June 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Canada’s bishops gave us a striking call last month to make “heroic” sacrifices in the face of laws that violate our conscience. Providentially, their conviction was put to the test only weeks later.
A mere 11 days after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a strong letter on the need to stand up for freedom of conscience and religion, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced his government was amending its controversial “anti-bullying” bill to force Catholic schools into allowing “gay-straight alliances.”
Cardinal Thomas Collins and Ontario’s bishops warned that the bill was a threat to religious freedom “in a very real sense.” But what heroic action did they take when it passed on June 5th?
In a 94-word statement, they wrote that despite their “serious concerns,” “the Accepting Schools Act is now the law” and the Catholic schools will work within it to “foster safe and welcoming school communities.”
On Wednesday, Bishop Frederick J. Colli of Thunder Bay told CBC explicitly that the Catholic schools would allow GSAs.
And Marino Gazzola, head of Ontario’s Catholic trustees, told Catholic News Agency that civil disobedience was “never considered” and they are “not considering a legal challenge.” He said they are encouraging the Catholic schools to comply with the law.
It all seems a far cry from the CCCB’s May 14th pastoral letter, which said the faithful are obliged to practice “conscientious objection” in the face of violations against conscience. “It is sometimes necessary to resist, even in a heroic manner, the directives of the state, a court, or an organization that tries to force [people of conscience] to go against their convictions in matters of faith and morals,” the CCCB wrote.
Cardinal Collins, in a May 28th letter, had said the government’s attempt to force GSAs on Catholic schools “overrides the deeply held beliefs” of the Catholic Church and “intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of conscience.”
So, if Ontario’s bishops recognized the threat, why didn’t they take a strong stand like they had called on the faithful to do only weeks earlier?
Now that Bill 13 has passed, the argument floating around is that GSAs are not intrinsically incompatible with the faith – that they could in principle be implemented in a Catholic way.
Before the bill passed, the bishops themselves were saying the groups are incompatible with the faith in principle, never mind practice.
In a letter on behalf of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario on January 19, 2010, then-Bishop of Cornwall Paul-Andre Durocher wrote that GSAs are “not to be encouraged” because they “imply a self-identification with sexual orientation that is often premature among high school students.”
In January 2012, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association wrote in their “Respecting Difference” framework that GSAs “are not acceptable in Catholic schools.”
Cardinal Collins, in his May 28th letter, was clear that the GSA model is not “in harmony” with the Catholic faith. “Because this model is so closely related to a movement with particular views concerning the human person and the issues of life, people who disagree with those views are understandably concerned that the model can serve as a means not only to address bullying, but to promote the views with which they disagree,” he wrote.
Catholic leaders have to realize that when they cave in to the culture, they are sending the message to the Church’s secularist opponents that Catholics would rather give up their rights than stand up and fight.
And the fight can’t be restricted to the courtrooms, though that would be a good start. It needs to be waged in the public square.
One of the strongest emphases in the CCCB’s pastoral letter was that those who exercise their right to conscientious objection “must be prepared to suffer the consequences that result from fidelity to Christ.” They must have the “courage to follow [their] conscience in every circumstance, regardless of the cost.”
It’s common knowledge that Ontario’s Catholic leaders are deathly afraid of losing public funding for the Catholic schools. For all the schools’ problems, it would certainly be a great loss, a very high cost. But need we really point out that sacrificing the faith is infinitely more costly?
In the end, what are the Catholic schools really worth if they can’t be Catholic?