TORONTO, Ontario, April 18, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Ontario bishops have requested that Catholic school boards in the province begin setting up a network of clubs at all publicly-funded Catholic high schools with the “primary goal” of combating “bullying related to sexual orientation.”
In an April 15th memo and accompanying ‘messaging’ document sent to the province’s Catholic educational organizations, the bishops said they “encourage” the Catholic high schools to set up groups whose “primary goal ... is to combat bullying related to sexual orientation.”
The memo, co-authored by Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, and Nancy Kirby, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, says they are establishing a committee, to begin work by the end of April, that will “establish a framework for these groups, including a common name, to assist Catholic school boards with this anti-bullying initiative.”
The government, however, has expressly forbidden such groups from helping homosexually-inclined students to reform their sexuality – a fact that has many Catholic parents expressing concern with the bishops’ approach.
At a meeting of the Toronto Catholic school board last night a large crowd of parents took issue with board officials who were proposing a draft ‘equity’ policy.
One of the speakers who spoke on behalf of concerned parents, Alan Yoshioka, said he was himself a former homosexual activist. “I am a former gay activist, fifteen years or more. I disagree with your treating the legitimate need for respect for all students with this imposition of a policy and groups that focus on sexual orientation,” he said.
“Love and respect for students is fine. [The issue is] how is that going to be implemented?” A Catholic school policy that contradicts Catholic teachings “is not acceptable,” he said to loud applause, according to the Catholic Register.
A group to address the matter has been formed by Catholic parents in Ontario. Concerned Catholics of Ontario is running a prayer campaign from Good Friday to Pentecost in the hopes that the bishops will reject the government’s controversial equity and inclusive education strategy.
“We really feel the bishops are letting us down, particularly letting down our children,” said Kim Galvao, spokesman for the group.
“The schools are getting intense pressure from the government, the media, and lobby groups, and they’re bringing in people who oppose Church teaching,” she continued. “Yet we’re not getting clear direction from our bishops. There’s no clear safeguards to prevent these clubs from being used by activists inside and outside of the schools.”
The groups are expected to be ready for launch in the schools by September, though the bishops note that some schools may “have the ability to offer such student-led groups right now.”
Pro-family groups have warned that the equity and inclusive education strategy, if implemented in the Catholic schools without clear safeguards, would empower board employees sympathetic to the homosexual cause and provide a foothold for homosexual activists in the Catholic system.
Helen Kennedy, executive director of the homosexual lobby group Egale, told teachers at the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association annual general meeting last year that they should use alternative names to get the gay-straight alliances into the schools if necessary. “Call them whatever you want, human rights clubs, social justice clubs, that are dedicated to changing unhealthy school cultures,” she explained.
Galvao noted that there is a danger the clubs could be overseen by teachers who oppose Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality. Students campaigning for a gay-straight alliance at St. Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga said they had seven teachers willing to support them.
“It breaks my heart that we’re not going to give these struggling students what they need,” said Galvao. “They need the full Catholic teaching, which is based in love. We need to tell them that they can resist temptations to these deadly behaviours, which can only be done with the help of Christ.”
“We love our children so very much,” she added. “But it is only when we set clear guidelines and say the word no, that our children are able to grow and flourish into the beautiful loving adults that we hope that they will become.”
Contact information for all Ontario bishops can be found here.