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Not Exactly Canonical but Important

October 16, 2012

Several months ago, the government of the Province of Ontario passed a law (known as Bill 13) about bullying in schools — at least that’s it in a nutshell.  In Ontario, there are two publicly funded schools systems: one Catholic (or as we say sometimes, the Separate School System) the other, well, public (the Public School System, as we say).  It has a long, complicated history that goes back to the founding of Canada, and the English/French, Catholic/Protestant issues.  In any case, there exist in Ontario Catholic schools funded by tax-payers that go from JK to Gr. 12.  Apart from the myriad of problems which plague us in trying to maintain our Catholic identity and fidelity in our modern Catholic world, the schools are Catholic.  Masses are celebrated, prayers are said, crucifixes are on the walls and the curriculum is Catholic.  Until now.

With the passage of Bill 13, Catholic schools must, by law, prevent discrimination of, and provide a safe environment for, people with same-sex attraction, even when they self-identify as gay, with all of those ramifications.  The Bishops of Ontario have been working assiduously to navigate this minefield.  Last Wednesday, the minefield suddenly became much more dangerous.

The Minister of Education for the Province of Ontario made comments to the press suggesting that Catholic schools should not be teaching that abortion is wrong because it is a violation of the government’s newly-enacted anti-bullying legislation.  “We do not allow and we’re very clear with the passage of Bill 13 that Catholic teachings cannot be taught in our schools that violates human rights and which brings a lack of acceptance to participation in schools,” she said when asked if it’s okay for the schools to encourage pro-life rallies.

The Minister stated: “Bill 13 has in it a clear indication of ensuring that our schools are safe, accepting places for all our students,”  “That includes of LGBTQ students. That includes young girls in our school. Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny, taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take.”

Those are serious statements and these are serious times.  As I am writing this, I received news that the Premier of Ontario resigned last night, not over this issue.

Those are not canonical considerations, stricte dictu, and I have never intended this blog to turn into mere commentary about Catholic issues; however, this issue does affect the inherent right of the Church, independent of any human authority, to preach the Gospel (c. 747.1) and to proclaim moral principles (c. 747.2)  I jokingly mention to my bishop occasionally that he gets a pointy hat and big bucks to solve these problems.  But this is no joking matter.  We need to pray for the bishops of Ontario.  This is the stuff of saints and martyrs.

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4 Comments
  1. I’m in the U.S. and not Canada so I don’t know specific details about the differences in the education systems, but abortion doesn’t seem like something public schools teach as being a morally good thing or encourage it. Obviously since it’s a Catholic institution they would teach the moral aspect of the Church teachings as part of the curriculum. It seems like the connection they are trying to make with this is a real stretch. I tend to lean towards the opinion of… ‘don’t accept government funding if you aren’t willing to play their game’, but this one just seems ridiculous. Yet again… the ‘politics’ is defeating the purpose of it.

    Something you wrote made me curious:

    “With the passage of Bill 13, Catholic schools must, by law, prevent discrimination of, and provide a safe environment for, people with same-sex attraction, even when they self-identify as gay, with all of those ramifications.”

    Why is this such a “minefield”? Why shouldn’t the schools “prevent discrimination of, and provide a safe environment for” them? And are you insinuating it makes a difference if they “self-identify” or not? Would self-identifying as gay be a justification for them to be treated unjustly or without respect, compassion and sensitivity?

    As you know… I’ve been working with homeless LGBT youth for years. There is a disproportionate number of LGBT youth in the homeless youth population. Research estimates the number to be 20-40% of all homeless youth which is much higher than the percentage of LGBT people found in the general population. It seems to me that as a Catholic institution it would be part of their mission to provide a safe environment for this marginalized minority population that faces so much discrimination, abuse, and alienation.

    I understand the politics of this and I see the heated debates over the ‘hot topics’ like gay marriage, but it seems to me that often the humanity of the LGBT individual gets lost in the heated debates (on both ‘sides’). I’m not debating the Church teaching… but at the same time I see little being done in the Church to reach out to, and help support, the LGBT Catholics that are often being treated as outcasts in our community.

    • The minefield the Catholic schools are dealing with is the fact that, by law, they must allow an openly pro-gay lifestyle group to operate within the student body. It is not, of course, that the schools should not be providing a safe and welcoming environment for people with same-sex attraction. To stretch the point to absurdity, it means we would have to allow a pro-polygamy group to operate within Catholic schools. The issue is about religious freedom and the ability of Catholic schools to teach moral precepts (homosexual acts and abortion are morally wrong) and to form young minds in the Catholic faith. But you are correct, Kelley, that many in the Church do not see, or do not want to see, the challenge placed before us of tackling our modern culture with all of its ills. Many would prefer to pretend the problem is not there.

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