Politics - Provincial

Catholic Boards on Wrong Side of History

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 28, 2012

Once again, Ontario Catholic school boards are pushing back against the government's efforts to reduce bullying on the basis of sexual orientation.

In response to a bill that would guarantee the right of students to create an anti-bullying club and call it a "gay-straight alliance", the chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board says, "We're extremely disappointed and we're going to strongly oppose it."

Pat Daly, HWCDSB Chair, is also quoted saying, "Clearly there should be flexibility and respect for the denominational rights of Catholic boards." Apparently the so-called "denominational rights" of Catholic boards includes the right to prohibit students from starting clubs that uphold the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students.

The Catholic boards are asking for a compromise: students would be allowed to establish "respecting differences" clubs, but not "gay-straight alliance" clubs.

This seems at first blush to be reasonable: a creative compromise between two conflicting but equally legitimate interests can break an impasse and unlock peaceful engagement and innovation.

However, a compromise between right and wrong is still wrong.

Morally Repugnant

Catholic boards opposing this legislation are not only on the wrong side of history, but also on the wrong side of decency.

The Christian doctrinal cop-out, expressed informally as "love the sinner, hate the sin", resembles nothing so much as the old "separate but equal" gambit to preserve the essence of racial discrimination against the march of civil rights.

Worst of all, these decisions are being made by educators who operate with full public funding!

Sooner or later, the Catholic boards' policies will change, as Ontarians run out of patience to continue supporting chauvinism with public money.

The choice for Catholic trustees is: change now and embrace the social justice the Church claims to uphold while they still have a choice, or change later when they are dragged, kicking and screaming.

If the latter, these trustees will be remembered, if at all, as the last cowardly rearguard of a morally repugnant policy of discrimination whose time has long past.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Schism Prism (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 11:44:47

Would be interested to see how many atheists attend separate schools because of the perceived trend toward higher academic achievement. Seems like this regime is beuing validated by more than just public money. Educational realpolitik and orivate hypocrisy may also be a contributing a factor.

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By merger (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 12:10:34

Another reason to merge the two boards once and for all. If we're lucky we'll get the tolerance and equity of the public board and the hard headed administration of the separate board (but the way these things work out, we'll probably be stuck with the opposite).

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 12:13:24

I'm really shocked that public funding is allowed to be funneled into this institution. Regardless of your religious background/ affiliation, separation of church and state should dictate that denominational funding be illegal. Catholic schools, like any other private interest institution, should be self-funded and uphold the acts/ laws of the land.

As a former Catholic school student, I'm even more shocked that parents voluntarily, and with clear-conscience, indoctrinate their children with this sort of 'education'.

I credit my ridiculously/ troubling-ly good memory that has allowed me to remember many of the things I was taught in grade school. On a positive note, it did push me towards an absence of religion and, thus, ensured I'd never subject my own kids to a Catholic school setting.

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By mark (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 16:36:23 in reply to Comment 77395

Catholic schools are protected by the Constitution. Parents willingly pay taxes through indicating what board their taxes should go towards. And as a CURRENT Catholic School student, I know that our school are no less multicultural or aware of other religions than Public Schools. All things I have been taught in Catholic Elementary and Secondary schools have been for my betterment. The only difference in the curriculum in secondary school, being a mandatory religion course each year. One of which is a WORLD religions course. Please do not let your memories of school undermine the rights of thousands of other children.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 16:04:09 in reply to Comment 77529

How is it your right to have YOUR religion funded by me? I agree with socialized education. I'm quite happy that a percentage of my income goes towards funding the education of our future.

I have a big problem with one red penny of mine going towards indoctrinating any child with the teachings of the Catholic faith. I have a great disdain for the hypocrisy of the religion itself and how they, as an institution have conducted themselves since...well, almost since inception.

However, that's my opinion and its besides the point. The fact is, our country has a separation of church and state. Get all the religion you want on your own time/dime.

End of story.

