Catholic parents question trustees over Calgary bishop's 'homophobic' letter

Some Edmonton parents are asking why Catholic trustees sent them a link to a Calgary bishop's controversial tirade against the province's new guidelines regarding gender identity in schools.

Edmonton trustees trapped between government policy and the church, parent says

Edmonton Catholic school parent, Michelle Comeau, said the school board should never have distributed Calgary's Bishop Fred Henry's letter protesting the province's new gender identity guidelines. (CBC)

Some Edmonton parents are asking why the Catholic school district sent them a link to a Calgary bishop's controversial tirade against the province's new guidelines regarding gender identity in schools. 

One parent Michelle Comeau said she believes trustees feel caught in the middle between what the government wants and what the church wants.

She thinks the district sent the letter to say, "Well we're doing what the province wants, but here's what the church wants and ... we're just caught in the middle."

Last week Calgary's Roman Catholic Bishop Fred Henry denounced the province's guidelines as "totalitarian" and "anti-Catholic."

Comeau, the mother of two students at Catholic schools in Edmonton, said Henry's letter was angry and homophobic and should never have been sent to parents.

"That letter is an awful letter," she said. "For me as a Catholic, that's an embarrassing letter."

Edmonton Catholic Schools sent the bishop's blog alongside the province's new guidelines to all parents in the school district on Friday.

One trustee, Patricia Grell, apologized to parents in her blog for the distribution of the letter.

"I wish to apologize to all those who were offended by the inclusion of Bishop Henry's letter in a communique sent to all ECSD parents," Grell wrote on Saturday.

"I was unsuccessful in convincing them (her fellow trustees) that it would not bode well for our district and the future of Catholic education if we allowed ourselves to participate in disseminating his uninformed views and comments."
Father Stefano Penna criticized Patricia Grell's post.

Board chair Marilyn Bergstra was unavailable for comment Sunday, though she tweeted Friday, "l'm looking into it. Never should have happened."

In a response to Grell's blog post, Father Stefano Penna, a vice president and professor at Newman Theological College in Edmonton, characterized Grell and the government as bullies, going as far to reference Naziism.

"You are completely in cahoots with those whose intent in this new attempt to bully anyone who does not 'speak the new language' of family, sexuality," he wrote.

"According to the new government regulations for 'Best Practices,' there is only one English that can be acceptable: the bizarre right-speak (the Nazi term was 'gleichschaltung') of graduate students and their faculty advisors in the Department of Eugenics … er … Racial Anthropology … er … Gender Diversity."

Comeau said that in her experience Catholic students have come to accept members of the LGBTQ community, at least as far as society in general.

"From what I can see with my kids and their friends, there's no issue with them. It's with the older people." 

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