I have a confession to make: I'm a survivor of bullying. Educated in the Catholic elementary and secondary high school system, it was common for me to be the target of verbal harassment that questioned my worth as a human being and physical abuse in the form of sudden and explosive slaps to the face, hair-pulling, and books slammed over my head. Needless to say, I was not the only victim of such assaults
It literally took decades to lose my hatred of the teachers, both lay and religious, who perpetrated those acts of violence against me, under the pretext of 'corrective discipline'.
It was those experiences, I suspect, that planted the seeds of what became a life-long suspicion of all institutions, both religious and secular, and a deep, abiding contempt for all who abuse their authority in any arena of human activity.
And so it is with a mixture of fascination, bemusement and contempt that I read about the current outrage being expressed by Catholics and political opportunists (i.e., the Hudak Conservatives) in Ontario over the McGuinty government's insistence in its amended anti-bullying initiative that all school boards, both public and Catholic (the latter of which in fact is public, given that they are taxpayer-funded) permit the use of the term gay-straight alliances if requested by students.
Indeed, no less a church luminary than Toronto Archbishop and Cardinal Thomas Collins has weighed in on the controversy. The frequently red-accoutered prelate, in rhetorical flourishes approaching the hysterical, warns ominously (and with Holocaust overtones):
The cardinal warned other faiths could become targets of the government if the anti-bullying bill becomes law and doesn't allow Catholic schools the right to deal with homophobia in their own ways.
"I would say to people of other faiths and even those who disagree with us on (gay-straight alliances): if this could happen to us it can happen to you in some other area," he said.
"When religious freedom becomes a second-class right, you also will eventually be affected."
Consider us warned, Cardinal Collins. And one more thing: get over your fear of the word 'gay' and try practicing Jesus' command of unconditional love.
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