The Comment

Responsibility in public office: “I love breaking the rules”

TORONTO – Unbelievably, that is a statement made by an elected trustee – to a Catholic school board, no less. Think what you want; those schools exist only because our constitution enshrines the right of parents to an ethics, values – based (religion enforced, “denominational rights”), Catholic education.

All trustees, and the board administrators whom they hire, either directly or indirectly, are, by Law, authorized to make decisions in loco parentis – as a “model parent” might be expected to make for the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of their child.

It is a legal obligation. No trustee is elected to “push the envelope” on policies that impact the socio-cultural boundaries demanded by our Constitutional imperatives. In Catholic schools, no trustee or administrator can claim to displace or interpret the value system of the magisterium. That is the role of the archbishop in Toronto (or Council of bishops beyond Toronto’s borders).

Regrettably, when there is a leadership vacuum, less qualified individuals fill the void, much to the chagrin of the system envisioned by the ambition of our founders, or those who have placed their trust in erstwhile adherence to religious or political foundations upon which we built and continue to build our society.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board is in the grips of such a dilemma today. It is an open secret that the Board is divided on matters of Faith and religious observance. Their competence in planning and delivering sound financial and educationally responsible programs is questionable at the best of times. They seem to bend to the latest “lobby group”, just to secure their own positions.

Today for example, they will debate whether it is appropriate to fly a flag celebrating Life in the month of May, on the premises of the School Board’s central office. This is NOT the Toronto District School Board. Respect for Life during the month of May – dedicated to Mothers and Mother Mary in particular – is part of the Catholic tradition. It may be interpreted by some as advocating values associated with childbirth in Catholicism. Trustees and administrative staff “know or ought to know that going in”.

Apparently, it is raising some objections by woke advocates and others whose attachment to the natural (biological) celebrations of things is anathema. Those of us who read or write about Life have passed the nine- month intra-uterine test of survival, prior to exiting the vaginal portal permitting entry into this world. Permit me to recall the reflections of former Prime Minister J. Chretien when he was asked to pronounce himself on the issue of Life or Choice. He said (I paraphrase), I come from a large family, the 18th of 19 children; I am happy my mother chose to have me.

When I served as Parliamentary Secretary for Health, childless couples (some 200,000 in number) organized and lobbied heavily for relaxation of the rules permitting adoption and reproductive technologies. Not many MPs lent a ready ear – “too divisive”, they claimed.

In 2022, the number of reported terminated pregnancies exceeded 83,000, equal to approximately 25% of live births. We understand why the Director of Education may wish to divert attention from his leadership role on family issues; we are constantly bombarded with questions regarding the “lethargy” at the diocese in this regard.

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