The Archdiocese of Toronto is joining other Canadian dioceses withholding funds from the international development agency sponsored by the Canadian bishops’ conference.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is an overseas development agency sponsored by the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops. A recent investigation found that the agency has partnered with organizations upholding policies contradictory to Catholic Church teaching, particularly on matters of abortion, contraception and gender theory.

“A recent review of CCODP partners, conducted by representatives of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has produced alarming concerns about dozens of overseas organizations,” said Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto in an April 11 statement, according to the Canadian Catholic News.

“It is critical to ensure that it allocates no funds to projects or groups that operate contrary to the moral and social teachings of the Church,” Collins continued.

Seven other dioceses have withdrawn financial support from CCODP, including St. Catharine, Edmonton, St. Paul, Nelson, and Whitehorse. The Archdiocese of Toronto said that it would freeze around $800,000 CAD earmarked for CCODP until the matter is settled.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton said April 4 that approximately 40 CCODP partners have shown “evidence of conflict with Catholic moral and social teaching” which does not “demonstrate full respect for the sanctity of human life.”

Smith noted that the probe was initiated after concerns were raised in a February meeting with the Assembly of Western and Northern Canadian Catholic Bishops.

Other Canadian bishops, including Bishop Hector Vila of Whitehorse and Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary have said that partners of the CCODP have endorsed practices which advocate policies “not in compliance with Catholic teachings.”

Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver said that his diocese would be pulling funding from CCODP “temporarily” until they receive “clear assurance” that the group is complying with Church values.

CCODP, which was founded in 1967 by the bishops of Canada, is cooperating with the ongoing investigation. The organization’s deputy director, Romain Duguay, said his staff will comply fully with the “joint research project.”

“We are confident that this process will strengthen the relationship with the bishops, and they will see that we are actually very strong about the position of the Church and all the values that the Church wants to promote,” Duguay said.

Duguay said that CCODP has partnered with local groups whose missions may have evolved over time, developing values not in line with Catholic doctrine. If the investigation finds this to be the case, Duguay said they will terminate the problematic partnerships and will “go in search of another partner.”

Funds earmarked for CCODP are typically raised during Lenten diocesan campaigns. Several bishops have said that if they are not convinced that CCODP is fully aligned with Catholic teaching, they will use their reserved funds for other charitable organizations.

A similar investigation took place with CCODP in 2009. As a result of that investigation, the organization cancelled some projects.  

“The archbishop has raised serious questions and they need to be answered,” Duguay said.