If I were you, I’d have a problem with that. In fact, I DO have a problem with that.
Last Sunday, a small crowd of maybe 100 people gathered at Queen’s Park to protest a de-facto ban on gay-straight alliance groups in Ontario’s Catholic schools. The issue had first come to a head earlier this year when Halton Region’s Catholic school board sought to formally ban the groups, in defiance of provincial equity guidelines. It gained further momentum when a group of students at a Mississauga school were prevented from forming a GSA.
These events very publicly brought to light just how out of sync the Catholic school boards are with modern notions of sexuality and equality. More importantly, they have served to once again fuel public resentment of the existing school system, in which the province fully funds two streams: one for Catholics and one for everyone else. In my view, there is no coherent defence of the system. It is unfairly discriminatory, and we should abolish it immediately.
Not that doing so would really help gay students with their struggles inside the Catholic church. I’m not an expert on theology, but I attended Catholic schools for 15 years, from kindergarten to grade 13. I’m also a former altar boy, former Sunday-school teacher and former employee of the Catholic Youth Organization. Though I have parted ways with religion, my wife identifies as Catholic, my father is a lay minister in his parish, and my father-in-law has a PhD in religious studies and has published three books on Catholicism.
I could go on, but the point is that I’m conversant with the Vatican’s teachings on human sexuality. That being the case, let me start by making a very basic observation: There is no way to form a student group based on the idea that homosexual sex is natural and healthy, and also have that group conform to Catholic teaching. Those teachings are internally consistent and based on the fundamental premise that the primary purpose—and the sole acceptable expression—of sex is procreation. If you accept that premise as an absolute truth, then the rest of the faith’s sexual hang-ups (no condoms, no premarital intercourse, no abortion, no same-sex coupling) follows as obviously and inevitably as night follows day. And Catholics are required by their church to accept that premise as an absolute truth—it’s a fundamental, “infallible” teaching of the faith that’s not open to debate.
This may be unfortunate and wrong-headed. The idea may even be dangerous. But in a pluralistic society, we acknowledge that other people can hold crazy religious ideas and it’s no legal concern of ours. It only becomes a problem when you realize that the Catholic school boards in Ontario are agents of the government—they receive 100 per cent of their funding from provincial taxpayers. To most of us, the thought of our tax contributions being used to fund an institution that openly rejects homosexuality is unfortunate at best, repugnant at worst. But there’s an even more important truth here: Government has no business using public money to push a single religious agenda in any public school system. It runs entirely contrary to both the principles of diversity we proclaim and those of freedom of religion and equality we have enshrined in the constitution. So why are we doing it? Because as any Catholic would point out, the very existence of the Catholic school boards is enshrined in that same constitution.
Next page: how a publicly funded Catholic-school system discriminates against teachers, parents and students alike