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Mike Del Grande, chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, signs his oath of office. http://tcdsb.org
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New Toronto Catholic board chair: Catholic schools can’t just ‘take marching orders from the state’

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The Toronto Catholic District School Board’s new chairperson has insisted the board must weed out scandal in order to “keep the faith” in the Catholic schools.

Newly-elected trustee Mike Del Grande, who won the chair’s seat late last month in a narrow vote against trustee Jo-Ann Davis, tells LifeSiteNews that Catholic schools can’t be satisfied to “take marching orders from the state” when it comes to crucial moral issues like the awaited explicit sex ed program from the Wynne government.

“One of the things I think is the lynch is what I call ‘faithfulness.’ And if you don’t have faith, then you don’t have a Catholic system,” Del Grande told trustees last week in his opening speech as chair.

Del Grande told LifeSiteNews that “faithfulness” means being faithful to the “teachings of the [Catholic] Church.”

Prior to becoming chair, Del Grande sat on Toronto’s City Council as budget chief and ran a tight fiscal ship, something that may have helped him ascend to the chair where he must deal with the $10 million deficient faced by the TDCSB.

In his speech, Del Grande said to “know the difference between right and wrong” is a “key” component of Catholic leadership.

“And we can give all the justifications with respect to why I [we] don’t follow the right way. It’s called secularization. It’s called justification. It’s called making excuses. But ultimately, our conscience needs to be reflected of what is right, and what is wrong. And to call ‘right’ when it is right, and to call ‘wrong’ when it is wrong. That’s what being a Christian, that’s what’s being a Catholic is about. It’s not pretending. It’s living.”

Del Grande pointed to the Ontario Liberal government’s proposal of resurrecting a controversial sex-ed curriculum for the next school year, as well as HPV vaccines, as examples of the kind of “moral issues” the board will have to face if it is to be “faithful” to Catholicism. 

“And we’re going to be faced with a lot of issues when it comes to faithfulness. We’re going to be faced with the curriculum that’s being brought down with respect to sex-education. We’re going to be faced with the vaccination program for young ladies in our schools. We’re going to be faced with all kinds of issues that are moral issues.”

Del Grande said that as chair he will turn to Catholic leaders for guidance in controversial matters.

“I’m not a moral theologian, but I expect the shepherds of our faith to provide guidance when that guidance is required. I don’t expect to be hung dry. Or no statement to be made. I expect as a Catholic community to come to an understanding of what is right and what is wrong within our moral temperament.”

“I do know this: that if we have scandal in our system, no matter where it is, we cannot bury it. We have to face with it,” he said. “And so that doesn’t mean that I, or any of my colleagues or the superintendents go out and look-out at conduct of teachers, what they do, etc., but if it is in the public and it gives scandal to our faith, then we have no reason, no justification to let it slip by. So, scandal is absolutely out.”

“Those things need to be weeded out in order to keep the faith, keep the profession, keep the integrity alive. And we tend to sometimes want to brush it off, and we can’t do that,” he added.

Del Grande told LifeSiteNews that all TCDSB teachers sign a contract to “uphold the teachings of the Church” and if teachers “go against that,” such as if two teachers “have an affair in a school and it is widely known, that needs to be dealt with.”

When asked by LifeSiteNews about possible scandal caused by the TDCSB making policy contrary to Catholic teaching, Del Grande said that having Catholic hierarchy give “consistent” and “universal” teaching and directives on issues such as the HPV vaccine as well as sex-education will help the board to remain faithful.

Catholic schools are constitutionally guaranteed some fundamental rights, he said, and it’s a problem if those rights are threatened.

When asked by LifeSiteNews how the TDCSB should woo back parents who may have pulled their children out of the Catholic system due to advancements made by the homosexual lobby into the classrooms and textbooks, or because of conflicts over sex-education, Del Grande said: “If we are going to be a Catholic school system, it needs to be distinct, separate, unique, and provide the excellence that is expected by parents. We are only the instrument of the parents, [who are the] primary first educators of their children. We do not take away parental rights.”

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“The parent places their children in our care and trust with the promise and commitment that we are going to be Catholic, not Catholic in just name, but in practice,” he added.

Teresa Pierre of Parents as First Educators told LifeSiteNews that Del Grande “can be expected to stand up for Catholic teachings in the Toronto Catholic board.”

He is “very informed about his faith” and will be a “strong advocate for stewardship of the faith in Toronto Catholic schools,” she said.

Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Coalition hopes the election of Del Grande to board chair spells the beginning of a restoration for the TCDSB.

“I hope he will use the power of the Chair to gradually restore the Christian character of Catholic schools which in many respects, has disappeared over the past decade,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Fonseca also hopes that the new chair will lend an ear to “faithful Catholics” whose voices have been largely ignored when it comes to TCDSB policy decisions.

