The Archdiocese of Vancouver is being harassed by homosexual activists for breaking its ties to a credit union with a history of supporting pro-gay and pro-abortion causes.

On an evening in late September, a small crowd of angry protesters shouted threats and obscenities outside the window of Archbishop Adam Exner. The archdiocese has also received over 100 telephone calls, faxes and e-mails, including one that called Exner a Nazi.

The harassment began after the archdiocese, which represents 340,000 Roman Catholics in the Greater Vancouver area, told four Catholic school principals to withdraw from the VanCity Credit Union’s junior banking program, and severed its other ties to the institution. The archdiocese’s decision was prompted by an ad campaign by the credit union to attract homosexual customers. One ad in particular featured two men hugging with a caption: “I want to bank with people who value all partnerships.”

Archbishop Exner addressed the issue in a Vancouver Sun opinion article, where he argued that the Catholic schools had withdrawn from the junior banking program “because of the credit union’s strong support for causes opposed to Catholic moral values,” but denied the decision had been made to embarrass VanCity. “We made no public spectacle of the decision to withdraw from its program, but announced it quietly to the schools,” wrote the Archbishop.

Exner added that the archdiocese was not motivated by “homophobia” when it parted company with VanCity. “Homosexuals have a right to respect, compassion and dignity. But Catholics have a right to their beliefs and a right to act on their beliefs. Some of the public comment seems to deny us these basic rights,” wrote Exner.

Speaking to The Interim, the archdiocese’s spokesman, Paul Schratz, said the controversy has since petered out, and he was not aware of any subsequent protests against the archbishop. He added that the archdiocese’s decision was based on much more than VanCity’s recent ad campaign. “There’s a perception out there that this was simply a fuss over one print ad, but it was much more than what was generally reported,” said Schratz, pointing out VanCity’s on-going support for Vancouver’s Gay Pride parade, a gay and lesbian film festival, and its funding of a mural outside an abortion clinic.

Asked if the archdiocese has received support for its action, Schratz noted that Canadian Alliance MP John Cummins wrote a letter in support to a weekly newspaper, and argued that while the homosexual activists have a “loud voice, they don’t speak for every homosexual in Vancouver.” According to Schratz, the incoming mail has been “roughly mixed” between messages that are strongly in support and strongly opposed.

Echoing Schratz’s comments, Vancouver’s gay community appears to be split in its reaction to the archdiocese. Mark Long, an official with Vancouver’s Gay and Lesbian Business Association, told the Vancouver Sun he was troubled by the harassment of Exner at his private residence, but added he wanted to “sit down in a larger forum” with the archbishop to discuss homosexuality.

Asked if anything could be gained by such a dialogue, Schratz replied: “I think I’d better leave that to the archbishop.”