On January 13, 2016 The Most Reverend Frederick Bernard Henry, the seventh Catholic Bishop of the diocese of Calgary well and truly lost it.
Henry wrote a pastoral letter denouncing Education Minister David Eggen’s “edict” that public, Catholic, French and charter school boards must support LBTQ students who wish to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and queer-straight alliances (QSAs) in accordance with section 16.1 of the School Act.
He said it was an act of totalitarianism.
Henry’s argument (if one can call it that) is this:
- Before Pope Francis became pope he gave a speech about the need for “sovereign love”. This was in the context of Argentina’s election of a new government and serves no purpose other than to give Henry a flimsy platform for his allegation that the NDP government is totalitarian.
- The “madness of relativism and the madness of power as a monolithic ideology” impede sovereign love. Henry is concerned you won’t buy his totalitarian argument so he’s thrown in relativism (judgment is relative, it depends on the situation, the person, or the era) and power as a monolithic ideology (10 principles espoused by Kim Yong-ju, younger brother of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung demanding absolute loyalty to The Great Leader).
- Eggen’s “edict” is secular and anti-Catholic and smacks of relativism and totalitarianism. Why? Because Henry says so.
- Catholic schools believe all children are loved by God (including LBTQ students presumably).
- Catholic schools are inclusive, teaching compassion for everyone regardless of age, race, sex, gender or sexual orientation…but…
- God created males and females and they should accept their sexual identities.
- Sexuality, as defined by Henry, means the capacity to love and procreate.
- Sexuality is tempered “according to God’s plan for the appropriate expression of love in the marital relationship of a man and a woman”. Ah, so that’s it. Eggen’s plan violates God’s plan which apparently was delivered directly from God’s lips to Henry’s ear.
- GSAs and QSAs are “highly politicized ideological clubs” intended to cure society of “homophobia” and “heterosexism” and this is not a Catholic view of sexuality. No kidding! It’s also not the NDP’s view, or any sane person’s view, of Section 16.1 of the School Act.
- And lastly, the Supreme Court of Canada in the Loyola case said the state cannot tell a Catholic school how to explain its faith. True, but in the Loyola case, the state won a partial victory. Quebec passed legislation making all schools teach a course on world religions in which doctrine, practices and ethics would be taught neutrally. Schools could apply for an exemption if they offered an alternative course. Loyola wanted to teach the course from a Catholic perspective. The SCC said Loyola had to teach doctrine and practices neutrally but it could teach ethics from a Catholic perspective. NOTE: Henry is not offering a Catholic alternative to GSAs and QSAs. He’s denouncing them as anti-Catholic heresy.
There’s relativism and then there’s politically correct relativism
Does Henry’s unwavering belief in universal truth untainted by relativism apply to all societal issues? Um, no.
The Catholic Church played a major role in assimilating Aboriginal children into the Euro-Canadian Christian culture by removing them from their families and placing them in residential schools. It was a universal truth that assimilation was the only way to treat Canada’s Aboriginal population.
However, on Feb 24, 2014 Henry joined the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the NWT to apologize for the role of the Catholic Church in this process. Apparently Henry’s belief in the absolute doctrines of the Catholic Church has some limits.
Let’s try this as a limit: Children should not suffer at the hands of bigots. Not in residential schools in the interests of assimilation, nor in Catholic schools because a bishop thinks Catholic doctrine is under threat.
How sad that a man of Bishop Henry’s stature fails to understand the first principle—God loves all children, period.