For the past few months I have read in disbelief as The Winnipeg Free Press manipulated comments I allegedly made in a short interview with staff writer, Nick Martin (Oct. 12, 2011). Like a good piece of gossip, the story gained the attention of the national media. The story was ‘the most commented on’ in 2011 - as indicated in your article of Friday’s paper, January 30, 2011. But on what are they commenting I ask?
Once again, the headline “Anti-abortion vigil earns credit” could not be further from the truth. 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.
Why speak out now? Ask anyone who knows me. I am not one to propagate division, blame or demand vindication. Some might say I decided to turn the other cheek. As Catholics, we are asked to bear wrongs patiently and forgive those who injure us. Rest assured, I have.
However, after much discernment, and at the prompting and encouragement from many dear friends, I will attempt to set the record straight.
In September 2011, as Principal of Christ the King School, I put an article in our school newsletter, promoting “40 Days for Life” – a peaceful vigil held at various locations throughout North America, where participants pray for the unborn and for an end to abortion, promoting pro-life. The newsletter suggested that it would be nice to see students and families participating. Christ the King Parish bulletin also advertised the vigil. Some parents were upset by the inclusion of the advertisement in the school newsletter, citing I should keep my personal pro-life views to myself. The sanctity of human life is a precept of the Catholic faith. We are a Catholic school. What then, is the issue? Still, one of these parents took this topic in the newsletter to the Winnipeg Free Press.
I received a call from Nick Martin of the Free Press. He asked if community credits could be given to students for participating in this activity. I responded that I was new to the school and not aware of past practices, but that the awarding of community service hours for this Catholic social justice issue might be worthy of consideration. Again, I told Mr. Martin, that before such a decision was considered, serious discussion with staff would have to take place. I even used the words ‘tread carefully’ knowing that the abortion issue is a contentious one outside of those who follow official church teaching. After a discussion with staff at the school, we did NOT agree that ‘credit hours would be awarded’ as erroneously stated in the first article of October 12, 2011. The headline “Anti-abortion vigil earns credit” was and remains false.
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. Being a principal of a Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 School, I am fully aware that principals do not dictate curriculum or credits for such. This high school terminology was mistakenly used by your staff. This was one issue that people panicked about, which caused further confusion and misunderstanding, not only to the public but also to the provincial Department of Education government officials (Oct 13, 2011). This interpretation exacerbated the issue making it sound like credit for courses as opposed to a proposed credit for community service hours. This shows another Free Press blunder.
For the record, many schools, public and independent, see students involved in political and social activities outside of the physical school building - many to obtain community service hours. 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’. 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)
I have to believe I was originally hired at Christ the King School because I have qualities and strengths they were looking for. During the media onslaught, I feel people panicked and did not take time to learn the facts - facts distorted by your paper. It would seem that those who might have shown support during this time succumbed to media hype - which I believe resulted in my dismissal. In the end I feel I was used as a scapegoat by those in power - who became uncomfortable with the situation and the media attention it garnered.
And let’s not forget, caught in the middle of all of this, are the most vulnerable in our society. The souls whom I was trying to protect in the first place: our future students and citizens who are still in the womb. This is the real travesty.
We should not be apologizing for our Catholic beliefs. This is a freedom still guaranteed by the Charter of Rights. Nor should one be chastised for promoting these beliefs to students within the Catholic system. Those within the Catholic community, who question the Sanctity of Life and its profession to the masses, should seriously question their Catholicity.
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. More so, journalistic integrity must be brought into question here, especially given the fact Mr. Martin had not seen a copy of the school newsletter prior to the printing of the article. To Mr. Martin and those at the Winnipeg Free Press, I respectfully ask for a retraction and clarification in the Free Press on these matters.
Christ The King School