English Articles

Catholic Church and Catholic schools
in total turmoil

TORONTO – Where do they go from here? Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian societies for millennia have explained the need for caution with metaphors revolving around the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the opening of Pandora’s box. At their centre is a concept of “what could go wrong…it’s not a big deal”.

Apparently, it always is. Seven trustees at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) have unleashed a Pandora’s box of toxic issues in Catholic education. Judging by the anger expressed via email, longhand letters and phone calls into the Corriere Canadese, either the trustees must be removed from office or Cardinal Collins should resign.

Such is the intensity of the gathering backlash.

On Thursday May 6, they rejected the Cardinal’s written “advice”, as the magisterium on what is Catholic or not, about the religious implications of flying Pride flags in Catholic schools. Critics of the Cardinal continue to argue for a more vigorous response. They claim that trustees have no such jurisdiction over religious issues – be they symbols or dogma.

The magisterium, under Secular Law – the Canadian Constitution, the Ontario Education Act and the Human Rights Code – is the only entity that can make such determination. The TCDSB would now seem be in open defiance of the Cardinal’s authority, as vested in him both by Canadian Law and by Church (canon) law. What is the trustees’ purpose?

Whom did they consult to “inform” their deliberations? How many families of their reported 90,000 students were told the decision was to be made? How many of the approximately one million Torontonians who are identified as Catholic electors (in law) were invited to make submissions?

Presumably, these have an interest in maintaining a “faith connection” for the TCDSB, otherwise they would identify as Public [school supporters] and send their children elsewhere.

The questions are somewhat rhetorical, inasmuch as the answers are in the negative.

Ironically, trustees brought the following as “expert witnesses” on Catholic obligations: a member of the United Church and former Premier; a City Councillor whose negative views on Catholicism and Judaism are available for all to read on Twitter, and who could not advocate for pride flags on all City property because the logistics don’t permit it; and finally, the president of the local teachers’ union whose members are apparently responsible for creating a homophobic and transphobic environment in the TCDSB. She and they still have a job.

Franco Misuraca, a political activist whose life experiences has taken him to all parts of Italy, North Africa and Europe (where he has resided in ’different’ cultural-social milieux), as well as Canada, lamented that “these trustees need to get a grip on reality: parents send their children to school so that they learn about how to live, not how to feel aggrieved. The Cardinal owes it to all Catholics to defend their faith connection forcefully”.

He is not alone, a young mother, Stefania R., noted that some trustees are “making discriminatory statements against Catholics, implying that to follow Catholic teaching is to disrespect other members of the community”. She added, “how they think they know how to respect others better than the Church is beyond me.”

It would appear to be beyond the comprehension of anyone who followed the swearing-in ceremony when all trustees finished a seven-part oath of office administered by Fr. Mike Lehman that ended with: “Will you be faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff and the authority of the Magisterium?” They all answered in the affirmative.

As at last week, the archived video of the inaugural (last November 26) had edited out the ceremony.

Since trustees must repeat the conditions of holding office for a Catholic board of education again this coming November, Catholic electors and catholic educators and mid-level administrators may well be within their rights to defy the Director’s order to obey an arguably illegal directive by the Board.

Neither the Board nor the Archbishop have the authority to deprive Catholic electors of their constitutionally mandated right to educate their children in an environment rooted in denominational rights recognized in law.

As uncomfortable as it may appear for him, the Cardinal’s own supporters claim it is time he did his job and reined in dissidents. Trustees are nailing their manifesto on his cathedral doors. It is a big deal.

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