Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 17, 2000
Henry forgives Black for personal attack
Media baron launched tirade against Calgary bishop
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Bishop Frederick Henry has decided to forgive media baron Conrad Black after the Southam Inc. chair called him "a jumped-up little twerp of a bishop."
The head of the Calgary Diocese said he won't engage in a name-calling exercise with Black but regrets the fact Black has chosen that route.
"I regard the comments really as cheap shots," he said April 11. "I think they are hitting below the belt."
Meanwhile, the heads of Calgary's mainline churches have come to Henry's defence, calling Black remarks "outrageous and unchristian."
"We stand in solidarity with Bishop Henry - not at his request, but at our insistence," said an April 12 statement. "The Church of Calgary is one, and it is united. When outsiders choose to attack one of our leaders, they have attacked us all."
Henry said he's been told he probably has a legitimate cause for pursuing Black for defamation of character. But he won't respond that way.
"I think that basically my response to him has got to be a Christ-like response and that's basically to forgive him," he told the WCR. "In the heat of the moment he probably got carried away and said something that I'm sure he now (regrets)."
Black owns the Southam newspaper chain which includes The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald.
He attacked Henry in an opinion piece in the National Post after the bishop's April 3 article in the WCR about the five-month strike at the Herald. Henry's article was also published in The Catholic Register, newspaper of the Toronto Archdiocese.
In his article, Henry defended the workers' right to strike and took Black to task for insulting his workers, failing to consider their legitimate demands, and adopting an intransigent approach to the dispute.
In his reply, Black, a Catholic convert, referred to Henry as a "jumped-up little twerp of a bishop" and a "useful idiot" to the labour leaders involved in the Herald dispute.
He also accused Henry of "running off at his episcopal mouth" by wading into the Herald's dispute without hearing the side of management.
"I think our involvement in this whole issue has been on the basis of justice and substance of the issues and personalities have nothing to do with it," Henry said.
Black could not be reached for comment April 11.
Herald editorial and graphic workers have been on strike since Nov. 8, when talks on a first collective agreement stalled.
On April 7, the newspaper was ordered to return to the bargaining table to resume negotiations with the striking workers.
Their union, the Graphic Communications International Union, had filed a complaint under the Labour Relations Code arguing that the Herald wasn't bargaining in good faith.
The strike affects more than 230 reporters, copy editors, photographers and graphic artists.
Henry said the Church was invited to get involved in the Herald's dispute.
"The Church does not go around pushing its nose in where it's not wanted. In this instance, one of the parties felt that they were being treated unjustly and asked for a meeting with a couple of us religious leaders," he explained.
Henry said his article reminded Catholics of the Church's clear teaching on the right of workers to form a union.
"And it's not up to people like Conrad Black to say 'I'm going to acknowledge this or not.' No, this is a basic human right. Workers have the right to this sort of thing."
In their statement, Church leaders expressed concern with the escalation of the labour strife at the Herald. They called on the Herald's management to call both sides back to the table and on the unions to be flexible in the contract talks.
The leaders also called upon both sides to seek a made-in-Calgary solution to the dispute and offered themselves to both sides as mediators.
The statement is signed by Henry, Bishop Stephen Kristenson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, the Rev. Jim Wallace of the Calgary Evangelical Ministerial Association, Anglican Bishop Barry Hollowell and the Rev. Bill Phipps of the United Church.