TORONTO, March 15, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On Saturday March 9, the Toronto Star ran a story with the headline “Catholic parents disgusted by letter sent from parish priest containing provocative questions.” The story concerned a Catholic priest - Fr. Charles Forget - who sent a letter home to parents of children in Catholic schools calling them back to the practice of the faith, and the sacrament of confession along with a traditional examination of conscience – a document outlining various common sins to assist in reflection.
Star feature writer Leslie Scrivener noted that unnamed parents were disgusted by the letter claiming the adult-themed content was delivered in unsealed envelopes. Scrivener quoted parents who said it “made for an interesting conversation, where my kids were asking what abortion and masturbation were — since it came in an unsealed envelope addressed to no one, and they read it. Hardly appropriate material for a kindergarten to grade 8 school.”
Apart from presenting the anger of the unnamed parents Scrivener suggested that the school board was reviewing the matter and that even the Archdiocese of Toronto was opposed to the priest’s actions. “There was a more pastoral way to welcome people back to the church,” Neil MacCarthy, spokesperson for the archdiocese was quoted as saying. “You have to find the most caring way.”
However, when LifeSiteNews.com contacted Mr. MacCarthy, he told a very different story.
He noted that he had a 20-minute conversation with Scrivener in which he defended Fr. Forget’s right to contact parents through letters sent home with students. He said that the letters were intended for parents and that the envelopes were sealed; that confession is always a challenge; that only a small number had complained; that Fr. Forget didn’t even write the examination of conscience but used a traditional version available online.
Scrivener included only one quote from MacCarthy, a criticism of Father’s approach on a letter accompanying the examination of conscience.
The Star, said MacCarthy, “used one quote that implied I was referring to the examination of conscience, which was incorrect.”
MacCarthy told LifeSiteNews, “I will continue to do all that I can to support the diligent efforts and tireless work of Fr. Forget, all of our priests and the faithful of the archdiocese.”
MacCarthy noted that he was up front with Scrivener, telling her that The Toronto Star was exhibiting an especially “negative tone” about the Catholic Church.
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LifeSiteNews asked Scrivener for reaction to MacCarthy’s critique that she had misrepresented his remarks. Scrivener replied by e-mail saying McCarthy “explained that there are many types of Examination of Conscience, so, in addition to his quote, this material was also used in the story. Other information he provided was incorporated into the text.”
Scrivener added, “The Star has received no complaints on this story.”
LifeSiteNews was unable to communicate with Fr. Forget despite multiple phone call and e-mail attempts. The Toronto Star said Fr. Forget declined to comment to its reporter.
However, the parish bulletin at St. Leo the Great parish in Brooklin, where Fr. Forget is pastor, provides his own take on the situation.
In the bulletin he spoke of “a small group of people who have been fueling flames of hate towards me [and] the Catholic Church.” He noted, “Messages were sent that could never be repeated in civil company much less a parish bulletin.”
He described the parents going to the Star in the words of a blogger, as going to “a Catholic-hating, Catholic-baiting media outlet.”
Fr. Forget admits that the letter he sent accompanying the examination was a “blunt, straight forward message about the need for Catholics to attend Mass each Sunday and that not do so constitutes serious sin, a sin that some parents pass on to their children who will continue to do what their non-church-going parents have taught them.” He makes no apology though for the bluntness.
“Twenty years of priesthood has shown me that a soft, sweet and flowery letter would not have impacted anyone,” he wrote. “Considering our times of moral relativism, a loss of a sense of sin and a general attitude among some Catholics that all that is necessary in life is to ‘be nice’, I felt the language had to be honest and challenging.”
While he says “it certainly didn’t help that a representative of the Archdiocese said to the reporter that my letter wasn’t ‘pastoral’,” he dismisses the criticism, noting that “the letter was not the bone of contention at all.”
The parents in question were upset, he stressed, at the moral stances taken in the examination of conscience since they disagreed.
Fr. Forget concluded noting “There is a moral imperative upon every priest as a shepherd of souls to speak the truth that has been revealed by God, in season and out of season.” He recalled the Bible’s admonition to priests in the Book of Ezekiel, which instructs them to warn the wayward of their sins or else be responsible for them.
Fr. Forget ends by quoting a blogger, which for him sums up his defense. “The call of the conscience is very unpleasant indeed, but then again, so is the strident noise of the fire alarm, and we don't normally complain about it when it saves our lives. So do we really value our spiritual lives the same way?”
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Toronto Star public editor with whom concerns about articles are raised: