Toronto cardinal rebukes Catholic school board members for barring Catechism reading

CollinsDinner2015 Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Toronto

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto has rebuked members of the local Catholic school board for refusing to allow a passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church pertaining to ministry to people with same-sex attraction to be read during a recent meeting.

"That a Catholic should be criticized, and effectively be prevented by Catholic Trustees from reading from the Catholic Catechism at a meeting of a Catholic School Board is reprehensible," Collins wrote in a Nov. 17 letter to board chair Joseph Martino.

"The Catholic faith must guide all who are engaged in Catholic education- including students, teachers, administrators, and trustees- or that education ceases to be Catholic."

Jose Luis Dizon, a member of a Scarborough parish, had called in to a Nov. 12 board meeting to express support for the statements of several board members who had been speaking in support of Church teaching regarding people with same-sex attraction. 

Dizon began to quote paragraph 2357 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which describes homosexual acts as "intrinsically disordered." The next paragraph in the Catechism goes on to state that people experiencing same-sex attraction "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity."

Trustee Norm Di Pasquale interrupted Dizon as he was quoting the passage, stating that Dizon's comments were "treading in dangerous waters" and "putting down a marginalized and vulnerable community."

Martino agreed, adding that "I must warn the delegate that some of the language, I feel, is not proper."

The special session of the school board was called to determine whether to censure Michael Del Grande, a trustee who last year objected to the board's decision to add the terms gender identity, gender expression, family status, and marital status to its code of conduct as protected categories.

At a November 2019 board meeting, Del Grande criticized the board's decision to add the protected categories by proposing, in a facetious manner, that the board add behaviors such as pedophilia and bestiality as protected categories as well.

The Catholic school board, after hearing testimony in favor of and against censuring Del Grande, ultimately decided to censure him for "behaviour which was disrespectful to the [LGBT] community as a whole and the [school board] community."

The board also voted in favor of requesting that Del Grande publicly apologize, complete an "equity training program," and not be allowed to exercise any roles on behalf of the school board for three months.

Cardinal Collins in his letter reminded the board's trustees that they swore an oath of office to be faithful to the teachings of the Church, and questioned how Catholic school board members can fulfill their mission if they have "bought into the fundamentally anti-Catholic narrative that misrepresents Catholic faith as lacking in compassion."

"The world in which we live is dominated by a shallow secular vision of the human person, and of the purpose of life, a vision which is contrary to divine revelation, to reason, and to the profound heritage of Christian faith. It is disappointing when Catholic trustees allow that secular vision to replace the fullness of faith articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We are called to be guided by the Holy Spirit, not by the deceptive spirit of the age," Collins wrote.

Collins said that in listening to the full debate of the school board, it has become clear to him that the board appears to have given priority to a desire not to offend those who hear the Gospel message, rather than fidelity to the Gospel itself and its "challenge calling us to holiness."

"If Jesus Himself were to attend a meeting of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, I wonder if He would be interrupted, if he were to begin to say: 'Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near,' or many other things He says in the Gospel, because those words are perhaps not sufficiently soothing, and perhaps might offend."

Ontario is one of three Canadian provinces- the others being Alberta and Saskatchewan- that fully fund Catholic school systems with taxpayer money.

While provincial governments set basic rules for the operation of those schools, local decisions are made by trustee boards elected by Catholics at the time of municipal elections. Schools are not owned by the dioceses in which they operate. While bishops set catechetical curricula and ensure sacramental ministry in school contexts, they do not exercise control over elected boards.

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