By Patrick B. Craine
TORONTO, Ontario, October 19, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Ontario Catholic bishops have now publicly endorsed the implementation of the Ministry of Education’s controversial equity and inclusive education strategy in the province’s Catholic schools.
In an October 4th statement, the bishops explain that they have endorsed a Catholic version of the equity policy. “The Bishops believe that the proposed template will help ensure that our schools will remain faithful to Catholic teaching as they move forward with the Ministry’s directive,” it reads.
The statement, meant to deal with concerns over the treatment of homosexuality in the Ministry’s equity strategy, was approved at the bishops’ fall plenary assembly.
The Ontario government’s equity strategy has faced strong criticism from parents, teachers, trustees, and other stakeholders in both public and Catholic boards. Of particular concern has been the government’s explicit aim to promote openness to homosexuality in schools.
Catholic proponents of the strategy say the Ministry of Education is allowing it to be implemented in accordance with Catholics’ denominational rights, but critics say the government is using these rights as a smokescreen to more effectively promote homosexuality in Catholic schools.
Suresh Dominic of Campaign Life Catholic, which has been waging a campaign to have the strategy scrapped, called on the bishops to re-examine the government’s “inherently flawed” strategy. “We must combat unjust discrimination against homosexuals as much as we would anybody else, but the equity strategy is not about prohibiting unjust discrimination,” he said. “It’s about promoting the homosexual lifestyle as being normal, natural, and healthy.”
The Catholic template policy approved by the bishops would commit the Catholic boards to establishing policy that “recognizes and eliminates biases” related to “sexual orientation,” among other categories such as race and religion.
Further, the policy states that curriculum should “affirm the life experiences of all students, regardless of … sexual orientation,” as well as the other categories.
“I am afraid that they have left it so wide open that educators who are sympathetic to the homosexual cause will fill it in with gay-activist ideas,” said Dominic.
One of the key “equity” experts being brought into Catholic boards is a man named Chris D’Souza, who has called on the Catholic boards to eliminate what he calls “heterosexism.” This, he said in a presentation to the Ottawa Catholic school board, is “the assumption that everyone is or should be heterosexual and that heterosexuality is the only normal, natural sexual orientation.”
When asked in January about the strategy’s impact on Catholic schools, the head of the Institute for Catholic Education (the Ontario bishops’ educational arm) suggested to LifeSiteNews that the Catechism’s language on homosexuality (which says that homosexual acts are “gravely depraved” and even the inclination is “objectively disordered”) would not be taught in Catholic schools.
These are “heavy philosophical terms,” said Sr. Joan Cronin, who was involved in developing the government’s equity strategy. “[How] the person on the street takes that language all depends upon their educational background, what they understand, what they've been educated toward.”
When pressed further about whether the Catholic belief would still be permitted to be taught under the strategy, she insisted that “Catholics will teach the Church teaching.”
But according to Dominic, “With this document, the bishops are recognizing special, positive rights for people identifying as homosexual, an inclination the Catechism calls ‘objectively disordered’, and an approach the Vatican has condemned.”
Dominic was referring to a statement issued in 1992 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), under then-prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), which insisted that “sexual orientation” cannot be compared to race, etc. “Unlike these, homosexual orientation is an objective disorder and evokes moral concern,” it said.
The CDF statement affirms the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching against unjust discrimination of homosexuals, insisting that they have “the same rights as all persons including the right of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity.” But making “sexual orientation” a ground for non-discrimination, warned the CDF, “can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights,” even though “there is no right to homosexuality.”
The statement also says that the Church must speak out against attacks on the family and morality even where it is granted an exception. “The church has the responsibility to promote family life and the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values, not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful laws,” wrote the CDF.
The Ontario bishops acknowledge, in their statement, that “the Ministry reflects a social mindset around these issues that does not correspond to Catholic teaching.” In that light, they ask: “Will these directives force Catholic schools to betray their own principles and act in ways that contradict their purpose and identity?”
The bishops say that the Assembly has, through such bodies as the education commission and the Institute for Catholic Education (ICE), “been following these issues very closely.” They list their various efforts, many of them controversial among Catholics, to promote Catholic teaching in the last few decades, such as the Fully Alive family life curriculum.
“The Bishops of Ontario believe that it is possible for publicly-funded Catholic schools to be faithful to their identity and mission while responding to the legitimate demands made upon them by the society in which they operate,” they write.
“As a parent, I'm pleading with the bishops to have a closer look at the dangerous implications of all this,” said Dominic. “Their advisors seem to be looking for ways for the bishops to appear reasonable and that is just plain bad advice. Now is the time for the bishops to say the program is inherently flawed. We will not allow Catholic students to be subjected to it.”
“Whoever is advising the Bishops on this is doing a disservice to them, school children and the future of Catholic education itself,” he added.
The general secretary for the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario (ACBO), Lou Piovesan, directed questions to Archbishop Thomas Collins, president of the ACBO. When asked how the bishops justify their approach in light of the Vatican’s directive, Archbishop Collins’ spokesman, Neil MacCarthy, advised LifeSiteNews that the archbishop was unavailable for comment.
Most Reverend Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
1155 Yonge Street
Toronto (ON) M4T 1W2
Tel: (416) 934-3400 #609
Fax: (416) 934-3452
E-mail: [email protected]
List of contact info for all Canadian bishops can be found here.