Comment edited by slodrive on 2012-05-30 16:05:23

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2012 at 12:19:36 in reply to Comment 77395

I also attended Catholic school from JK through OAC (ask your parents, kids), and it was very much a place of casual, unquestioned homophobia. It saddens me that Catholic Boards are still clinging to chauvinism - especially after heightened exposure of the sometimes-deadly consequences of bullying and intolerance and the tacit institutional approval that lets it flourish.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 16:41:13 in reply to Comment 77397

Yes you did attend Catholic schools, and you may have felt the presence of homophobia. However this can be attributed to the area and time in which you attended school. A true understanding of Catholicism is one that does not spread hate to any group. As a CURRENT student I have never witnessed an act of homophobia and hope I never will.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 16:51:21 in reply to Comment 77397

I'm Catholic, but I attended a public high school. Believe me, their is nothing peculiarly Catholic about casual, unquestioned homophobia.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 12:23:33 in reply to Comment 77397

Yeah, but don't worry. God will take care of those bullies! One of the Beattitudes says so...apologies for the butchered quote, but doesn't it state "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth".

See? (Wipe's hands)..the job's taken care of. The bullied will do just fine.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 12:56:34

Not all Catholic trustees are as cowardly as Pat Daly & co.

A friend of mine in Kitchener-Waterloo has been kicking up a fuss lately in an effort to get ahead of the inevitable:

Catholic trustee wants gay-straight clubs in Waterloo schools

Naturally, he got pounded on by other trustees (only one other trustee was courageous enough to support Anthony's motion, and the Chair made him withdraw it). And of course, he was the target of the very vocal minority of Catholics who pride themselves on being small minded bigots.

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2012-05-28 12:57:10

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2012 at 20:40:04 in reply to Comment 77399

I think its very important for those of us that are not Catholic nor religious for that matter, to show strong and public support for those with the strength to stand up. I am on the side of doing away with two boards but I would be a little more okay with it if all or at least many more voices on 'their' side stood for what was right no matter if it is far outside of the 'values' their religion 'stands' for.

We set aside our differences and shake hands, when what is really important is at the core of our decisions.

Good on the Liberals and NDP for supporting and pushing this. On the other hand the non-support of the consertatives should be a huge eye-opener if their actions havent already raised alarms in the past, as to the backwards values and vision of the red-white and blue party.

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 12:57:52

These kinds of tensions are inevitable in cases where the state funds religious education. Religion is based on a set of beliefs, and these will not always fit our evolving societal norms. Human understanding of those beliefs -- and what is core about them, and what is not -- evolves over time as well, but it takes time.

Many Christians, including myself, believe in a God who created us in God's image and loves us completely. "Us" means everyone. EVERYONE. In response, Christians are called to do two things: love God, and love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Everything else should flow from that. It's pretty simple really, but also profoundly difficult to follow.

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By Love (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 17:34:13 in reply to Comment 77400

God loves us all, just the way we are. Does this mean God loves a murderer? I assume it does. Does that mean God approves of murder? If God loves a homosexual, again I assume God does, this does not prove that God approves of homosexuality. Nor does it prove that he disapproves of it either. There are so many different sects of Christians today and they cannot agree on what the Bible says. Each uses it to prove themselves right.

Separate Schools are not Christian Schools they are in fact Roman Catholic Schools. As long as they are that how can you, or anyone else not a catholic, tell them how to run their schools?

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By theOther (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 20:06:09 in reply to Comment 77417

Because this hideous cult is using our taxes to do so. And how would I know? As a benighted teenager, I actually paid for the opportunity to attend those schools.

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 21:16:41 in reply to Comment 77424

There are so many different sects of Christians today and they cannot agree on what the Bible says. Each uses it to prove themselves right.

The disagreement is not about what the Bible says but rather about how we should interpret it today. For many Christians, the commandments of the New Testament (Love God, Love your Neighbour) supercede those of the Old Testament. And I disagree with the view that people just use it to "prove themselves right": the complexities can make for rich discussion and dialog. Thankfully, inflammatory postings on thespec.com are not representative of this dialog.

I cannot say for sure what actions God approves of or not. I can only infer from scripture, tradition, and reason how I myself should act.

Finally, readers may not know that only RC's can direct their property taxes to support separate schools.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 12:59:27

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 13:14:37 in reply to Comment 77401

Hey Allan Taylor, weren't you banned from this site?

