Family leaders decry bishops’ response to Bill 13 passage: ‘weak,’ ‘disappointing,’ ‘reprehensible’
Correction: A previous version of this article originally stated that Phil Lees is the head of the Christian Heritage Party. He is in fact the head of the Family Coalition Party of Ontario.
TORONTO, Ontario, June 6, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic bishops in Ontario have indicated that they have no immediate plans to challenge McGuinty’s recently passed Accepting Schools Act, a bill that pro-family leaders have warned will impose a radical homosexual agenda on publicly-funded Catholic schools across the province, and may even threaten private schools.
In a statement on behalf of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario following the passage of Bill 13 Tuesday, Archbishop of Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, said simply: “Recognizing that the Accepting Schools Act is now the law, Catholic partners will seek, as we have always done, in a way that is in accord with our faith, to foster safe and welcoming school communities.” Collins observed that the bishops have expressed unspecified “serious concerns regarding certain aspects of this legislation,” but gave no indication of any further plans to oppose its provisions.
Pro-family advocates who had anticipated a vigorous response from the province’s bishops to what many have argued is an unprecedented attack on freedom religion in Ontario, say they were stunned by the anemic statement.
Cecilia Forsyth, president of Real Women of Canada, called the statement “weak and disappointing.”
“Real Women of Canada sees Bill 13 as a serious infringement of religious freedom and as a denial of conscience rights to Catholic schools,” she said to LifeSiteNews. “Cardinal Collins has in essence said that ‘the law is the law and we will follow it, even if that law is contrary to Catholic teaching on sexual ethics.’”
Forsyth said that Bill 13 is not about “preventing anti-bullying in schools,” but about “pushing on our children a radical revision of sex-education that is built on the full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.”
“How can Catholic schools stay true to Catholic teaching on sexual ethics that comes directly from the teaching authority of the Catholic Church while at the same time adhering to McGuinty’s new law that promotes a radical homosexual agenda? Catholic educators are now caught in the midst of a terrible dilemma of having to serve two masters.”
Alongside the bishops’ statement came another from Marino Gazzola, chair of Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, who indicated that Catholic schools would bow to the law and ditch the Catholic-friendly approach to preventing bullying outlined in the document “Respecting Difference.”
“If anywhere there’s a contradiction between our Respecting Difference document and the legislation, Bill 13 is going to take precedence,” he said to The Catholic Register.
Respecting Differences, put out by the province’s bishops and Catholic trustees earlier this year, not only explicitly rejects using the name Gay-Straight Alliance for a club, but says that any anti-bullying clubs set up should be “respectful of and consistent with Catholic teaching” and that they should be led by a carefully selected staff advisor who “must know and be committed to Catholic teachings.”
Forsyth pointed out that Gay-Straight Alliances, which trace their roots to radical homosexual activist organizations, will “exist only for the sake of approving and condoning the homosexual lifestyle, a lifestyle that is contrary to Catholic sexual ethics.”
Some family leaders say that the response to the bill’s passage shows Catholic leaders became “blind” to the real purpose of the bill.
Kim Galvao, head of Concerned Catholic Parents of Ontario, told LifeSiteNews that the “biggest thing that Catholic leaders missed was the bill’s violation of Parental Rights and Religious Freedom.
Now that the bill’s passage has remained unchallenged, Galvao thinks that Catholic education in the province will be “changed forever.”
“What Catholic leaders do not realize is that they have put the final nail in the coffin of what once differentiated the Catholic education system from the Public one. Catholic leaders have now made Catholic schools just like the Public ones. And they did this out of fear. They caved to the nasty media pressure that cried out loudly that ‘Catholic schools should lose their funding if they do not comply’. Out of fear they complied.”
“Our Catholic leaders caved because they were more afraid of losing Catholic funding than about keeping Catholic Schools faithfully Catholic,” she said.
