In my recent Pastoral Letter, I wrote that the Alberta Government Gender Guidelines issued on January 13 show no evidence of consultation with, or sensitivity to, the Catholic community. They breathe pure secularism. This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology.
If you are reading this piece in the hopes of discovering an apology and/or a retraction, you might as well stop reading right now. That's simply not going to happen.
I have received considerable support for what I said and the way in which I said it. Nevertheless, there were a few "nay-sayers" some have called for my resignation, others have resorted to unpublishable name calling, and of course, there were several references to the famous catch-all these days, "Who are you to judge?" The later suggesting that I was espousing a teaching contrary to the openness of Pope Francis.
In point of fact, Pope Francis has said quite a bit about gender. "The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one's own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it" [Laudato Si 155].
Furthermore, in Sacred Scripture there are different but interrelated sets of texts about judgment. Without attempting to be exhaustive, there are at least three that are especially noteworthy:
1) Warnings about judgment: "Stop judging that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged...." This is not an injunction against judgment, but a warning that the judgment should be rendered with a good heart free from hypocrisy, arrogance, meanness of spirit, or hate. Consequently, "remove the beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye." The principal purpose of a judgment is to help a brother or sister avoid debilitating actions and improve. The awesome burden of judging is the realization that we will be "judged as we have judged." Some cite the incident of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus by those who would stone her as evidence that we should not judge others. Nothing could be further from the truth. The incident manifests God's mercy and loathing of hypocrisy, but he did judge her behavior as evidenced by his admonition: "Go and sin no more."
2) Instances of judgment abound: Peter to Simon the magician "...for your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness of yours... for I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chain of wickedness" [Acts 8: 20-23]. Paul to Elymas, "you son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of the Lord?" [Acts 13:9-10]; and Paul to Peter, "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he clearly was wrong" [Gal 2:11].
3) Cautions particularly to overseers or leaders about judgments: "Thus says the Lord: you, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me if I tell the wicked, 'oh, wicked one, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked one from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself" [Ezekiel 33: 7-9].
Paul's advice to Timothy is difficult for some of us: "Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, and that they may return to their senses out of the devil's snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will" [2 Tim 2: 23-26].
Only God can judge the state of the human soul but it is pure nonsense to suggest we cannot and should not judge human behaviour. Reluctance to judge moral behaviour is the inevitable consequence of moral relativism and moral subjectivism that has eroded confidence in the ability to determine objective moral truth on which sound judgment is based.
The last word on this subject belongs to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: "How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves thrown from one extreme to the other.... Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error [cf Ephesians 4, 14].
Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labelled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an 'Adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties.
A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth" [Way of the Cross in 2005 for Good Friday].
☩ F. B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
It saddens me to say but totalitarianism is alive and well in Alberta
Prior to becoming Pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio on May 25, 2012 gave a "Te Deum" homily commemorating the establishment of Argentina's first national government following the revolution of 1810. The major thrust of his homily was that only the commandment of love, in all of its simplicity - steady, unassuming, but firm in conviction and in commitment to others - can save us. We need to re-root ourselves in a sovereign love that is simple and deep, to love God above all else and our neighbour as ourselves.
Two forms of deception impede the realization of any plan as a nation, i.e., the madness of relativism and the madness of power as a monolithic ideology.
"Relativism, under the guise of respect for differences, is homogenized into transgression and demagoguery; it allows anything, because it wishes to avoid being burdened by all the inconveniences required of a mature courage to uphold values and principles. Relativism, is curiously, absolutist and totalitarian. Relativism does not allow for any differing opinion. In no way does it differ from an attitude of "shut up" or "don't get involved."'
Power as a monolithic ideology is another lie which accentuates narrow-mindedness and seeks dominance over others. Consequently, social trust, the root and fruit of love is eroded.
On November 5, 2015, David Eggen, the Minister of Education issued an edict to Boards Chairs of Public, Separate, Francophone and Charter School Boards re learning environments that respect diversity and foster a sense of belonging. Board policies are to be shared with him, together with the required regulations or procedures by March 31, 2016.
"It is important to specifically address the board's responsibility as it relates to the LBTQ community.... As part of my review, I will also be looking for evidence of policy and regulations or procedures related specifically to Section 16.1 of the School Act and the support for the establishment of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and queer-straight alliances (QSAs)..."
The Alberta Government "Guidelines" issued on January 13th show no evidence of consultation with or sensitivity to the Catholic community. They breathe pure secularism.
This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology. Such a totalitarian approach is not in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada opinion (Loyola) delivered on March19, 2015 and must be rejected.
Catholic schools share a foundational belief that all children are loved by God, are individually unique and that the school has a mission to help each student to fulfill their God-given potential in all aspects of their persons: physically, academically, socially, morally and spiritually.
Our Catholic schools are committed to supporting inclusive communities that teach care and compassion for every person, regardless of age, race, sex, gender or sexual orientation, and require that every person be treated with dignity and respect.
Our teaching is rather simple and direct. God created beings as male and female. In doing so, he gave equal dignity to both man and woman. In his plan, men and women should respect and accept their sexual identity. God created both the body and sex as good. Hence, we do not approach sexuality with fear or with hostility to the flesh. It is a gift of God by which men and women participate in his saving plan and respond to his call to grow in holiness.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that sexuality involves the whole person. "Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude of forming bonds of communion with others" (CCC, no.2332).
All persons - married, single, religious and ordained - need to acquire the virtue of chastity. "Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus, the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being."(CCC, no.2337).
Chastity unites our sexuality with our entire human nature. It approaches sexuality as related to our spiritual natures so that sex is seen as more than a physical act. Sexuality affects the whole person because of the unity of body and soul. Jesus is the model of chastity.
"Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom"(CCC, no.2339). The acquisition of chastity depends on self-discipline and leads to internal freedom, which enables human beings to temper sexual desires according to God's plan for the appropriate expression of love in the marital relationship of a man and a woman..
GSAs and QSAs are highly politicized ideological clubs which seek to cure society of "homophobia" and "heterosexism," and which accept the idea that all forms of consensual sexual expression are legitimate. The view of sexuality that they espouse is not Catholic.
The Supreme Court held that "to tell a Catholic school how to explain its faith undermines the liberty of the members of its community who have chosen to give effect to the collective dimension of their religious beliefs by participating in a denominational school"(para.62), "ìt amounts to requiring a Catholic institution to speak about Catholicism in terms defined by the state rather than by its own understanding of Catholicism" (par.63), and "ìt also interferes with the rights of parents to transmit the Catholic faith to their children" and the "rights of parents to guide their children's religious upbringing"(para. 64 & 65).
☩ F. B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary