Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 1, 2004
Revenue Canada threatens Henry
'Be quiet or lose charitable status' bishop was told
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
A defiant Bishop Fred Henry says threats from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) will not silence him.
In late June a CCRA officer asked Henry to remove a pastoral letter critical of Prime Minister Paul Martin from the diocesan website or risk losing the diocese's tax-exempt charitable status.
He didn't budge and four months later his pastoral letter is still online. "I didn't take down my pastoral letter," Henry said Oct. 26. "Believe it; it's still on my website."
The outspoken Calgary bishop says he will never back down from speaking the truth "regardless of the outcome and the consequences."
He wrote the short letter June 6, pointing out that Prime Minister Paul Martin's firm support of abortion and same sex marriage are a source of scandal in the Catholic community and reflects a "fundamental moral incoherence." The letter and an accompanying news story were published in the June 14 WCR.
"The reason I chose to write the pastoral letter was because Paul Martin was being presented in the media as a devout Catholic who despite his devotion and his Catholicity is espousing a position on abortion and on same-sex unions which is not in accord with Church teaching," Henry said Oct. 26.
"I thought I had an obligation as a bishop and as a teacher of the faith to respond. I wanted to correct the moral confusion and incoherence that Martin is espousing and to talk a little bit about what the role of the Catholic politician is for the benefit of my people."
The letter got the attention of the secular media and, as a result, Henry granted a number of interviews. This got the attention of CCRA.
Before long, the bishop got a call "from somebody working for Revenue Canada" saying a complaint had been made regarding his involvement in partisan politics.
"And I said, 'Wait a minute, slow everything down here. I haven't been involved in partisan politics and I am not in contravention of the Election Act. I have not told anybody how to vote, nor am I trying to influence their vote at all. I am simply trying to address, by way of a pastoral letter to my own people, moral inconsistence and incoherence.'
"And I said, 'Are you telling me that as a bishop I can't write a pastoral letter to my people at any time? If it happens to coincide with an election so what?' And, of course, the person on the other end of the line refused to answer that question."
The Revenue Canada officer then proceeded to tell Henry that he was in contravention of the Election Act and that the charitable tax status of his diocese "could be in jeopardy."
"I think he was trying basically to intimidate me or chastise me and to get me to be sufficiently penitent that I would promise that I would never, ever, do this thing again and apologize," Henry said.
"And I wasn't prepared to do that sort of thing so when he asked me if I was going to take down the pastoral letter from the website I said 'Absolutely not. Why should I?'"
David Hurl, press secretary for National Revenue Minister John McCallum, said Oct. 27 that confidentiality provisions prevent him from discussing any contact with Bishop Henry.
"I can't discuss whether a call was actually made or not," he said. "I can't discuss any particular charity or their interaction with Revenue Canada."
But Hurl explained CCRA's guidelines, saying the agency requires charities to keep out of partisan politics to maintain their tax-exempt status. "That's one of the agreements they make when they become a registered charity and become eligible for issuing tax receipts for people who make donations," he said.
"I didn't take down my pastoral letter, believe it; it's still on my website."
- Bishop Fred Henry
Letter to the Editor - 11/15/04
Letter to the Editor - 11/22/04
Letter to the Editor - 12/13/04
Letter to the Editor - 12/13/04
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