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By Shocked (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 13:26:53

Thank you Not Catholic but - I agree with you. The compromise is important - the fact that the title of the clubs that the board approved annoys some people (often pushing their own agenda), the fact that they are open to having clubs like these will help the kids in the schools and it's not the title that matters, but the fact that the schools are open to having these clubs for our students. I'm proud to be Catholic and proud that my children are attending Catholic schools.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2012 at 13:48:27 in reply to Comment 77405

Here's the problem:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Notwithstanding the obligatory noises about "respect, compassion and sensitivity", the official Catholic catechism unambiguously discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people: it requires them to behave differently than people whose sexual orientation conforms to the Church's teaching. It is impossible to be a sexually active homosexual and conform with Catholic catechism: the Catholic Church does not accept same sex marriage and it does not accept sex out of marriage.

It unambiguously discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to say that their sexuality constitutes "acts of grave depravity" and are "intrinsically disordered" and "contrary to natural law" and "do not proceed form a genuine affective and sexual complementarity" and that "under no circumsances can they be approved".

It unambiguously discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to say that the only acceptable course of sexual activity for them is to abstain from sexual expression.

When those people are students and the school they attend is 100% publicly funded, we have a serious problem. The Catholic Church and its members are entitled to their beliefs, but it is unconscionable that a publicly funded school board should be allowed to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code systematically in its teachings and practices.

Either the Catholic Boards need to conform to Ontario human rights law, or they need to accept the loss of public funding.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-05-28 14:22:04

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By Love (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 17:42:00 in reply to Comment 77410

Yet the British North America Act upon which this country was founded contained the right for the continuing existence of Catholic schools. To the best of my knowledge that right was also enshrined in our Charter which was adopted in 1982.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 14:23:25 in reply to Comment 77410

"Either the Catholic Boards need to conform to Ontario human rights law, or they need to accept the loss of public funding."

I still think the broader argument is being skirted. Why is education funding going to something that is not education?

I'm sorry but, in its essence, the Catholic school board is serves the duty of expanding Catholicism's flock to the next generation. This is done though the teachings of mythical stories (..and, even god-fearing folk accept their beliefs as 'faith' not fact) based on the bible. Not exactly a replicated-in-the-lab kind of text book.

People are free to believe what they want. And, if Catholicism was presented as 'one of many religions' and the curriculum examined the beliefs and teachings objectively (not unlike a university Philosophy course), then fine - that's education.

Having a school system that's rooted in mythological beliefs is hardly a good use of your educational dollars.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 16:45:38 in reply to Comment 77412

It is clear that you have never attended a Catholic school, or at least done so within the last few years. Try examining the actual curriculum instead of promoting stereotypes of Catholic education. Catholicism is presented at "one of many religions" however it is a belief system we're united in. We explore this in many ways, also in comparison to other religions.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 16:19:26 in reply to Comment 77532

"..however it is a belief system we're united in."

'Nuff said for me! I know far more about the Catholic religion than I care to. I'm well aware of the church's position on topics of interest. The basis of the separate school system, regardless of what Mrs. Religionteacher is teaching, is all that matters here.

Funding should be cut.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 20:16:51 in reply to Comment 77532

Why is mythology being taught as anything but mythology? What people seem to forget is that the "Word of God" was written by men.

Catholicism should be taught at home and in the church or funded by those who are Catholic and choose to send their kids to those schools.

Public money should go to public schools.

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By More Shocked (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 13:45:20 in reply to Comment 77405

Not allowing the term "Gay-Straight Alliance" completely undermines the spirit of the group in the first place. You can't have a credible anti-bullying club that is by definition bullied into changing its name. And yes, it's bullying.

You say they are "open to having clubs like these", but the rest of that sentence is "as long as they don't use the g-word in their title".

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 13:51:00 in reply to Comment 77409

You say they are "open to having clubs like these", but the rest of that sentence is "as long as they don't use the g-word in their title".

...or allow students to discuss sexual identity; or to promote the club as a safe space for LGBTQ students or allies; or attempt to tackle the issue of homophobia among laity as tacitly encouraged by the Church and its leaders...

