One of the promotional materials for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace's fall 2011 campaign. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, who oversee the organization, put a hold on the 2012 campaign until Oct. 15 so CCODP can cut down on its political material.
By Malin Jordan
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is in the news again. This time it surrounds their annual fall education campaign, now put on hold by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) until Oct. 15 so that the organization can come up with less political material.
CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith put the brakes on CCODP after several bishops across Canada complained about its "educational" pamphlets and postcards that were to be given out in dioceses across the country.
Ever the political activists, CCODP was attempting to use its annual education campaign to encourage Catholics across Canada to lobby the government. The campaign looked to open up a conversation over the "direction of Canada's foreign aid policy." One postcard was even addressed to Prime Minster Stephen Harper. It asked the PM to "launch a national consultation on the future of Canadian development assistance."
Although these are valid questions for CCODP to ask the government, it was misguided to try to get Canadians to lobby on their behalf.
Michael Casey, CCODP's president, defended the idea, telling The Catholic Register, "We wanted to see if a constructive critique of this policy from our perspective could get a hearing."
It was right for the bishops to ask for less political materials. And it was wrong of Casey and CCODP to attempt to get Catholics across Canada to lobby the PMO.
After a lot of controversy over the last few years relating to CCODP's partners in the global south (including organizations in Peru, Haiti, and Mexico that had ties with abortion and /or contraceptive advocacy groups) this latest move by the organization leaves me scratching my head over what is going on in the Montreal office.
And the bishops must think so too. It's significant that this is the first time the CCCB has blocked materials from the group over its 45-year history.
It all looks and feels like a political propaganda push, wrapped in the guise of education, coming on the heels of this spring's funding disappointment. CCODP had asked the government for almost $50 million over the next five years, but they were only granted $14.5 million, 35 per cent of their previous five-year grant. It's incorrect, and misleading, to say the grant money CCODP was awarded was a "funding cut." It would be nice to count on that money going forward, but it only ever was a grant in the first place.
But rather than use the new, lesser grant, as a wake-up call to reform and restructure, and expurgate a lot of the needless left-wing political rhetoric from CCODP, it seems political activism may be triumphing again. Instead of refocusing their efforts to realign a bloated infrastructure (CCODP has 60 unionized, employees that are part of the pro-abortion Quebec union CSN) the group has decided to continue down an old path.
We have a very large and a very generous church. The $14.5-million grant should have allowed CCODP the opportunity to reset and to look for ways to build some bridges with Catholics who have been alienated by the group over the last three years - many of whom don't give to CCODP anymore.
I think a lot of Catholics would support CCODP if they got out of the left-wing political game. The Church is neither left nor right; the Church is Catholic.
It was right of the bishops to put CCODP's fall fundraising campaign on hold until they can strip the politics out of their traditional education campaign. This is another recent sign of some good leadership by the CCCB and they should be applauded.
CCODP does some excellent work. It would be a shame if a shadow continues to be cast over their ministry because of a thirst for politics over corporal works of mercy.