Others expressed dismay that the Catholic bishops have seemingly turned their backs on the moral formation of children in Catholic schools.
“Catholic parents and parents of people of all faiths count on the bishops to draw a line in the sand and defend religious freedom in Ontario,” said Andy Pocrnic, head of Concerned Catholic Parents of Ottawa to LifeSiteNews.
“We have been failed by those who have been given the duty and authority to protect our children and Catholic teaching. It’s hard to understand why our bishops and trustees weren’t active in the public debate before this law was passed – they simply weren’t there. And now it’s hard to understand why they gave up so quickly once the law was passed when other options were available.”
“The feeling of betrayal felt by parents is difficult to describe,” he said.
Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Catholics told LifeSiteNews that his organization was “hoping for much more than the bishops’ lack-lustre response,” and pointed out that the bishops’ statement runs contrary to their own advice offered to faithful Catholics.
In their Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops admonishes Catholic citizens “not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order.”
“Bill 13 surrenders the hearts and minds of Catholic children to an immoral education program,” said Fonseca. “Does the instruction from the Bishops on following the moral order apply only to the laity?”
Peter Stockland, a senior fellow with Hamilton-based Cardus, a think tank that studies the intersection of religion and society, told the National Post that it is “imperative” that religious leaders be willing to get into the fight to protect their liberties.
“This is not about gay rights versus somebody’s else’s rights,” he said. “This is about Charter rights to religious freedom — rights not only to believe what you want but to actually live your life according to those beliefs.”
“If you’re not prepared to defend that then what you are willing to defend? I think the Church had to get out in front of this in an activist way. It’s mystifying they didn’t,” he said.
Phil Lees, leader of the Family Coalition Party of Ontario, told LifeSiteNews that the Catholic Church’s acceptance of Bill 13 makes it “more challenging” for other faith groups to become motivated to fight for the protection of religious liberties.
“I find the statements from the Catholic leadership discouraging,” he said, adding that he has “often used the Catholic church’s position on life and family matters as a way of motivating Protestant involvement.”
Lees pointed out that Catholic leaders should have “clued in” to what Bill 13 was really about when both Minister of Education Laurel Broten and NDP Education Critic Peter Tabuns made statements to the effect that that the purpose behind the legislation was to “change the traditional norms and values of society.”
“Bill 13 is about far more than social clubs for those who self-identify as LGBT,” said Lees. “Why did the Catholic church not clue into this?”
Forsyth thinks that Catholic leaders, by not issuing any kind of a challenge to the bill’s passage, have handed control of Catholic schools over to the government.
“In essence, McGuinty has seized jurisdiction of Catholic schools by dictating to Catholic leaders what they can and cannot do in their schools,” she said.
“The lack of leadership from the Catholic hierarchy in this matter is simply reprehensible.”
But Iain Benson, a constitutional lawyer with Miller Thomson in Toronto who has been an advisor to Canadian Catholic bishops, approved of the bishops’ strategy.
“I don’t think any other action would have done any good,” he told the National Post. “The Catholic community negotiated in good faith and thought their interests would be protected”.
To find contact information for every Ontario bishop, click here. and select Ontario region,
His Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Collins (President)
Archbishop of Toronto
1155 Yonge Street
Toronto ON. M4T 1W2
Phone: 416-934-0606 Fax: 416-934-3452
Most Rev. Ronald P. Fabbro, c.s.b. (Vice-President)
Bishop of London
1480 Richmond Street
London, ON. N6G 0J4
Phone: 519-433-0658 Fax: 519-433-0011
Most Rev. Brendan O’Brien (Counselor)
Archbishop of Kingston
390 Palace Road
Kingston, ON. K7L 4T3
Phone: 613-548-4461 Fax: 613-548-4744
Most Rev. J.-L. Plouffe (Counselor)
Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie
30 St. Anne Road ,
Sudbury , ON. P3C 5E1
Phone: 705-674-2727 Fax: 705-674-988