Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 3, 2006
Henry ups the ante for local schools
He will skip school opening liturgy due to lack of unity
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"They more or less patted me on the head and sent me on my merry way and said, 'Well, we just can't do that'."
- Bishop Fred Henry
In the interview, Henry said he purposely has not defined what blacklisting might mean.
"The blacklisting could entail anything from just simply saying as a bishop I'm not going to accept any invitation from any school that's involved in casinos. Or it could mean that I'm going to order my priests to withhold all services from any parish that's involved in this immoral activity. It could mean any one of a number of different things."
The bishop agreed his measures are drastic, but he said he's been talking to the district for seven years about outlawing bingo and casino involvement.
The first time he made the request, "They more or less patted me on the head and sent me on my merry way and said, 'Well, we just can't do that' and nothing more was made of it."
In the meantime he got all his parishes out of casino reliance and casino dependencies. "We don't have one parish that's relying upon bingo revenues in any fashion," he noted. "And the Knights of Columbus, of course, are moving to disengage totally from casino and gambling revenues."
He went back to the school district and told them the problem of gambling was getting so bad in some instances parents were being offered money to work at casinos. "And again they said, 'Let's study this' and I said okay and I didn't say anything publicly for six months.
"Finally they come back and they said, 'Well, we can't do without this money. We are sorry bishop, we understand where you are coming from but we are going to carry on.
"And I said well, actions have consequences."
Williams said, "The only difference that we have with the bishop is he asked us to ban it completely and come up with a sort of drop-dead date, if you will, and we as a school said that at this point in time that was impossible."
"The question was is it a decision of the board or is it the decision of the parents? And we chose to say that it was a parents' decision as to whether they participated (in casinos and bingos) or not.
"What we were told by parents is that (banning casinos or bingos as a fundraising method) would have no effect on the proliferation of gambling or the addicts, but it would have a profound effect on the ability to serve the needs of the students."
Henry said it is unacceptable for a board with a budget of $348 million to rely on $2 million from bingo and casino revenues.
"And I am quite sure that they can find all kinds of ways to save $2 million (and stop engaging in this activity) that takes advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our society."
Henry also said the board has to continue lobbying the government for more money. "I think the government is committed to chronic under-funding of education and is quite happy when we start going out trying to raise funds on our own."
He called the under-funding of education in Alberta "obscene."
The bishop also thinks schools that don't engage in fundraising through gambling should teach the rest how to do it. "If we have schools that we would say are have-schools or affluent schools, they must be put in a position where they are willing to share with the have-not schools," he said.
The bishop has suggested that it may be time to consider establishing an independent Catholic foundation with the power to request and receive funds and disburse them accordingly to Catholics schools in southern Alberta.
"We have been criticized for not just banning (casinos as a fundraising method)," lamented Williams. "What is banning going to do? It's not going to stop what's going on right now.
"The school boards that have just banned it, what have they done to deal with the proliferation of gambling other than banning it?"
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.