CALGARY, Alberta, June 26, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canada’s most out-spoken Catholic Bishop, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, is once again making headlines, this time as he comes head to head with the Calgary Catholic School Board.
The dispute between Bishop Henry and the Board is ostensibly over what the bishop says is the immoral practice of using monies raised by means of gambling. On a more fundamental level, however, it is a battle over what right a person or institution has to call themselves Catholic if they will not accede to the Church’s ecclesiastical powers when those powers are acting within the proper bounds of their authority.
In a pastoral letter on the matter, Bishop Henry explains that on December 9th, 2005 he renewed a request that he had made seven years previously—that the Calgary Catholic schools desist from fundraising monies by means of gambling, which, he says “exploits the weak and vulnerable.” On May 31st of this year the board formally refused to acquiesce to the bishop’s request, instead accepting a Task Force’s recommendation that Calgary schools remain free to determine what means to use to fundraise, including gambling.
“The acceptance of the Task Force’s recommendations constitutes a failure in Catholic leadership, pays lip-service to the pillar of ‘Catholicity,’ and is equivalent to Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage (cf. Gen. 25:29-34),” writes the bishop in the scathing pastoral letter that leaves little room for loose interpretation.
Ward 2 trustee, Janice Sarich, however, defended the Board’s decision, saying, “The feedback I’ve received from parents…is strongly against any motion that would restrict the flow of money generated by casinos,” according to the Edmonton Sun.
But in the Bishop’s opinion there is no room for negotiation; his request, he makes abundantly clear in the letter, is not a suggestion, but an order, and an order that he has the authority to enforce.
“Morality is not determined by a straw-vote,” he writes. “The School Board, the individual schools, and related parent councils and societies must get out of bingo and casino gambling fundraising activities. There is no question as to ‘what’ has to be done but there is room to negotiate ‘how’ and ‘when.’”
The School Board, and its trustees, says the bishop, must do more than merely “understand where the bishop is coming from.” He goes on to quote the Code of Canon Law—the code of law that governs matters in the Catholic Church—which states, “Even if it really be Catholic no school may bear the title Catholic school without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority,” suggesting that as Calgary’s “competent ecclesiastical authority” he would remove his consent for the schools to call themselves Catholic if the Board did not change its mind.
Well the good bishop’s argument is not about the "immoral practice of using monies raised by means of gambling", but instead that "gambling attracts a disproportionate number of welfare recipients, pensioners, and working poor" and that it is "morally wrong for a Catholic institution to formally cooperate in an industry that exploits the weak and vulnerable."
Bishop Henry always writes great pastoral letters.
The Trustees are not a parallel magisterium but accountable to the magisterium. They are not an official teaching body within the Catholic community on faith and morals. As Catholic Trustees, they have to do more than merely “understand where the bishop is coming from.”
The Code of Canon Law in 803 #3 states: “Even if it really be Catholic no school may bear the title Catholic school without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.” A Catholic school is an instrument of the Church and is one in which Catholic education is established, directed, recognized or consented to, by the local bishop, who is competent to issue prescriptions dealing with the general regulation of Catholic schools (Cf. Canon 806#1).
A Catholic school is one in which all instruction and education is grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine, subject to the authority of the Catholic Church. This dimension of accountability has not been adequately acknowledged by Administration and Trustees.
Their methodology featuring “the round-table” was also wrong. Morality is not determined by a straw-vote, participation was not inclusive of the whole Catholic community, and given the so-called “neutrality” of the trustees, the outcome was predetermined. My objections to the methodology were not considered significant.