WINNIPEG, Manitoba, January 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In his first public statement since controversy broke last year, the Winnipeg Catholic school principal who was fired in November after promoting the 40 Days for Life campaign argues that he was used as a “scapegoat” by Church and school leaders to escape negative media attention.

David Hood, the former principal at Christ the King elementary school, was dismissed following the publication of an Oct. 12th Winnipeg Free Press article alleging that he was planning to offer academic credit to grade 7 and 8 students who attended the 40 Days prayer vigil.

The article, which got immediate national attention and was the newspaper’s “most commented on” piece for 2011, sparked calls for the school to lose its 50 percent funding from the government for “political activism.”

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In his first public comment since that initial interview with the Free Press, Hood accuses the news publication of grossly misrepresenting and twisting his remarks, and ultimately blames the paper for his dismissal.

An ardent pro-lifer and father of seven children, Hood laments that the “most vulnerable in our society” ended up getting caught in the middle of the dispute.  “[These are] the souls whom I was trying to protect in the first place,” he writes, “our future students and citizens who are still in the womb.  This is the real travesty.”

Hood explains that the Winnipeg Free Press got on the story when some parents complained after he had encouraged families to join the 40 Days for Life vigil in the school’s newsletter.

While, according to Hood, he had emphasized that joining 40 Days for Life would be voluntary, and had stressed to the Free Press reporter that he was new in the job and was merely considering allowing the 40 Days to count for community service hours and would have to pass it by other school staff, the Winnipeg Free Press nevertheless ran with the headline “Anti-abortion vigil earns credit.”

“In the article, the opening sentence stated that children of the school who walk in the daily vigil would receive community service credit.  Let me be clear, I did not state - and have never stated any such thing,” Hood writes.  “Under my watch, no credit was ever given.  You know this – why continue to propagate lies?”

“The fallout from these allegations has not only cost me my job of many dedicated years in Catholic education, but has caused undue hardship to my wife and family of seven children,” he adds.

After the Oct. 12th article, the school and the Archdiocese of St. Boniface immediately distanced themselves from Hood’s comments.  He was put on leave the next day and then reinstated temporarily on Oct. 25th.

“I feel I was used as a scapegoat by those in power - who became uncomfortable with the situation and the media attention it garnered,” Hood wrote in his statement.

The archdiocese’s Director of Education Robert Praznik insisted that the Catholic schools would not give community service credit for a “political activity.”  Praznik told LifeSiteNews after the controversy broke that the archdiocese’s schools would not get involved with the 40 Days for Life because of its ties to Campaign Life Coalition, a national pro-life group that works to secure full legal protection for the unborn.

Archbishop Albert LeGatt himself has participated in the city’s 40 Days vigil, which takes place outside Women’s Hospital, and even was the speaker at the midpoint rally in fall 2010.

“The ‘40 Days for Life Vigil’ is a peaceful and prayerful activity underscoring a major church teaching: ‘the sanctity of life from conception to natural death’,” writes Hood.  “While abortion may be a controversial issue in the public sphere, it is considered ‘a grave offence’ in the eyes of the Church. (Catechism of the Catholic Church Article 2270-2275)”

“We should not be apologizing for our Catholic beliefs. … Nor should one be chastised for promoting these beliefs to students within the Catholic system,” Hood insists.  “Those within the Catholic community, who question the Sanctity of Life and its profession to the masses, should seriously question their Catholicity.”

Hood concludes: “It should be understood that I am not bitter, nor do I hold any grudges or resentment.  I do however, feel the public - and those directly involved - deserve to hear the truth.”

Read David Hood’s complete statement here.

See Winnipeg Free Press article covering David Hood’s current statement.