It’s tough when asked to name the individual in Calgary one most admires—there are so many good souls in our city.
One ponders Art Smith, the Second World War bomber squadron hero who has done so much for the poor in our community, and lawyer Gordon Hoffman, who spends as much time on charitable endeavours as he does trying to make a living.
Yet, pushed, I have to come down to Bishop Fred Henry, our outspoken leader of the Roman Catholic diocese.
Particularly so when, while having to face an Alberta Human Rights Commission investigation, he still has the courage to speak out and defend his Church’s beliefs.
The investigation stems from allegations spurred by individuals I consider to be simply mischief-makers, publicity hounds and malcontents who filed complaints against him for taking a stand in favour of traditional marriage.
The probe could lead to him to being found guilty of hate crimes.
Facing enormous legal costs to defend his good name and the freedom to speak on his Church’s centuries-old doctrines, I thought being hauled before the commission might shut him up. But, no, this faithful servant of God hasn’t been deterred. This past week, he sent out another pastoral letter to his flock, similar to the one that brought on the charges, and defended his beliefs again in “We should lead fight for marriage” (May 1), in his regular monthly column in the Sunday Sun.
Now, on many issues, Bishop Fred has been a little too far to the left for me—though he may refute the term left, saying he is just speaking on issues of social conscience—but that doesn’t mean I can’t admire his qualities, and his courage.
Once, the bishop wrote if in North America we all stopped eating ice cream and buying pet food, we could feed the starving millions in Africa and Asia.
On the first point, in humour I replied the ice cream would have melted far before it ever reached Africa and Asia.
On the second, the bishop really did err: I have the cutest Shih Tzu puppy—Muffin—you ever saw. Whenever I look at her, she renews my faith in God. Only He could have created such a lovely and loving creature. There is no way an animal who has brought so much happiness into a person’s life isn’t going to Heaven. Tell me that’s so, Bishop Fred.
Back to the current witch hunt.
Bishop Henry’s arguments, in his various pastoral letters and columns, are firmly implanted in the Bible, and in particular the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 6:9-11.
Are certain passages in the Bible now to be banned?
He speaks of the ageless belief of the Roman Catholic Church that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman and sanctioned by God. He defends the traditional family unit as the bedrock of any stable society.
Is the Roman Catholic Church now going to be censured for this belief?
Well, Bishop Henry is certainly being pilloried for expressing his faith’s views. In many ways, he himself has now become a “victim” of our political system.
Here’s a major flaw in the Alberta Human Rights Commission process: Anyone can file a complaint and it doesn’t cost them a single penny. Yet, to defend himself, Bishop Henry has had to go to one of Canada’s top law firms, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, and get them to prepare an enormous brief.
The costs the diocese will incur could have been spent on any of the charitable and community works performed by the church in our city.
Instead, time and money will be wasted on what the vast majority of rational and fair individuals would consider an utterly outrageous attempt to not only blemish the bishop’s good name but, indirectly, frighten ministers of all other Christian denominations from quoting the Bible, defending the sanctity of marriage and working to preserve the family.
The likes of Chretien, Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan gave assurances when the same-sex marriage issue was raised that no religious leader or church had to fear persecution for defending their beliefs.
We now find this isn’t true.
It could soon be open season on all religions: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and whatever.
If the good bishop is dragged before a kangaroo court—a Star Chamber—the individuals, particularly the politicians, who allowed this to happen should fear some serious wrath.
Copyright ? 2005 Paul Conrad Jackson.
Click here to read Paul Jackson’s full and fascinating biography. Paul Conrad Jackson is one of Canada’s most distinguished and thought-provoking journalists. He is currently senior political commentator for the Calgary Sun and other related newspapers, after being both Editor and Associate Editor for a number of years. Mr. Jackson has interviewed such world famous political figures as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, John Diefenbaker, Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, Yitshak Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu.