TORONTO - I mean no disrespect to the followers of religious ideologies whose detailed philosophic tenets are unfamiliar to me as I speak about the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of our Western culture. Without false humility, I can recall the years spent in the “public spaces” dominated by, and reserved for, religious minorities from other places. It was my duty as a public official to help the integration process where reciprocity, inclusion and rule of law were and are values common to us all.
All religious leaders I met underscored the value structure inherent to their social-cultural group, whether Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish or Christian (in its many manifestations). They all have guidelines (rules) reinforcing what is consistent “conduct” for participation. No one is compelled to observe them, if they choose not to be a member.
As the Pope said recently, here are the rules if you want to be Catholic… you do not have to follow them but then you cannot call yourself Catholic. It is a simple logic, coming from a Jesuit steeped in learning that few of us ever attain, expressed for clarity and comfort.
The other day, the Vatican pronounced its definitive position on the question of same-sex unions to clarify a dubium (“doubts”, issues) related to church teachings on non-binary sexuality. Suffice it to say that such clarifications are not frivolously made – much study, deliberation and debate precedes the documents for the Pope’s final approval. They are designed to “make sense” of contemporary life.
Not everyone will be happy. Fifteen years ago, several pastors threatened to throw me physically out of their church, if I dared to show my face because, as a Cabinet Minister, I was instrumental in devising the Same Sex Marriage Act. The Vatican’s declaration, which the Corriere reported in Monday’s edition, would seem to suggest they might have been right.
Ironically, the radical element who “benefitted” most from that legislative initiative rail that I and the Corriere Canadese are targeting them unduly by upholding Constitutional and Legislative rights of Catholics in education. They are simply categorically wrong.
Catholic school boards, where some of the debate has been unfolding recently, are now in a quandary. Their existence depends on two fundamentals.
First, the Constitution Act of the country recognizes their rights as Roman Catholic institutions in the service of their adherents. The Education Act of Ontario and Human Rights legislation both underline the obligations of governments to Roman Catholic citizens.
Second, the [Catholic] Church through its magisterium – the Pope and his representative – decides who/what qualifies as “Catholic”. For the uninitiated, neither school board trustees nor City Councillors have the authority to determine what religious tenets will be taught in those schools.
For that matter, not even the Provincial government, through its Minister of Education, can interfere. Those trustees and staff at the TCDSB with their feigned outrage and concern will need to refocus on fulfilling their obligations to the magisterium or resign.
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