TCDSB Trustees: An "F" in Catholic Education

Toronto Catholic School Board HQ

TCDSB Trustees: An "F" in Catholic Education


I just attended a Toronto Catholic District School Board trustees meeting, where the central issue was a proposed ban on "gay-straight alliances" in Catholic high schools. The issue was forced when months ago the provincial Liberal government mandated that a school boards allow for gay-straight alliances as part its anti-bullying policy. The Archdiocese of Toronto worked with staff members of the TCDSB to draft it's own policy that would provide support to students who experiece different forms of bullying, while still faithfully upholding Catholic moral teaching in the area of homosexuality. Part of this was avoidance of the term "gay-straight alliance", which has its origins outside the Catholic tradition in the greater gay-rights movement and does not reflect a Catholic anthropology (which resists assigning labels to persons based on sexual inclination).

If I were to sum up my feelings about the meeting in a word, it would be: disheartening. Deeply, deeply disheartening.

Here are 3 reasons why I give the TCDSB Trustees an "F" in Catholic education:

1. They have forgotton what it means to be Catholic

The trustees voted 7-4 against the motion to ban gay-straight alliances, claiming that this approach creates "safer space" for students, and is "inclusive" and compassionate. Oh yes, and also, gay-straight alliances reflect "Gospel values" (in other words, those values that are clearly there in the Gospel but somehow didn't make it into "Catholic teaching").

Being Catholic means having a deep reverential trust of Catholic teaching. It means we consult our tradition and especially the teaching of the Magisterium. In this area, it would have made sense to cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal documents on Catholic education, and the local authority of the Canadian bishops and our own Thomas Cardinal Collins, who has repeatedly spoken out against using the name and approach of GSAs. Excepting four trustees, they avoided discussion of the Church's guidance in this area completely, opting instead to interpret themselves what "Catholic" should mean.

The naked bravado was on shocking display when Trustee Sal Piccininni called the motion "on the wrong side of history", and stated that "throwing a 2,000 year old book at someone" was not going to be helpful. Again, this was a Catholic trustee speaking.

Words fail.

2. They are ignoring the clear direction of the bishops

On top of the bishops instruction to not use the term "GSA", another one of their requirements was that an adult be present in any anti-bullying club to offer support and guidance to the youth, including youths who may be experiencing same-sex attraction.


Seems sensible, right? Here's why, from page 6 of the CCCB document Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-Sex Attraction:

As teachers, catechists and other educators, you play a role insofar as you carry out your responsibilities in the name of the parents and with their consent.

In the catechesis of young adults, it is imperative to present in a firm but charitable way the true nature and purpose of human sexuality in all its dimensions. Encourage them in the practice of chastity, especially since society often misunderstands and scorns this virtue. Avoidance of difficult questions or watering down the Church’s teaching is always a disservice. Such attitudes could lead young people into grave moral danger.“ Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.”

We ask you to pay particular attention to guiding adolescents and young adults with same- sex attraction away from two specific dangers. First, help them see themselves as persons with a God-given dignity and not merely as individuals with sexual inclinations and desires. Second, help them avoid involvement in a “gay culture” opposed to the Church’s teaching, with its often aggressive and immoral lifestyle. 

Clearly this has not been heeded in the TCDSB. Among the presentations at the meeting were student groups who were meeting on their own in GSAs, with the approval of teachers and, evidently, the approval of the trustees, who gushed over how wonderful these groups were (see tweet to the right). 

3. They have become themselves the bullies

Somewhat ironically, the trustees have created an environment where bullying against teachers, parents, and students who maintain the Church's moral teaching in this area is fair game. My experience has brought me into contact with teachers in the board who have shared with me how they feel marginalized and afraid to speak out against those in their departments who wish to communicate a full and unqualified approval of same-sex relationships and lifestyle, putting these in the same category as the sacrament of matrimony. (One teacher related to me an incident of being acosted for coming to school in an ordinary shirt on the Day of Pink.) This is a most worrisome situation, where teachers who just want to live according to their Catholic faith, in the Catholic board, are afraid to do so.

For these reasons, I give our current crop of trustees an "F" in Catholic education.

Is there hope for the Catholic board? What would have to happen to fix it? Please share your thoughts, because meetings like this one make me afraid to hear the answer.

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

Join the Converstation

We encourage and appreciate your comments and discussion on this site. Please remember to be charitable in disagreement. We reserve the right to remove comments that are deemed hurtful or excessively vulgar.