“Over the past few years, especially during the farcical consultation process on the board’s controversial Equity & Inclusive Education Strategy and on the Bill 13 GSA mandate, the Chair’s power was used to marginalize faithful Catholic ratepayers who were trying to protect the Church’s moral teachings. We hope that type of chicanery will be a thing of the past under Del Grande.”

Both Fonseca and Pierre hope Del Grande will draw a line in the sand when it comes to the proposed introduction of the sex-ed curriculum for the next school year. A previous version of the explicit program includes teaching grade three students about “gender identity” and grade six students about masturbation, and grade seven students about oral and anal sex.

“I hope he will help steer the board to reject the curriculum,” Fonseca said. “Some elements of that curriculum contradict Catholic moral teaching.”

“I hope that the Chair, and all trustees on the Board will refuse to implement the curriculum, and pronounce that very publicly so that other boards have the courage to follow suit. It’s in their power to do so. If necessary, they can also invoke the constitutional right of Catholic school boards in Ontario to reject any government mandate which adversely affects the content of faith and morals. That right is granted under section 93 of the Constitution Act of 1867, has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada as an ‘absolute’ right, and has superiority over any provincial or federal mandate,” he said.

Pierre agrees with Fonseca: "We hope that he will lead the board to adopt policies that are in conformity with the faith on issues such as the administration of the HPV vaccine and the preservation of the integrity of Catholic teachings in the delivery of sex education in schools."

Highlights from Del Grande’s speech to TCDSB trustees on becoming Chair

“And so, I feel that it has to be in your essence to say what you feel and what you think. And so I will give a disclaimer that anything that is being said is being said by the participant, and not the body. I get down to the point, and some people are happy with the message, and some people aren’t happy with the message. But I can make one comment that everybody can unite around. And that comment is: I’m not a perfect person.

I think you would all agree on that, and so we’re all united that I’m not a perfect person. With that being said, Michael Anthony Del Grande is a follower. I follow the two basic tenants: Love the Lord with your heart, with your soul, with all your strength, and with your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“There are three things that I think we really should focus on. And, when I was here in 1994, we had a student population of 102,000 students and coming back we have a population of 88,000 students. And we can talk about the demographics, we can justify this, we can justify that, but one of the things I think is the lynch is what I call “faithfulness.” And if you don’t have faith, then you don’t have a Catholic system.”

“I know when I was here the last time there was always this thing about being a “pure Catholic.” I don’t know what a “pure Catholic” is, but I do know this: that if we have scandal in our system, no matter where it is, we cannot bury it. We have to face with it. And so that doesn’t mean that I or any of my colleagues or the superintendents go out and look-out at conduct of teachers, what they do, etc., but if it is in the public and it gives scandal to our faith, then we have no reason, no justification to let it slip by.

So, scandal is absolutely out.

We’re not going to send search parties out, but that is key, because when we have scandal and, think about it…we’ve had issues with school boards, right now across the street with respect to the public school board. It may be in the public school board, but it’s a reflection of trustees everywhere. You have a bad cop, it’s a reflection of cops everywhere. You have a bad mayor, a bad councilor, it’s a reflection of everybody in that profession. And so, those things need to be weeded out in order to keep the faith, keep the profession, keep the integrity alive. And we tend to sometimes want to brush it off, and we can’t do that.”

“But the key thing is, we need to know the difference between right and wrong. And we can give all the justifications with respect to why I don’t follow the right way. It’s called secularization. It’s called justification. It’s called making excuses. But ultimately, our conscience needs to be reflected of what is right, and what is wrong. And to call right when it is right, and to call wrong when it is wrong. That’s what being a Christian, that’s what’s being a Catholic is about. It’s not pretending. It’s living.”

And we’re going to be faced with a lot of issues when it comes to faithfulness. We’re going to be faced with the curriculum that’s being brought down with respect to sex-education. We’re going to be faced with the vaccination program for young ladies in our schools. We’re going to be faced with all kinds of issues that are moral issues.

I’m not a moral theologian, but I expect the shepherds of our faith to provide guidance when that guidance is required. I don’t expect to be hung dry. Or no statement to be made. I expect as a Catholic community to come to an understanding of what is right and what is wrong within our moral temperament. I want to make that very clear. And again, I’m not expecting perfection, because I’m not perfect, but that’s what we need to do. We need to build back and bring back the faith, that we stand for something.”

“It’s not about the unions, it’s not about the trustees, it’s about the children that are our responsibilities as adults, as Catholics, as trustees, as superintendents, as parents, that’s our role. And that’s my commitment to all of you this evening. And I thank you for the privilege to serve you all.”

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