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Archbishop Exner under attack.

Vancouver--In September of 2003, the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver cancelled a partnership with a credit union because of the latter's support for the "gay" community For nearly a decade, the Church has supported a junior banking program with the VanCity Credit Union (the country's largest) that teaches students about investing and saving money. Now the credit union has mounted an aggressive advertising campaign to win the support of gay and lesbian customers. One newspaper ad featured two men embracing with the caption , "I want to bank with people who value all partnerships."

Not surprisingly, the archdiocese took exception to this campaign and ordered all four Catholic schools participating in the program to stop. One school had run the program for seven years and enrolled 600 students in it. In a four-page letter to the credit union, the archbishop said that the bad effects of the Church's association with VanCity outweighed the benefits of the program. "VanCity in its advertising and by its sponsorship has publicly manifested its support for agendas which are worrisome and harmful to the church and society," he said.

Curiously, the decision took VanCity by surprise, and angered the homosexuals who had appreciated the credit union's efforts to attract them. Kevin Sampson, president of Dignity, a group of "gay" Catholics, called the archdiocesan move "retrogressive," and urged Catholics to protest. And VanCity CEO Dave Mowat said the credit union is proud of its attempt to include the gay and lesbian community, calling it "a natural evolution." "Thirty years ago, when we started making loans to women without their husbands as cosigners, people thought that was crazy too. So, it's all a continuum I think."

After the news story appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the paper received hundreds of letters about it, most of them criticizing Archbishop Exner. The Archbishop was threatened by an angry mob of protesters outside his window late at night. In a column which appeared in the Sun on October 1, the Archbishop replied that the Church had taken a principled stand at considerable pain to itself and others. "We accept that many people do not agree with that stand. But you do not have to agree with our principles to understand the decision and our right to make it."

He noted that the news opened the floodgates to letters, e-mails, phone calls and faxes, "alleging everything from bigotry to fascism. The word 'Nazis' was even used." He found himself accused of teaching "intolerance" and "hatred of homosexuals."

Church teaching, he said, stresses the dignity of homosexual people. "At the same time, it is discouraging when people of faith are accused of hatred, intolerance and fascism for acting according to their principles. ... Catholics have a right to their beliefs and a right to act on their beliefs. Some of the public comment seems to deny us these basic rights."


Two comments on this stand seem appropriate. First, Archbishop Exner is to be commended for acting upon principle. Second, the incident --once again--illustrates the danger of passing Bill C-250 (adding "sexual orientation" to the Hate Crimes Act), when even now, without that addition, Catholics are accused of hatemongering.
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Title Annotation:Canada
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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