Stephen Lecce’s frontal assault
on Catholic schools

di Joe Volpe del May 6, 2021

Minister Lecce is an ambitious individual, it is reputed, with Leadership in his sights. Nothing wrong with that. He will have to prove his mettle with some “deliverables” and “drive”. Do not get in the way, if this is true.

Some students of Canadian history have argued that Compromise is a hallmark of our democratic system. People in politics are pragmatic rather than dogmatic zealots, they argue. They cannot be getting out much.

I have witnessed colleagues “booted out of caucus” (all parties) for disagreeing with the power structure. “Leaderships” have an uncanny predisposition to intolerance for contrasting views. Their view is usually best expressed as, “What’s mine is mine and what is yours is negotiable”. Law and due process become minor obstacles for them.

If they want something others may concede only grudgingly and only if there is a quid pro quo, then Law and due process are set aside. Half-baked ideas and quasi promises substitute policy and process.

Not surprisingly, some school boards (Catholic) are being torn apart because their trustees and administrators were seduced, or browbeaten, into accepting Minister Lecce’s views that they must adopt the Human Rights Code in all aspects of their curriculum and operations.

They were essentially told to admit they were “falling short of the standard”. Which standards and by whose measurements no one could or would say. Might offend the Minister. Invoke the Nuremberg defense.

But the Education Act prohibits the Minister from interfering with anything having to do with the denominational rights of Catholic Schools enshrined in the Constitution. And Section 19 of the HRC expressly says the HRC does not apply to Catholic schools. Neither of them can compel trustees to do anything that betrays their fiduciary obligations to parents who have a right send their children to Catholic schools and to have that Catholicity imparted to them.

There may be vocal, even strident, electors or self-interested lobbyists who disagree with doctrine but if they have a “position” of substance, the magisterium is the appropriate reference for debate.

Moreover, Trustees cannot “negotiate away” the rights of their Catholic electors. Lawyers may argue differently (which I doubt) but trustees would be committing an illegal act if they did or tried.

I would like to think Minister Lecce did not anticipate advice that would run counter to the Law and have that advice sold to him as “the right thing to do”. Yet, that counsel has stirred a hornet’s nest of vilification against individuals and organizations and led to legal battles that will leave him and them scarred.

From a personal perspective, some of his allies are who have rallied to his cause keep pumping the argument that human rights, inclusivity and equality are pre-eminent. No problem: these values are imbedded in the Catholic “golden rule” and in virtually all teachings emanating from the magisterium.

The problem is that those radical activists argue a zero-sum game with their relentless refrains of homophobia and transphobia which they hurl at anyone who is from a Catholic environment – just for being Catholic. Or that Catholic environments somehow represent unsafe spaces for children who may feel threatened/intimidated/hurt because of their perceived sexuality.

Such argumentation is nonsense of course. Who would deny help to children in need? Addressing those needs is the reason Boards hire teachers and support staff. Dropping epithets laced with “systemic this” and “systemic that” is an insult to those who built the faith-based separate school system in Toronto and beyond.

If gratuitous insults and shameless pandering to the Minister (here today, gone tomorrow) are not the end game, then the real target must be the Church itself.

The Barbarians may not yet be at the gate – so to speak - but they are about to cross the proverbial Rubicon. The Cardinal’s flock need his guidance beforehand, as does the defence of Constitutionally embedded denominational rights.

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