Peterborough Bishop Responds to Human Rights Complaint by Dismissed Homosexual Altar Server

PETERBOROUGH, Ontario, September 11, 2009 ( – The Bishop of Peterborough, Nicola De Angelis, has written a pastoral letter to the faithful of his diocese addressing a recent complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT), brought against the bishop and twelve local parishioners.  In the letter, which is to be distributed at Sunday Masses this weekend, the bishop strongly redresses the OHRT’s encroachment, asserting his authority as bishop of his diocese and the autonomy of the Church from state control over internal Church matters.

This past April, Bishop de Angelis directed St. Michael’s pastor, Fr. Allan Hood, to dismiss Jim Corcoran from altar serving at the parish; this came after a letter was submitted to him by 12 parishioners, who were concerned about public scandal because it was known that Corcoran lives with his same-sex partner.

Corcoran, who had originally been asked to serve by Fr. Hood, filed a complaint against the bishop and the twelve parishioners on June 17th, alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation.  The respondents, including the bishop, were then required to defend themselves to the OHRT through written responses.

In this weekend’s letter the bishop writes: “I fail to understand how secular powers and government agencies should think they are in a position to tell the Church that she is wrong in her internal rules and regulations, even though these have directed and shaped the life of the Church during the last 2000 years.  However, this is what we face today.”

“If the Human Rights Tribunal should choose to interfere with the Church’s governance, this will be most shocking,” he writes.  “The Tribunal has no authority to place itself as an arbiter of canonical precepts.”

De Angelis insists that the teaching of the Church is that holding a volunteer position in the Church – as an altar server or in any other function – is not a “right.”  “Rather, it is an invitation from the pastor or bishop, which can also be terminated at any time, particularly, when the voluntary service gives rise to tension, animosity, discord, or division in the life of a parish.”

The bishop points to a 2001 letter on altar servers from the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, then Cardinal Jorge A. Medina Estevez, who “stressed that no one has a ‘right’ to serve at the altar and strongly reaffirmed that altar boys should be encouraged, in view of fostering vocations to the priesthood.”

Through interviews with Corcoran, LSN discovered that it was a member of the human rights system itself that advised Corcoran to proceed with his complaint and who dug up precedent to support his case.

The Ontario system last year divided itself into three distinct agencies – the Commission, the Tribunal, and the Legal Support Centre. That practical result is that this allows the Legal Support Centre to advise people on how to bring forward human rights complaints, without the Commission or the Tribunal having to face responsibility.  Corcoran confirmed with LSN that the member who advised him was from the Legal Support Centre.

In response to LSN’s first story on Corcoran’s case, the Commission denied its involvement, pointing instead to the new system. The Tribunal, further, denied any responsibility for the case being brought against the Church.  Asked why they had taken on the case, Margaret Leighton, counsel to the Chair of the Tribunal, told LSN, “The Tribunal didn’t take on the case.  The applicant filed an application and the Tribunal has no capacity to refuse an application which falls under our jurisdiction.

“There may be an issue as to whether or not the allegations are within our jurisdiction,” she continued, “but that’s something that we will have to adjudicate and would be for the parties to make their submissions on before we made a determination.”

Nevertheless, the Tribunal evidently deemed that it had enough jurisdiction to require the bishop to explain his actions.

In his letter, Bishop De Angelis explains that Corcoran was merely one of a number of volunteers at St. Michael’s who he had asked to step down in the interest of “restor[ing] peace, harmony and reconciliation in the parish.”

“My friends, I can honestly say that I treated all the volunteers the same, with equal respect and dignity,” he wrote.  “I am at a loss to understand how there has been any misinterpretation of a practical decision made with honesty and without any discrimination.”

Although the bishop never names Corcoran, he told the Peterborough Examiner that he perceived the bishop as bringing attention to him and painting him as a bad Catholic. The letter, he said, is “firstly bringing the attention to me once again and, secondly, identifying me as an abhorrent, disobedient Catholic.”

In LSN’s first interview with Corcoran in July, he insisted that his complaint was not about Bishop De Angelis. However, Corcoran is now threatening legal action against the bishop.

“The bishop may be subjecting himself to the possibility of a lawsuit,” he told the Examiner.

