifesitenews et
RealcatholicTV, qui s’attaquent vicieusement, depuis des années, à des organismes comme Développement
et Paix, mais aussi face à la complicité de quelques évêques, surtout anglophones, qui souscrivent au
travail de ces groupes, ce qui a des conséquences désastreuses sur la programmation de Développement et
Paix et sur ses partenaires dans les pays du Sud.

Nous souhaitons que la CECC ne se laisse pas prendre au jeu des manoeuvres de division des groupes
religieux intégristes et qu’elle prenne publiquement la défense de son organisme de solidarité
internationale dont la qualité des programmes et des interventions est reconnue largement au Canada et
dans les pays du Sud. Nous souhaitons également que la Conférence continue de faire confiance à son
organisme de solidarité internationale et à sa mission, que ses membres accueillent les invités de sa
campagne « Carême de partage » et que les fonds destinés à Développement et Paix lui soient transmis.
Depuis des décennies, L’EMI partage la mission de Développement et Paix et ses objectifs, inspirés des
valeurs de l'Évangile et en particulier de l'option préférentielle pour les pauvres, qui consistent à appuyer
les actions des peuples du Sud pour qu'ils puissent prendre leur destin en mains et à sensibiliser les
Canadiens et Canadiennes sur les questions liées au déséquilibre Nord-Sud. Cette organisation est nôtre, à
nous qui soutenons de nos prières, de nos dons et de nos engagements ce joyau de l’Église catholique

Parce que ce joyau a du prix à nos yeux, nous ne nous tairons pas…

Heureux temps pascal!

Bien solidairement,
Les membres du Conseil d’administration
Par Suzanne Loiselle, directrice
c.c. Membres du Conseil d’administration de L’Entraide missionnaire
Membres de la Direction générale de Développement et Paix
Montréal, le 18 avril 2011

PRODH is world-renown for its work for justice

Do you support Centre Prodh ?

Centre Prodh in Mexico is an organization that gets right to the core of social justice work – human rights. It makes real what we mean by justice.

As I was preparing this post I came across a statement Centre Prodh presented to the Human Rights Council and I want to share it with you so you can keep in mind as you take the time to read about Centre Prodh’s as an organization, and make your own judgement of whether Centre Prodh should be supported or not.

“We wish to make particular reference in this regard to the issue of violence against women in Mexico, especially in the context of the case of San Salvador Atenco as a paradigmatic example of the use of sexual torture as a tool of repression against women. On May 3 and 4, 2006, more than 2,500 members of state and federal police forces assaulted both protesters and by-standers in a conflict that had resulted from a failed dialogue with local flower-vendors. Among the persons arrested were 47 women, many of whom were systematically tortured and ill-treated by Mexican police through rape, sexual assault and beatings.

Despite the severity of the crimes committed in Atenco, more than three years after these violations, Mexican authorities have not brought criminal prosecutions against any of the police officers who participated in the police operation either for torture or rape. Only a handful of officials have been charged with minor offences such as abuseof authority and libidinous acts. This is not to mention the impunity of the government officials who planned and oversaw the operation. Center Prodh has taken on the legal accompaniment 11 of the women who suffered torture by Mexican police”. (link here)

Center Prodh is an organization created by Mexican Jesuits and founded in 1988. Its aim it to defend, promote and to have an impact in the validity and respect for human rights in Mexico. Its work is framed within the universal mission of the Society of Jesus: “faith service and the promotion of justice”.

Center Prodh begins its work twenty years ago because of the repression climate by the Mexican State against social activists, religious leaders, political leaders, communities, and organizations that were demanding attention to their social needs. Since its beginning, Center Prodh focalized on its engagement for the defense and promotion of civil and political rights, which is all regarding the respect for life, integrity and personal security. In 2002, Center Prodh incorporated the promotion and defense of the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights (ESC rights) through the defense of emblematic cases.

In September 2001, Center Prodh received the Consultative Status before the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Also, the institution is recognized as an Accredited Organization before the Organization of American States since 2004.

Due to its distinguished trajectory, Center Prodh received many awards such as the Human Rights Watch award and the Roque Dalton medal. On April 7, 2007, Center Prodh was awarded an honorific mention for the Spanish ombudsman and the Alcalá University. In 2008, at the 20th anniversary of Center Prodh, it was awarded with different prices by the Iberoamericana University and the System of Jesuit Universities. Also, in January 2009, it received an honorific mention of the Human Rights Price of the French Republic “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” 2008. In 2010, Center Prodh received the “Emilio Krieger” medal, granted by the National Association of Democrat Lawyers (ANAD) for its work in the defense and promotion of human rights.

Center Prodh’s mission:

“To defend and promote the human rights of economically or socially marginalized individuals and populations, contributing to the construction of a more just, equal, and democratic society in which human dignity is fully respected.”

Center Prodh aims to contribute to a structural change through which society would be able to enjoy and exercise in equity all human rights.

Our values are based on the respect for human dignity.

Mexico, D.F., April 2011.

Priority groups: We focus our work in the option for the poorest and most vulnerable individuals of the country: indigenous, migrants, women, and victims of social repression.

Citizenry Security and Human Rights: it implies the reform of the public security institutions and the physical and moral guarantee of individuals.

Criminal Justice: through the defense of emblematic cases, we seek to reform the judicial system so it can be based on the highest international standards in order to guarantee a prompt and free of charge justice.

The framework of our work is national and regional, particularly in the states of the southeast where the more and serious human rights violations have been recorded.

Center Prodh’s daily activities include:

a) Defense and assistance in cases of human rights violations, in particular violations against social activists, women, migrants, and indigenous persons and communities.

b) Monitoring and analysis of the human rights situation in Mexico through direct documentation, media, partner organizations, and other sources of information.

c) International litigation and advocacy before numerous instances including the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights.

d) Education and training programs for civil society and communities in human rights issues.

e) Media advocacy at both the national and international level.