Development and Peace, the foreign-aid charity of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, is funding a Bolivian organization that actively campaigns for legal abortion.

The group is a feminist “women’s health” non-governmental organization operating in La Paz, Bolivia, known as “Centro de Promoción y Salud Integral,” or CEPROSI.

This is what Susana Inch Sainz, a pro-life lawyer and pro-life leader in La Paz, told the Register last week about CEPROSI: “During the 2004-2005 [legislative year], a strong pro-abortion law, under the name of ‘Sexual and Reproductive Rights’ was passed by Congress in Bolivia but finally vetoed by the then-President. In order to force the government to pass the law, several pro-abortion organizations in the country created the ‘Vigilant Round Table of Sexual and Reproductive Rights,’ as well as the ‘Regional Committees for Sexual of Reproductive Health,’ as a way to openly promote abortion at a grassroots level. The Centro de Promoción y Salud Integral, CEPROSI, was one of the most militant, radical and active in this process.”

As well, CEPROSI currently is listed on the Internet as a Bolivian contact organization on the Feminist Majority Foundation’s GlobalFeminism network. The same website that lists CEPROSI as a GlobalFeminism contact has an entire section devoted to “Reproductive Rights” that contains extensive information regarding the promotion of abortion.

Development and Peace features its association with CEPROSI on page 9 of its “Share Lent 2009: World Solidarity Tour” mini-magazine. The mini-magazine, which is entitled “I Believe, I Give,” is being distributed with Canadian parishes’ weekly bulletins during Lent.

In its parish bulletin literature, Development and Peace states, “Development and Peace is proud to have been partners with CEPROSI since 2003.”

Development and Peace has a history of involvement with pro-abortion organizations, most notably through its participation at the start of this decade in the feminist “March of Women” initiative.

After the National Catholic Register disclosed in the summer of 2000 that Catholic Relief Services was listed as a March of Women supporter, the U.S. bishops immediately stated that CRS was not a supporter of the pro-abortion March.

In contrast with the swift action taken by CRS and the U.S. bishops to disassociate themselves from any suggestion of support for the March — an international feminist initiative that featured the promotion of abortion as one of its objectives — Development and Peace refused to withdraw its own support from the March of Women despite protests from Catholic pro-lifers and from a number of Canadian bishops.

In the face of continuing criticism over its actions, Development and Peace eventually disassociated itself in February 2001 from the March’s “follow-up activities,” but did so only after the March itself had taken place in the fall of 2000. And a statement affirming Development and Peace’s support for the March itself continues to be posted here at the organization’s website.

Additionally, the Lifesite news service reported last week that Development and Peace is funding several pro-abortion organizations in Mexico — to the tune of $135,000 over the last year and up to $665,000 over the 2006-2011 spending period.

Asked by Lifesite about Development and Peace’s funding of groups that support pro-abortion advocacy in predominantly Catholic Mexico, Gilio Brunelli, director of international programs for Development and Peace, said his organization does not withhold funding from pro-abortion groups or investigate thoroughly whether they advocate for abortion.

“The criterion is not pro-life or pro-abortion,” said Brunelli.  “If the piece of work they propose to us is something we want to support it is something that is within our parameters, if yes we support them, if not we don’t.”

“So your organization doesn’t have any policy for or against abortion at all?” Lifesite asked for clarification.  “No we don’t,” Brunelli said, adding that such matters are “not our role. It’s the role of our bishops.” 

The National Catholic Register first contacted Brunelli and other officials of Development and Peace last Thursday by phone and by e-mail about the organization’s funding of CEPROSI, shortly before Lifesite published its report on the funding of the pro-abortion groups in Mexico.

At the time this report was posted today on the Daily Blog, no reply had been provided to the Register to questions submitted on Thursday via e-mail to Brunelli.

But Michael Casey, Development and Peace’s executive director, did post a statement March 13 on the organization’s website strongly criticizing Lifesite’s article that reported on the funding of pro-abortion groups in Mexico.

“I strongly and unequivocally reiterate to you that the work of Development and Peace fully respects and follows the teachings of the Catholic Church on the inherent dignity of the human person,” Casey said in the statement. “We do not, in any way, support projects that would contravene these fundamental principles, most certainly not projects related to abortion.”

The National Catholic Register will continue to pursue its inquiries regarding Development and Peace’s funding of CEPROSI and other groups associated with pro-abortion advocacy and will report fully on Development and Peace’s response to our questions, if such a response is made available.