TORONTO, January 29, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life-and-family advocates say they are glad the Ontario Catholic school system removed Free the Children’s Marc Kielburger this week from a promotional video campaign, but that the social activist was given the boot for the wrong reasons.
“It was grossly inappropriate to select the Kielburgers to promote Catholic schools,” said Jack Fonseca, Project Manager for Campaign Life Catholics, to LifeSiteNews.com.
The YouTube video featuring Marc Kielburger — put out by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association (OCSTA) — was to promote what one spokesperson called the “distinctive attributes” of Ontario’s Catholic schools.
Kielburger’s role in the video campaign drew criticism in public school circles since public schools and Catholic schools both rally behind the Kielburger brothers’ organizations Free the Children and Me to We, as well as We Day, a mega social activism event for school kids launched by Free the Children.
“To avoid any confusion about the intention, my testimonial video was taken down,” said Marc Kielburger in a statement yesterday. “We work closely with Catholic and public school boards and we value greatly our relationship with all.”
The Kielburgers, both Catholic, began facing criticism in 2011 for backing Planned Parenthood’s “reproductive rights” agenda after Canada’s federal government threatened to defund the third world work of the pro-abortion giant.
At the time, LifeSiteNews discovered that Free the Children, which is heavily promoted in Catholic schools, promotes “family planning” through its health clinics. The charity had also produced and published two fact sheets promoting abortion, but later pulled them. They said the sheets were the work of an intern and that the organization takes no position on abortion.
In 2012, the brothers themselves refused to take a public position on abortion.
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In a September article appearing in mainstream publications across the country the brothers praised the Adolescent Girls' Advocacy and Leadership Initiative (AGALI), a group that teaches young girls in developing countries to resist oppression while promoting access to contraception and abortion.
Critics say the Kielburger brothers’ flavor of social justice is out of line with Catholic social teaching, despite the brothers stating in October that they do not partner with “development organizations or other international agencies which are in direct conflict with Catholic teaching.”
Parents As First Educators (PAFE) President Teresa Pierre told LSN that Free the Children should not be representing Catholic schools “in any way” while questions exist about the group’s promotion of what it calls “reproductive rights”.
Pierre said that Ontario Catholic boards and schools should “refuse to partner” with the organization until it provides a “full assurance” that it respects Church teachings on contraception.
Fonseca called OCSTA’s choice of Marc Kielbrurger for its promotional video a “scandal”.
“I am shocked that OCSTA would not be more circumspect about whom it chooses as partners or spokespersons of Catholic schools, given the links these brothers have, whether remote or not so remote, to organizations which commit abortions and promote contraception,” he said. “Do the Catholic trustees really want to risk sending the message to the Catholic community that abortion and contraception is no big deal?”
John Pacheco of Socon or Bust agrees with Fonseca.
“Any group purporting to represent the Catholic Faith must not support, or be seen to support, pro-abortion and abortion providers like Planned Parenthood,” he told LSN.
Pacheco said that the Catholic school system is at a crossroads because of the “disastrous effect” contraception and abortion has had on enrollment numbers.
“The only way the Catholic system can exist is to offer something and produce something distinctly superior — in moral character and spiritual character — than what the public system is doing. And ‘We Day’ is not going to cut it, and nor is all of the safe exercises in philanthropy,” he said.
Pacheco said a Catholic system should be “completely faithful to its mission and its identity” and not compromise on its fundamental beliefs.
“If they want to be like everyone else, then what's the point of having a separate system? Nominal Catholicism doesn't work and it won't survive,” he said.
Fonseca agrees: “If Catholic schools want to sell themselves as ‘different’ so as to attract more families, they should market the elements of a faith-based education which truly stand out from the secularized public school system.”