Ontario Catholic schools will follow Catholic doctrine

  • April 29, 2010
Catholic EducationTORONTO - Ontario’s public Catholic schools will always assert their right to teach students Catholic doctrine on matters of faith and morality, says the Institute of Catholic Education.

“When it comes to matters of faith and morality, denominational rights accorded to the Catholic schools of Ontario supersede any Government of Ontario directives which are at variance with the teachings of the church,” said ICE executive director Sr. Joan Cronin.

On April 20, Premier Dalton McGuinty had defended a controversial sex-ed program which had been set to begin this fall. But after public outcry over the changes, McGuinty backtracked three days later. He said the government was reconsidering the program and seeking more input from parents.

The proposed changes would have introduced the concepts of oral sex, anal intercourse, masturbation and vaginal lubrication to Grade 6 and 7 students. Grade 3 students would have been taught about sexual identity and orientation and Grade 1 students would have learned the proper names of body parts, including genitalia.

Cronin said ICE, which develops religious curriculum for schools, was consulted for more than two years when the government began its revision of the province’s health and physical education curriculum. At that time, Cronin said ICE intended to adapt the government’s expectations and align it with the Catholic schools’ curriculum.

Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher, chair of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, told The Register that Catholic schools have been ahead of the government in this area. About 30 years ago, Ontario’s bishops published guidelines about family and sexual education “long before the Ministry of Education did,” Durocher wrote in an April 26 letter to the editor in The Cornwall Standard-Freeholder.

For more than 20 years, Ontario Catholic schools have been using the Fully Alive family life program which includes lessons on human sexuality from a Catholic lens. The bishops had also sponsored and approved Fully Alive guidelines for Grade 1 to 8 students “after extensive consultations with Catholic parents across the province and have met with overwhelming support.”  

A revision of the Fully Alive material began in 2006 and has since been completed. It addresses new issues in family and sexual education from a Catholic perspective.

Meanwhile, Amy Gerdevich, president of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education, says it was “caught off guard” by the government’s proposed changes. She said the association took part in consultations about high school curriculum revisions on physical health and education, but does not recall consultations on the elementary school program.

Gerdevich said she would bring up the importance of having “the parent voice” heard at an April 29 meeting between Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky and education groups.

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