Calgary Roman Catholic Bishop Fred Henry on November 10, 2015
He called provincial guidelines for protecting LGBTQ students “totalitarian,” labelled Justin Trudeau in 2014 as “tweedledum-dumb” after the Liberal leader declared that all future candidates were expected to be pro-choice, and he blasted legislation allowing physician-assisted suicide.
After leading Calgary’s Roman Catholics for almost two decades, Bishop Frederick Henry, 73, whose outspoken views made him a polarizing figure and seemingly at odds with Pope Francis’ “gentle conservatism,” announced his resignation Wednesday, citing health reasons.
Observers said his successor, who will oversee 67 parishes and missions serving more than 435,000 Catholics, would be wise to take a less combative approach to the pressing issues of the day.
“When it comes to social issues, Bishop Henry saw himself as something of a prophet — saw himself as someone who needed to speak out against injustice. Where he may have been faulted was the way he did it, rather than what he was actually saying,” said Irving Hexham, a professor of religious studies at the University of Calgary.
“He was like a bull in a china shop.”
In his resignation letter to Pope Francis, Henry cited his health as the main reason for stepping down; he said he suffers from a debilitating type of arthritis for which there is no cure.
“I believe that someone younger with more energy, stamina and pastoral vision should take over the role of Ordinary for the Diocese of Calgary. … I have given it my best and I am past my ‘best due date’ – it is time to retire.”
Pope Francis accepted the resignation and appointed Rev. William McGrattan, 60, bishop of the Diocese of Peterborough, Ont., to succeed him.
The mandatory retirement age for bishops is 75 and the vast majority of them stay in their posts until then, said Denis Coday, editor of the National Catholic Reporter. However, it is not unusual for bishops with health issues and who are close to the mandatory age to seek early retirement.
Henry, who declined an interview request, frequently made headlines for his positions on a range of social issues. In early 2016, he denounced provincial guidelines for schools to protect transgender students and support for gay-straight alliance clubs.
“The government is engaged in social re-engineering, imposing an ideology and indoctrinating children without parental consultation, input and support,” he wrote on his blog. Critics said his position was out of touch with the realities faced by today’s youth.
Henry reportedly said in 2003 that then-prime minister Jean Chretien, who is Catholic, was “putting at risk his eternal salvation” and making a “morally grave error” for putting forward same-sex marriage legislation.
Bishop of Peterborough, Most Rev. William McGrattan
In 2008, he supported a ban on offering a vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in Catholic schools, writing that “popular wisdom these days insists that because we can’t stop our children from engaging in premarital sex, and because such sex can be dangerous and have bad effects, we should do everything we can to protect our youngsters by vaccinating them against the HPV virus.” Such a course, he said, is “emblematic of a collective loss of nerve in the face of powerful libertine pressures within our culture.”
Hexham said he thinks Henry and Pope Francis were likely closely aligned when it came to theology. The difference between them was that while the pontiff was a “gentle conservative,” Henry came across as hostile.
“There are a lot of issues in modern society that we haven’t thought through. There tends to be a herd instinct. (Henry) was objecting to that,” Hexham said. “Some of his objections were valid; he was raising genuine issues. It was the way he was raising them that put people’s backs up.”
But Tim Callaway, a protestant pastor in the Calgary area for the past 20 years, said many of Henry’s positions were simply outdated.
“He reflects his age on contemporary topics. (His positions) are stiff and inflexible,” Callaway said, which is problematic when so many millennials have written off the institutional church as being relevant.
“He’s very conservative, very traditional. He’s part of the old boys’ club. He’s the company boy. And that’s fine. The problem I have as a protestant pastor, whether we like it or not, is the times are changing, especially when you’re interacting with young people.”
I believe that someone younger with more energy, stamina and pastoral vision should take over the role.
Kristopher Wells, a professor with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, told The Canadian Press that Henry was “no friend” of the LGBTQ community and “out of step” with the values of most Albertans.
“I really hope that a new bishop will seek to build bridges and use faith as a way to include rather than exclude.”
Henry did manage to find common ground with the province on some issues, including climate change, inequality and poverty, said Shannon Phillips, Alberta’s environment minister.
McGrattan, who will be installed on Feb. 27, seemed to signal a different approach in an interview with a Calgary radio station on Wednesday.
“We do have to respect the dignity of each human person, and that is foremost,” he told News Talk 770. “That’s the message of Pope Francis as well, we need to meet every person and extend to them that dignity.”
National Post, with files from the Calgary Herald
This article was sourced from http://discountmagazine-subscriptions.com