WATERLOO, ON, June 27, 2001 ( - Several Trustees on the Waterloo Catholic District School Board refused to support the 2001-02 budget until the board agreed to reopen the issue of allowing non-Catholic public health nurses to provide sex education and private counselling in Catholic high schools. An Ontario government education policy laid the groundwork for the introduction of public health nurses into Catholic schools. However, the proposal is of concern to Catholics who deem faith-supported moral principles an essential part of the reason for the existence of Catholic schools.

One of the trustees, Steve Woodworth, told LifeSite that the Catholic faith is more than a collection of don’ts and thus a non-Catholic instructor agreeing to avoid taboo topics such as abortion and contraception is insufficient. Woodworth says students in Catholic schools should receive the benefits that Catholic values bring to all aspects of education, especially sensitive areas such as sex education. The Waterloo Record reports that in Catholic schools the public health nurses agree not to discuss abortion or contraception with students and do not distribute condoms. However, the agreement fails to address other areas where Catholic morality clashes with the public health agenda, such as homosexuality and masturbation. As well, there is concern that when the controversial issues inevitably do come up in discussions, the public nurses’ response not to discuss some of them would be far less effective than the faith-based response that would come from a well-informed and faithful Catholic teacher.

The split over the issue pitted board members Louise Ervin, Dianne Moser, Ruthann Fisher, and Judy Nairn against Steve Woodworth, Carole Reitzel and priests Terry Sehl and Michael McHugh. A vote on the issue in April was tied at 4-4 thus not allowing the board to move on hiring Catholic educators to perform the sex education role. Fr. Sehl told LifeSite that he and the other three trustees found they “could not vote for a budget in good conscience that would allow such a risk to students.”

The $155-million budget was the leverage the four concerned board members needed even to agree to discuss the issue again. While three of the board members who are insisting on faith-based sex education offered various compromises, the four members who supported the public health nurse instruction refused to budge. It was finally agreed that the board would pass the budget and agree to hammer out an agreement on sex education policy in August. Fr. Sehl asked for prayer that the situation could be resolved in a way that safeguards the Catholic identity of the schools. Mr. Woodworth warns that similar battles are heating up in Catholic boards across the province where sexual health education in Catholic schools is set to be contracted out to public agencies.

See the coverage in the Waterloo Record at:

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