In July the Catholic Civil Rights League supported Bishop De Angelis, and blasted the OHRC for meddling in church politics.  This issue is “not an OHRC [Ontario Human Rights Commission] matter,” they said.  “The relationship between the Church and altar servers, in the League’s opinion, has none of the attributes that would make it a subject for a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.”

“No one serves on the altar as a right,” they wrote. “The decision about who can serve on the altar is a matter of Church governance.”

See also Brian Lilley’s When the State Attacks the Church.

While the Church has my full support and encouragement, we must be able to face the facts squarely.  We would not be in this situation had the Church done its job decades ago with its wayward politicians. 

Ironically enough, the issue here comes right back to the respective approaches at the Kennedy funeral.  One wing of the Church wants indulgence, indulgence, indulgence.  Indulgence on holy communion, indulgence in our moral theology, indulgence at our schools, and indulgence at our public funerals.

Sooner or later, indulgence will come and persecute the church.  This is not rocket science.

Indulgence hasn’t worked.  It’s been a disaster, and Canada is now in the gutter.

But the hierarchy still haven’t clued in, but they will.  And when they do, their pastoral approach will turn as well.  The indulgence crowd will be out, and us “hard liners” will be back in.

5 thoughts on “Peterborough Bishop Responds to Human Rights Complaint by Dismissed Homosexual Altar Server

  1. The Catholic Church is ever willing to help people who suffer from homosexual tendencies and to guide them live the life of holy and beautiful chastity to which God calls them. This is because the Church recognizes that homosexual actions are inherently evil and destructive. The atheist state has declared that homosexual actions between one man and another are as valid and praiseworthy as the natural heterosexual acts that are the expression of true marriage between a man and a woman. Perhaps this is the place where the inevitable collision between the Catholic Church and the atheist state really begins.

  2. A convergence of manure and fan blades has been inevitable since this travesty began. Bloggers, myself included have been on this like white on rice since the beginning, because it needs to be out there.

    It is not an issue about homosexuality. It is about an irresponsible and insensitive parish priest making a bad decision to place a newly returned Catholic, into a position of volunteer responsibility, which was questioned along with other moves by the same priest to the Bishop. All this occurred in a parish that has had enough scandal over the last few years with losing a much loved, now excommunicated, priest to the “Let’s go ordain a bunch of women on a boat in the lake” brigade.

    The question to the Bishop about the validity of Corcoran serving on the altar, while living in a open homosexual, albeit alleged chaste relationship was a valid question within the Church. The Bishop handled it with dignity to the Parish and Corcoran, and Corcoran’s pride was hurt, so he lashed out, and we see what we have here.

    What a shame, and what a distraction to the faith and morals of the community.

  3. Of course secularism must attack our Church in order to validate itself. We should have stood our ground much earlier and so we have to pay the price. Consequence of inaction and not promoting the Truth.

    Thank you to Bishop De Angeles and God bless you.

  4. According to Health Canada HIV and AIDS IN CANADA Surveillance Report for April 2006 on page 60 we see that 85 percent of AIDS in Canada is in males who have sex with males. If one looks at these reports from the 1980s one can find out how AIDS has spread in CANADA. Then there is Gay Bowel Syndrome that is not funny and it is Endemic in the homosexual population, because Sodomy is unhealthy. The UN is trying to legalize Sodomy around the globe. What is wrong with our government, judges and education establishments for promoting and imposing this as another healthy alternative way of life? They have gone stark raving mad as more children are recruited in schools into this.

    On section 5 of that same report on page 69 we see that the single country with the most AIDS in the world is the United States with 944,306. Africa has 54 independent countries 48 mainland and 6 island these combined only have slightly more that the USA one country. I used these and other reports to show how the university text books are lying to our students in class. Even the homosexual student was upset at being lyed to and changed his mind. He was not upset with me for telling the truth nor was anyone in the class except of coarse the Darwinian Humanist professors. Canada is now part of Pagandom by government and court decree. How sad for our future. Wake up and elect only pro family politicians to Parliament to pass pro family and pro health Bills in Parliament into Canadian Law.

  5. Bottom line is that “homosexual rights” and religious freedom are inevitably incompatible. A country cannot have one along with the other….

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