Patrick Craine

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Catholic schools’ approach to homosexuality at odds with bishops’ statement: concerned parents

Patrick Craine
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TORONTO, Ontario, July 8, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Catholics parents are concerned that the pastoral approach to homosexuality advocated by the Ontario bishops’ curriculum arm is at loggerheads with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent strongly-worded letter on ministering to youth with same-sex attractions.

At a Toronto Catholic District School Board meeting last month, parent Lalit Lobo called out Sr. Joan Cronin, head of the Institute for Catholic Education (ICE), over her statements in the last year that students would not be taught the Catholic teaching that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered.”

The CCCB warned in a pastoral letter June 27th that misrepresentation and silence about the Church’s teaching in this area can have serious consequences for youth.  “Avoidance of difficult questions or watering down the Church’s teaching is always a disservice,” the letter said.  “Such attitudes could lead young people into grave moral danger.”

As head of ICE, Sr. Cronin exercises considerable influence in the Ontario Catholic educational system.  Her group oversees development of Catholic curriculum, including the Fully Alive family life program. They also worked with the Ontario government in developing the controversial equity and inclusive education strategy.

Lobo pointed out that in an April 23, 2010 interview with the National Post, Sr. Cronin said the Church’s teaching that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” would be “too complex” (in the reporter’s words) to present to students.

“What we say is that every person, gay or straight, is created in the image of God and deserves respect,” Sr. Cronin told the National Post.  “But while the Church supports gay people it does not support homosexual acts or lifestyles.”

Those comments were reminiscent of statements she made in a January 2010 interview with LifeSiteNews, when she suggested that the language used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexuality – namely that homosexual acts are “gravely depraved” and the homosexual inclination “objectively disordered” - would not be taught in Catholic schools.

They are “heavy philosophical terms,” she said.  “[How] the person on the street takes that language all depends upon their educational background, what they understand, what they’ve been educated toward.”

In his presentation to the board, Lobo also noted that as far back as 2001, Sr. Cronin and her organization were advising teachers to withhold Church teaching that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” until grade 12.  Such advice was given in a 2001 document from the Ontario Catholic Family Life Educators Network, bearing her name as a member of the executive committee.

“Isn’t this a problem? Shouldn’t our educational leaders be working to ensure that Church teaching is given, rather than withheld?” Lobo asked.

That document, entitled ‘Homosexuality and the Catholic High School’, is a compilation of newsletters advising teachers on how to approach homosexuality in the classroom.  In a section written by John Podgorski “in conversation” with Archbishop Marcel Gervais, former head of the Ottawa archdiocese, they write: “Due to the very real potential for confusion and misinterpretation around this language, this is best discussed at the grade 12 level.”

Two articles in that same compilation claim that sexual orientation is “not a choice” and “cannot be changed,” both emphasizing the American Psychological Association’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973.

In the document Mary Ellen Lopata of the Catholic Gay & Lesbian Family Ministry writes about her process of coming to acceptance of her son’s self-identifying as “gay.”  She describes Vatican statements on homosexuality as “hurtful” and suggests they are not adequately “compassionate and pastorally sensitive.”

LSN has previously reported that, in January of this year, Sr. Cronin participated in a meeting at the Toronto Catholic school board meeting on their equity policy where they opened with a prayer calling the homosexual inclination a “manifestation of [God’s] goodness.”

Also in January, she co-presented a workshop for Catholic educators at a government equity conference that assumed Catholic elementary schools would use books portraying homosexual relationships positively.  An attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, informed LifeSiteNews that Sr. Cronin made no protests as her co-presenter simply presumed such books were in the Catholic system.

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