Cardinal Collins responds to the Bill 13 amendment announced by the McGuinty government

The complete response, which is thoughtful and irenic, is here. This is an excerpt (with my emphases):

A “Gay-Straight Alliance” is a particular method of addressing one form of bullying, and
providing personal support. The GSA model was developed in the United States in the 1980’s.
Because this model is so closely related to a movement with particular views concerning the human person and the issues of life, people who disagree with those views are understandably concerned that the model can serve as a means not only to address bullying, but to promote the views with which they disagree. Those who share those views will no doubt wish to use the GSA methodology. They are certainly free to do so.
I question, however, why provincial legislation should make this particular method
normative in a Catholic school, which has its own different but effective methods of attaining the goal of addressing bullying and providing personal support for all students, ones which, unlike GSAs, arise out of its own fundamental principles and are in harmony with them. If the point is that there is something unacceptable about those Catholic principles, then I find that troubling, and wonder whether caricatures of Catholic faith are in play. I recognize, of course, that even among Catholics the richness of our faith, and the reasons for its teachings, have not always been communicated effectively. This is even more true within the popular culture in which we live,the sea in which we all swim.
GSAs are the only particular method or strategy mentioned by name in Bill 13. That is
interesting. Now, with the recent change in policy, if any student insists on this particular
method, then the trustees and principals who are responsible for the religious foundations of the school are compelled to agree.

As pastor of a large diocese, on the road constantly visiting the people, I have again and
again heard concern from parents and educators about the proposed imposition of the GSA
methodology on Catholic schools. That same concern has been expressed to me by people of other faiths, since parents often choose to send a child to a Catholic High School precisely
because they expect a particular approach to life which is largely in harmony with their family and faith convictions.
Names of organizations carry with them a distinct content: if someone asks you to join the
Liberal, Conservative or New Democratic Party, you rightly expect something different from each. These groups each have their own traditions, their own shape. So the key issue is not just the name itself, but the content connected with the name, with the “brand”. Is it something that you want, or something that is in harmony with your basic principles? If it is, then fine; but it should not be imposed on a community.

Some questions come to mind:

1. Why is a piece of provincial legislation being used to micromanage the naming of student
2. Why are Catholics not free to design their own methods to fight bullying, and provide personal support to students, as long as they attain the common goal of a welcoming and supportive school? Why must they instead be compelled to accept a particular method that comes from a different approach to the great issues of life?
3. The leadership of students is crucial in the fight against bullying, and in making their school a place of love and respect for all. In fact, the most effective way to stop bullying may well be the example of fellow students. Students work together with the adult leadership of the school to promote the good of all. But trustees and principals are legitimate stewards of the spiritual tradition of the school, and in a Catholic school, that includes the Catholic faith tradition. Why should the power of provincial law be used to override that legitimate adult authority so that this one particular method can be imposed by any student who wants to do so?
4. With the principle established that the legitimate local authority is nullified in this case, then is any student free to introduce any program, any club, or any advocacy group relating to any issue? Over a year ago, I heard the principle behind this new policy expressed this way: “if a student wants it, he or she has got it.” That may sound attractive, but it is a very shallow and distorted view of student leadership. Trustees and principals are legitimate adult stewards of the common good of the school community at the local level, and it is not helpful when Queen’s Park moves in to remove that responsibility.
5. Apart from whatever one thinks of the idea of GSAs, in any particular school is a GSA the most effective method to help students being targeted by bullies? Who makes that decision in a local school? Is it those adults who are entrusted with responsibility for the local school community and all of its members? The new policy says that they do not. Is that wise?
To the members of our Catholic community: I urge you to reflect on the implications for Catholic education of this sudden government change in policy, and of the extraordinary privileging of one particular way of dealing with bullying and personal support. Catholic educators should be free to make sure that Catholic schools are loving learning environments in
which every person is treated with love and respect, and to do so in a way that arises out of our faith tradition and is in harmony with it. We need to consider the path ahead.

To our friends and neighbours of other faiths, or of no faith, including those who disagree with any or all of the beliefs of the Catholic Church, and those who personally support the beliefs that form the context for GSAs: please consider the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community in our province, and
intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of conscience. If it happens to us, it can happen to you, on this and other issues. When religious freedom becomes a second class right, you also will eventually be affected.

There is no reason for this controversy. We all want schools that are loving and welcoming
places for everyone. We simply ask that diversity be respected in our society, and that we be able
to attain the common goal of welcoming schools, and of personal support for students, using
methods that are in harmony with the faith we cherish.

