Catholic teachers union vs. Ontario bishops: who will win on gay clubs?
TORONTO, Ontario, January 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association’s open support of homosexual clubs in Catholic schools has put them at odds with an explicit directive from the Ontario bishops.
LifeSiteNews reported December 20th that the union, which represents 45,000 teachers in Ontario, was partnering with Egale, Canada’s most influential homosexual lobby group. Egale was one of the leading advocates for same-sex “marriage” and is known for making vitriolic attacks on the Catholic Church when it opposes their agenda.
In particular, OECTA made a $1,000 donation to the organization’s MyGSA.ca project, which is part of Egale’s national campaign to promote gay-straight alliance clubs (GSAs) in schools.
OECTA has claimed that GSAs aim to provide ‘safe’ environments in schools for homosexual students, but pro-family advocates charge that the groups encourage the normalization and affirmation of the homosexual lifestyle.
In a December 22 story on the issue by the Toronto Sun, OECTA president James Ryan defended their support of Egale and of GSAs. “I don’t actually see the contradiction,” said Ryan. “OECTA decided to join Egale because both OECTA and Egale are committed to fighting any type of bullying.”
“Certainly the Catholic Church is against bullying,” he added.
Yet, in a January 2010 letter the Ontario bishops stated explicitly that gay-straight alliances are not permitted in the Catholic schools.
“‘Gay-straight alliances’ imply a self-identification with sexual orientation that is often premature among high school students,” wrote Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Cornwall, then-chair of the Ontario bishops’ education commission, in a letter to Catholic directors of education. “Because of this, the bishops feel that such an activity is not to be encouraged.”
This week, Ryan again defended OECTA’s support of Egale and the GSAs in response to a complaint e-mail from a retired teacher. His January 4th e-mail was copied to Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto and Bishop Nicola De Angelis of Peterborough.
Ryan acknowledged again their donation to Egale and said they had consulted on the MyGSA.ca project’s content, but said it was Egale who had labeled OECTA as a “partner.”
“The sole purpose of the ‘My GSA’ project was to stop the bullying of LGBT students,” he wrote. “We have discussed equity and inclusion at the Institute for Catholic Education table and Diversity committees have been supported by all of the members of the Catholic educational community.”
Ryan told the retired teacher that LifeSiteNews’ (LSN) article on OECTA’s relationship with Egale was “inflammatory and biased,” and claimed that it is in fact LSN that is at odds with the bishops. “They have proven themselves to be no friend of OECTA, the Ontario bishops, Catholic Development and Peace, the Ministry of Education, inclusion or publicly funded Catholic education,” he wrote.
Last month, when asked by the Catholic Register whether OECTA would support “Proud Rainbow Voices,” a new support group for openly-homosexual teachers (including 5 Catholic members) which is trying to reach out to Catholic schools, Ryan replied that they would have to determine if the group is “in line with OECTA’s general policies.”
“I’m aware of the existence of the group but don’t know all of its particulars. OECTA does support all of our members, including our gay and lesbian members,” he said.
In the same article, Ryan supported including books with same-sex families in classroom materials. “It’s a good idea that we use curriculum material that are anti-discriminatory, but it’s not OECTA’s call,” he said.
While Ryan has been an open advocate of GSAs despite the bishops’ directive, others have simply suggested that the groups continue under a different name. At OECTA’s annual general meeting in March, Egale’s executive director, Helen Kennedy, led a panel to promote inclusion of homosexuals called “That’s so gay.” She told the audience of teachers to promote homosexual groups, saying, “Call them whatever you want, human rights clubs, social justice clubs, that are dedicated to changing unhealthy school cultures.”
She was joined on the panel by Dave Szollosy, an Executive of the Toronto Secondary Unit OECTA chapter, and Kevin Welbes-Godin, chair of the Catholic Association of Religious and Family Life Educators of Ontario (CARFLEO).
OECTA’s support of Egale has been denounced by numerous faithful Catholic teachers, who are forced to pay union dues which can amount to nearly $1,000 a year. Most teachers have refused to comment publicly, however, out of fear of retaliation from the powerful union.
Many are concerned also because OECTA has been given oversight of the certification process for religion teachers in the Catholic system.
Neil MacCarthy, spokesman for Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, declined to comment.
To respectfully express your concerns:
Most Rev. Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
President of the Ontario Assembly of Catholic Bishops
1155 Yonge Street
Toronto (ON) M4T 1W2
Tel: (416) 934-3400 #609
Fax: (416) 934-3452
E-mail: [email protected]
Most Rev. Gerard P. Bergie, Bishop of St. Catharines
Chair of the Ontario bishops’ Education Commission
P.O. Box 875
St. Catharines (ON) L2R 6Z4
Tel: (905) 684-0154
Fax: (905) 684-7551
E-mail: [email protected]
Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association