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By Catholic (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 13:34:21 in reply to Comment 77405

"often pushing their own agenda" Yeah, the agenda that gay students need to be accepted by a school board that calls their sexuality a sin and discriminates against them. If you think it's okay to teach your kids that homosexuality is a sin, please do it with your own money, not with mine. I'm a practicing Catholic and this is one of the things I disagree with my church about.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 13:33:33 in reply to Comment 77405

the fact that they are open to having clubs like these will help the kids in the schools and it's not the title that matters,

Unfortunately for many Catholics, especially trustees, the title does matter, and many have done everything in their power to put a halt to these clubs, no matter what they are called.

If the title truly doesn't matter, Shocked, then all Catholic school boards in Ontario would have already pre-empted this anti-bullying law and let students set up clubs long ago.

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2012-05-28 13:42:08

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By OttawaLad (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2012 at 18:05:08

Help us rid the province of the wasteful and discriminatory Catholic system once and for all. That is the only solution. Asking a Catholic school system to be gay friendly and to accept gays as they are is no more possible that asking a gay person to be straight. It will never work.

www.OneSchoolSystem.org.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2012 at 23:25:43

The real problem with the current discourse about "bullying" is that it totally avoids the discussion of who gets targetted and why. We muse about the personal dysfunctions which cause bullying, what teachers should be doing to stop it or why our society is so "violent", but the obvious discussion gets buried. Who's getting picked on? Gay kids, disabled kids, foreign kids - anyone who's "different". Why? Because bullying is about enforcing social norms. Whatever the motivations which lead to it (being abused, spoiled, or whatever), bullies pick on these kids because they know they can get away with it, and in all likelihood such acts will raise their standing among others. Why is this tolerated? Because many in positions of authority want to see these norms enforced. I'd like to thank people like Pat Daly for illustrating this so perfectly.

This isn't just a local Catholic Board issue. Provincially and in many American states, Conservatives and Republicans have threatened to scuttle entire anti-bullying bills over the threat of "Gay-Straight Alliances" or the very mention of homophobic bullying. That's a pretty loud statement that they want this kind of bullying to continue, even if the cost is that all bullying continues unhindered.

Kids do not choose to be gay, nor do they choose which school board they attend. Most are too young to vote for their trustees or any other kind of politician. Nobody will be forced to attend a GSA meeting. The issue is whether students get any choice whatsoever in the matter, in spite of the wishes of parents, politicians and preachers.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2012 at 07:21:15 in reply to Comment 77431

Thanks for clarifying bullying Undustrial. I feel IT is very important for young people to understand what bullying is with practical examples of grown-up bullies by what they've become and why no one should wish to become one of them.

A good place to start would be by educating our young minds from the top down with lessons on US foreign policy, corporate hegemony, compound interest rate usury or the UN's Agenda 21 with intent to control our private property, and the impacts these bullying practices have had and will have on everybody.

Anti-bullying policy is a good thing when instituted properly using practical lessons from the righteous side of history. Even Christ hated the cowardly rearguard of a morally repugnant policy:

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all of them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, IT is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. Matthew 21:12-14

Everyone loves IT when a bully, finally gets his arse kicked thoroughly!

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-05-29 07:47:38

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 13:20:01

Im getting sick and trierd of these debates .... lets do this , on your prototie tax paper they should have boxes of things you will support and if you dont supp the Catholic board dont check it or viseversa im emploed for thoses who are on welfar and good health i dont support them ... welfar is supposed to be a temp thing after a year you should be on your own like unemployment and other thing if you dont support the hospitals don`t support make it privet like in the States pay up front for you medical

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 10:34:11

Im with all the comments well most of them . and if were so much again religons ... we are they still celebarting Christmas and Easter

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By Lopresti (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2013 at 20:18:32

Extremely rude catholic board. I was on a gay dating site outed to my HR investigated then told I did nothing wrong but I do have to express concern about the site wtf?..... Then they put a letter in my file said oh it's just gonna stay their for 2 years just goes over professionalism they went all fact finding at my work I swear they wanted to fire me. bastards :/

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