TORONTO, Oct. 25, 2004 The Catholic Civil Rights League (ccrl.ca) today criticized Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CRA) for asking Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary to remove a pastoral letter from the diocesan website or risk losing the dioceses income tax-exempt status as a charitable organization.
Bishop Henry had written the letter last spring, pointing out that Prime Minister Paul Martins firm support of abortion and same sex marriage are a source of scandal in the Catholic community and reflects a fundamental moral incoherence. The prime minister is often described as a devout Catholic in the media. A CRA official called soon afterward, and asked Bishop Henry to remove the letter from the diocesan website. The letter, which named no political party and did not tell parishioners how to vote, remained online.
Bishop Henry was upholding basic teachings of the Catholic faith in a pastoral letter written to his parishioners, said Phil Horgan, vice president of CCRL. This is his moral duty, not a political activity. Its high time CRA learned the difference.
The recent confirmation of Bishop Henrys call from Revenue Canada follows news earlier in the year that officials from The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops were invited to Ottawa to discuss updated guidelines for charities and political activity, and were told that their member Churches should not speak out on explicitly partisan issues during the election campaign. The two organizations represent many of the religious groups that oppose same sex marriage.
CRAs own guidelines state that charitable organizations, which include almost all churches in Canada, can devote no more than 10 per cent of their resources to political activities. Clearly, any diocese is well within that guideline, notes Mr. Horgan. CRA had no right to make a request of this kind to Bishop Henry.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244, firstname.lastname@example.org