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Unanimous Supreme Court
bombshell decision in the “flag debate”

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) would seem to have laid down the ground rules for any discussion on the legitimacy of Catholic schools in Ontario’s “public education systems”. In a unanimous decision, rendered May 21, 2021, it essentially said secular courts have no business in the affairs of religious organizations.

Bluntly, if anyone disagrees with (Dissents from) the “dogma” of a voluntary [religious] organization, that organization has the right to expel them from its ranks. Dissenters can leave on their own, but they cannot seek remedy from State (in the Courts) for their dissenting position.

What does it mean in the context of today’s controversy in the Catholic Church and Catholic schools? Catholic school boards exist with Constitutional guarantees because the Law of the country recognizes that right subject only to the authority of the Church to define dogma.

The schools and the Church are being torn apart, from within, as non-conforming advocates of Pride flags and gender identity programmes in Catholic schools seek to impose their views on more established orthodoxy. These dissidents will now seem to be on the wrong side of Canadian Law if they choose to stay in the religious environment to which they object.

Seven, if not eight trustees, who decided to thumb their noses at the Cardinal’s “guidance” on the matter of gender issues and symbols that conflict with established religious symbols may now be a target for dismissal. Staff who share or promote their views are exposed to the same risk.

The LGBTQ movement within school boards like the TCDSB no longer has any “moral or reasonable legal doubt” on their side. EGALE Canada Human Rights Trust, which speaks officially for the movement, was an intervenor in the Court case that led to the decision. The movement can still start-up its own religion and its own church. However, it would appear to have no legal rights within established, structured orthodoxy.

The litigation came about when dissidents in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada St. Mary Cathedral sought to overturn their Bishop’s decision to expel them for promoting interpretations of the Church’s tenets that are different from its dogma.

The issues mirrored those claimed by pride radicals in the TCDSB (and elsewhere, hence EGALE’s interest). The dissidents, viewed as heretics and schismatics within the Church, sought relief through the secular Courts based on “contract” and “funding” rationale.

In a joint public statement issued May 25, 2021, the Catholic Civil Rights League commented that “…disputes which are related to canonical or doctrinal issues were outside the scope of secular courts to adjudicate…”

Archbishop Dimitros Marew of the Ethiopian Orthodox community commented that “St. Mary Cathedral resolves religious disputes… with the pastoral guidance of our clergy. The Court’s decision asserts the freedom to continue following this teaching.”

Philip Horgan, Lawyer for St. Mary cathedral, commented: “The state, including Canadian courts, should not become enmeshed in religious, doctrinal, and pastoral disputes. The Supreme Court’s decision clarifies that religious organizations, and similar non-profit or charitable groups, will not be subject to court review, unless underlying legal or contractual rights are involved”.

Subsequent to the SCC decision, what would now be the basis for the continued defiance by trustees and staff of the magisterium’s teachings in Catholic education? The musings and ad hoc meanderings of Equity Advisors and Committees cannot replace the input of the magisterium’s representative at the Board.

They may wish to remain in contempt of the oath of allegiance to the magisterium – which they take as a condition of office. Can they now also afford to project contempt for the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada?

There is much to anticipate in the week(s) ahead.


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