WHITEHORSE, Yukon, Oct. 18, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic Diocese of Whitehorse has obeyed an order by the Yukon government to remove Church teaching on the sinfulness of homosexuality from its policy on pastoral care for same-sex attracted students in its publicly-funded Catholic schools. Critics have pointed out that even in the title of the new policy, the ‘truth’ has been removed.
The original policy contested by the government was called 'Living with Hope, Ministering by Love, Teaching in Truth.' The new policy title reads: ‘One Heart: Ministering by Love.’
The original policy, published in the spring of 2012, sparked opposition from media, homosexual activists, and some citizens in the town of 20,000 last spring because it expounded the Catechism’s teaching that homosexual acts are “gravely depraved” and the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered.”
The controversy culminated in then-Minister of Education Scott Kent sending a letter to Whitehorse Bishop Gary Gordon in which he effectively told the bishop that Church teaching on homosexuality was barred from publicly-funded Catholic schools because it violates the equality provisions of Yukon law.
Bishop Gordon, who also serves as the diocese’s religious education director, agreed to draft a new policy, which he released in July.
The new draft is facing criticism from faithful Catholics, because, while it stresses forcefully the Church’s teaching that homosexual persons should be treated with respect, it is completely silent about the immorality of homosexual activity.
The policy quotes a 1986 document from the Vatican on the need for respect of homosexual persons, but this same document had stressed that pastoral care for homosexual persons is ultimately damaging to them if it is silent about Church teaching.
“We wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral,” wrote Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 letter ‘On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons’. “Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”
The new policy does mention the call to chastity and points to the Catechism paragraphs dealing with homosexuality, but the policy emphasizes that Catholic schools should “value diversity,” and aim to offer an environment that is “safe, welcoming, inclusive and affirming of the uniqueness of each and every student.”
The draft policy also says that the schools will promote “understanding and tolerance of sexual minorities,” and that they will use materials to present homosexual “writers, historians, scientists, artists, musicians, and spiritual leaders” as “positive role models.”
At an Oct. 3rd consultation meeting on the policy held by the school councils of the diocese’s three Catholic schools, ratepayer Judy Douglas said the draft leaves out “God’s standard.”
“This whole policy should have a higher standard. It should have God’s standard in it, I don’t believe it has that,” she said, according to Yukon News. “It talks a lot about honour and dignity and respect for people with same-sex attraction, which I believe in. I believe all human beings should be valued and honoured and respected.”
“However, it’s very unbalanced because it doesn’t talk about the sin of it. It doesn’t talk about the fact that it’s immoral, it’s unclean,” she added.
The new policy is also facing strong criticism from the other side, however, for not going far enough in removing Church doctrine. The Ministry of Education’s top public servant has expressed openness to their view, even though the draft was developed in conjunction with the government and the government’s lawyers had determined it conforms to Yukon’s Human Rights Acts, Canada’s Charter, and the Education Ministry’s policies.
According to the Whitehorse Star, the majority of speakers at the Oct. 3rd consultation, which drew about 30 people, expressed concern with the policy’s reference to Church documents like the Catechism, because they expound Church teachings on homosexuality that are deemed derogatory.
Tjitske van der Eide, a parent whose children attend Vanier Secondary, said the policy was “an example of homophobia in the name of religion.”
“I find it archaic and deceiving. It refers in its footnotes to church doctrine and dogma in which our homosexual brothers and sisters are being referred to as intrinsically evil,” she said, according to the Whitehorse Star. “How legal is that in our publicly funded schools?”
The critics also called for the removal of a provision in the policy that gives the bishop the power to disband a “gay/straight” student club if he finds it is teaching views opposed to Catholic doctrine.
Many took the criticism even further, however, and called for the government to scrap the policy altogether and instead force the Catholic schools to use the government’s 2012 Sexual orientation and gender identity policy.
After hearing the feedback, the deputy minister of education, Valerie Royle, said the government had believed the policy document properly balanced the concern for inclusivity with a respect for the Church’s teaching. But, she said, “clearly we’re hearing that there’s still certainly some variation of opinions so maybe we haven’t struck that balance.”
“What we’re trying to do is find a policy, and I still believe it’s possible, that serves all needs,” she said.
Consultation on the policy ended Oct. 11th. Royle said the government, the Catholic school councils, and the bishop will go over the feedback and then release a summary of the responses. From there the three parties will make a final decision about the policy.
Bishop Gordon published the original policy in Sept. 2012, after, he says, it was vetted by the Ministry of Education.
That original policy emphasized the Church’s respect for the dignity for those who experience same-sex attractions, but also affirmed Church teaching. It quoted the Catechism and said those who are same-sex attracted, “for whom marriage is not an option,” are called to chastity. It made no mention of seeking out homosexuals to hold up as “positive role models” for students.
After a student complained about the policy, however, then-Education Minister Scott Kent ordered that it be withdrawn.
After Bishop Gordon met with Kent on March 5, 2013, the bishop removed the policy from the website of Vanier Catholic Secondary School, the diocese’s Catholic high school. But the bishop told the press that the policy would still remain in effect. “Homosexual activity is always morally wrong,” he said. “The teaching of the Church is always going to guide what goes on in a Catholic school.”
Kent insisted in a March 19th letter, however, that removing the policy from the website was not enough – it had to be withdrawn and rewritten.
The minister said the policy’s treatment of homosexuality violated the Ministry of Education’s Sexual orientation and gender identity policy and “may be in contradiction to the Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
While the diocese is responsible for teaching the faith in the schools, Kent wrote, the diocese’s first obligation in providing such instruction is to comply with the laws in force in the Yukon. Religious teachings that are “inconsistent with and do not meet the requirements of existing laws and policies cannot have application in any publicly supported schools in the Yukon,” he wrote.
In July, Bishop Gordon told LifeSiteNews that he hoped there would not be a showdown between the Church and the government, even as the government insisted it was “not flexible” in its stance against Church teaching on homosexuality in the schools.
Asked at the time if he would allow the government to “bully” the Church, the bishop said, “Well we’re in discussions and everybody’s pretty clear that I’m a Catholic Bishop and I teach the Catholic faith. I mean what else can I say?”
Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women, said the Yukon government has no business “dictating policy to a Catholic school.” “Why not send your children to the public schools?” she asked of parents critical of Church teaching in the schools.
But she also expressed concern over the Diocese of Whitehorse’s actions, suggesting that in their draft policy they had “capitulated on a matter of intrinsic Catholicism.” “It seems to me that it’s appalling that the Catholic bishops and the Catholic board have not stood for the teaching of the Magisterium,” she said.
LifeSiteNews.com was unable to reach Bishop Gordon after multiple attempts. Minister of Education Elaine Taylor was unavailable for an interview.
Hon. Darrell Pasloski, Premier
Hon. Elaine Taylor, Minister of Education and Deputy Premier