By Gudrun Schultz

CALGARY, Alberta, September 29, 2006 ( – The Calgary Catholic school board has finally agreed to stop funding school programs with the proceeds of casinos and bingo halls, after a lengthy dispute with Bishop Fred Henry.

The Calgary bishop had called for an end to gambling as a school fundraising source, saying the practice was immoral. The district refused to comply, issuing a formal statement of refusal on May 31, 2006, arguing that extracurricular programs would be cut as a result, including bands, choirs and sport teams. Almost two million dollars were raised annually through gambling by the board. The board instead accepted a Task Force recommendation that Calgary schools should assume authority over fundraising decisions.

Bishop Henry, who had first raised the issue seven years previously, issued a strongly-worded warning saying the use of gambling funds by Catholic schools was no longer an option and the issue was non-negotiable. He reminded the Board that under Canon Law, the law code of the Catholic Church, “no school may bear the title Catholic school without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.”

“Morality is not determined by a straw-vote,” he wrote in a pastoral letter in June. “The School Board, the individual schools, and related parent councils and societies must get out of bingo and casino gambling fundraising activities. There is no question as to ‘what’ has to be done but there is room to negotiate ‘how’ and ‘when’.”

Following yesterdays’ announcement of capitulation by the board, Bishop Henry called for a rebuilding of the relationship between the diocese and the board, saying, “Now is the time to move on and solidify again the partnership that we had.”

Board chair Cathie Williams made the announcement Wednesday, saying, “The decision to phase out the proceeds of bingos and casinos has been a difficult one…now the objective is to get out of bingos and casinos as soon as possible,” the Calgary Sun reported yesterday.

Existing gambling arrangements will stand for this year, said Williams, with a final date for the end of gambling funds use to be announced in the spring. In the meantime a task force set up by the board will investigate alternative fundraising options and evaluate the individual needs of the schools.

Possible alternatives include the use of charge cards with a percentage of the purchase cost directed towards the district, or the use of real estate commissions.

“Where’s there’s faith, there’s hope and I’m very optimistic,” said Williams.

See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

Bishop Henry Asserts Authority Over Catholic Schools: Stop Immoral Fundraising Or Lose Catholic Label