The international Pro-Life flag is pictured. Photo from Facebook

Editorial: Foolish aplenty

  • May 2, 2024

It might have been appropriate to raise the white flag of Ugly Ville over the April 23 meeting of the Toronto Catholic District School Board. 

Neither side covered itself with glory in the debate over Trustee Michael Del Grande’s motion to fly the International Pro-Life standard at TCDSB schools and the Catholic Centre during May. 

Had it passed, Del Grande’s proposal would have offset the board’s controversial move to have the LGBT Pride flag flown during June. It would have been a profound signal of Catholic educational support for the annual National March for Life in Ottawa, which will be held May 9 this year. Included in the motion was a call to have that day set aside for the teaching of pro-life curriculum. 

It was a fair enough idea founded on pride in, and consistency with, Catholic teaching. Certainly, it deserved more considered treatment than its 10-2 drubbing when put to a vote.

Alas, a cohort of vocally athletic supporters in the gallery decided to turn the opportunity into a vulgar display of self-defeating triumphalism through disruptive hooting and mooing that warning for them to be quiet eventually morphed into their being escorted from the building by security. 

As the Register’s Quinton Amundson framed the snatching of defeat from the jaws of potential victory: “The speeches in favour or against flying the pro-life flag were overshadowed… by the controversy surrounding the audience's conduct.”

One such bright light distinguished himself by asserting in the face of calls for civility that “we answer only to Jesus Christ,” apparently unaware Our Lord instructed us to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s. Mature and respectful decorum at a public gathering to decide the business of vital institution would definitely fall into the Caesarian domain.

Whether the boorish antics could have been avoided is unanswerable, of course, but there’s an argument to be made that they might have been minimized if the motion itself had been positioned differently. Instead of a head-on collision of opposing beliefs, Del Grande and his supporters might have offered a more imaginative and unifying proposal that achieved the desired pro-life end. 

They could, for example, have motioned for the Papal Flag to be uniquely flown during May rather than a symbol of the political pro-life movement per se. They could have called for a series of hour-long events in TCDSB schools where Archbishop Francis Leo and other clergy would speak to students at a student level of understanding about Dignitas Infinita. The recent document from the Dicastery for Faith, after all, firmly affirms Catholic teaching on issues of life and sexuality. Let the trustee willing to vote against that motion stand for re-election on his or her record.

Given the bewildering group think that seems to have seized the board, though, the embarrassing risk arises that voting against the Pope and propagation of Church doctrine is not out of the question for some Catholic trustees. Without singling her out, trustee Maria Rizzo exemplified such thinking when she argued that flying the Pride flag and flying the pro-life flag couldn’t be compared because the former was a “student driven” initiative.

What? “Student driven” is now the standard a school board with a budget of $1.1 billion must genuflect before? Adjusting the metaphor, who exactly is driving this billion-dollar bus? To reduce the point to absurdity, if these hallowed “student drivers” want to drive real school buses, must their wishes be made true? Our Lord gave us the authority categories of Caesar and God, not young ’uns who haven’t yet mastered the alphabet or algebra.

The confusion deepened with trustee Angela Kennedy’s seemingly convoluted argument. She dismissed Del Grande’s motion as “a kind of indoctrination” out of sync with ministry of education expectations that Catholic schools must graduate students who will “be successful on the global stage.” Somehow, as a result, “this motion, if passed, would destroy the meaning behind these expectations and render them meaningless.”

Has it occurred to her that such an understanding and acceptance of those ministry expectations renders the meaning of Catholic schooling itself meaningless? The “global stage” as envisioned by provincial educrats is well and good, but the beauty of Catholic schools is their intention to form hearts, souls, and minds in the faith of Jesus Christ as doctrinally taught by our Holy Mother Church. The alternative raises ugly questions, and an even uglier debate.

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