Thomas Cardinal Collins
Archbishop of Toronto
President, Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario

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11 Responses to Cardinal Collins responds to the Bill 13 amendment announced by the McGuinty government

  1. EPMS says:

    Premier McGuinty is a Catholic, his wife a teacher in the Catholic school system. Why cannot the Cardinal get through on the pastoral level?

  2. colin kerr says:

    A masterful piece of work. Good for you, Your Eminence!

  3. Rev22:17 says:

    To whomever may know the answers,

    Are there constitutional protections of free exercise of religion in Canada, as there are here in the States?

    And if so, what avenues of recourse would be available to Catholic institutions if this monster becomes provincial law?


  4. Kathleen says:

    QUOTE: “A ‘Gay-Straight Alliance’ is a particular method of addressing one form of bullying, and providing personal support. The GSA model was developed in the United States in the 1980’s. Because this model is so closely related to a movement with particular views concerning the human person and the issues of life, people who disagree with those views are understandably concerned that the model can serve as a means not only to address bullying, but to promote the views with which they disagree.” ENDQUOTE

    Aye, and there is the crux of it. GSAs are but *one method* to approach a reduction in bullying. They are not the *only possible method*. If one disagrees with the method, one does not thereby disagree with the *goal.*

  5. EPMS says:

    There are constitutional guarantees. I suppose part of the issue is that the Catholic school system is a free, state-supported system in Ontario. Too much push-back could cause the question of publicly funded religious schools to be debated.

    • Foolishness says:

      The Catholic school system is also constitutionally protected and it is not “free” in the sense that the tax dollars of more than two million Catholics in Ontario are directed towards the separate school system instead of the public system. We also have constitutionally protected religious freedom and freedom of speech, but the protections are not as robust as those in the United STates seem to be or used to be.

  6. EPMS says:

    Quebec and Newfoundland also had constitutionally Catholic school systems until the nineties, when the constitution was amended. This could also happen in Ontario. I did not mean to imply that that Catholics did not support the separate school system financially, only that they were not required to pay tuition as one would at a private school.

  7. EPMS says:

    “constitutionally protected”

  8. Dom says:

    He who pays the piper calls the tune. The Church needs to tell the government to keep their damn money and fly a kite. I’d never accept a nickel if it meant anyone telling me what to do with it.
    My parents paid taxes in the public system and then paid tuition to a private school on top of that for a few years to help me catch up 30 years ago.
    I pay my own damn bills, and nobody tells me how to run my affairs. Problem solved.
    Education today is a joke.

  9. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    A Gay-Straight Alliance? I can’t believe that adults are using such terms and managing to keep straight faces. These people in the educational system are mad, and we need to refuse and reject them right from their first principles. One of these false first principles is the misconception that secularism is ethically neutral. It is not. It makes certain philsophical assumptions and then, under the guise of neutrality, imposes them on others. It is as much an imposition as faith-based education. So all assumptions should be equally funded (ideally, none of them should be funded at all). Catholic taxpayers should not have to fund false secular philosophies any more or less than should secularists fund Catholic Faith. In Catholic education, any hint of homerasty should be stamped out with extreme prejudice, ideally at the end of a sawed-off goalie stick.

    Now this business of bullying had me wondering. I figured that the liberals must mean more by it than the term suggested–they always do. At first, I thought that it must be just some silly middle-aged women thinking that, somehow, they can convince adolescents to act like adults. But when C.B.C. reporters get worked up over ‘bullying’, you know that bullying is not it but something supposedly related to it. Now, when I was in school, boys were not bullied for being inverts; rather, nobody admitted to having those tendencies. The accusation was thrown around but without any certainty that it was aimed at the right target. Some boys (I was in a boys’ Catholic school) were bullied for their ‘body definition’ or bad looks but this is also grossly overstated. Most victims were victimised for a much simpler reason: they were smaller than the others. Period. Bigger children figure that they can pick on smaller children and get away with it. It is a way for insecure children to gain confidence, I suppose. It’s morally wrong but it has nothing to do with sexual inversion and only occasionally touches on one’s bad looks. This is pure mythology being invented out of the perfervid imaginations of liberals. It’s simple: bigger boys see an opportunity to be cruel and they take it.

    At Catholic schools, these ‘clubs’ should be banned and sexuality should not even be discussed. It is for parents to discuss it. School is there to teach geometry and Latin, not to inculcate children in the philosophy of people (viz. liberals) who are mentally ill.


  10. Pingback: Cardinal Collins responds to the Bill 13 amendment announced by the McGuinty government | Catholic Canada

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