Waterloo Catholic school trustee Greg Reitzel.

OECTA sends wrong message by supporting pride parade

  • June 11, 2014

A Waterloo Catholic school trustee believes Catholic teachers marching in the 2014 World Pride Parade with the support of their union sends a confusing message to students. 

When his board voted on May 26 to support the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association’s (OECTA) participation in the parade — the union made its decision at its annual general meeting in March — Greg Reitzel was the only dissenting voice. 

“What is a student going to think if they end up seeing a picture of their teacher in amongst a lot of the other images you see at the parade?” asked Reitzel, referring to the nudity and lewd behaviour that is a staple of the annual event. “How do you distinguish them from being there and not promoting the lifestyle that Gay Pride promotes?” 

The lifestyle that it promotes, according to Reitzel, is one of explicit sexuality, labels which he said “segregate,” and illegal activities — all things the organizers seem to support. 

“The organizers said ... it is about being there and being in your face and being naked and raunchy and everything else,” said the father of three, two of whom are still in Catholic schools. “So the parade itself definitely goes far beyond just saying that being gay is OK. Illegal activities do happen there (and) I’m not sure why they aren’t dealt with.” 

Reitzel said he would have the same issue with the parade if it were exclusively heterosexuals acting in an overtly sexually explicit way. 

“Our sexuality is one component of who we are and this parade and stuff that is going on is making that into who they are instead of just one component of who they are,” said Reitzel, a 44- year-old firefighter in the Waterloo area. “It is more important than putting letters on everybody and segregating all of these different categories that students learn that they are beloved children of God.” 

For Reitzel, OECTA is giving the impression that it, and the teachers it represents, are afraid to stand up for their faith — another negative message for students. 

“It is really unfortunate that people are afraid to speak out about some of the facades of our faith like theology of the body and items like that,” he said. “Being a Catholic teacher (should be) a vocation and not just a job.” 

OECTA president James Ryan has stressed on more than one occasion that taking part in the parade is about showing support for the people but not the actions that Reitzel opposes. 

“This is about support and it’s about showing solidarity and it is not an affirmation of any particular practice,” he told The Catholic Register. “(It’s) reflecting our desire to ensure that they (non-heterosexuals) are free from harassment and forms of discrimination especially in the case of students.” 

Although Reitzel believes in showing support for students during their journey of personal discovery, he still thinks the parade is the wrong place to do that. 

“I understand the need to support students who are questioning things at that age but I think it is important to we do it within the Catholic faith.” 

Reitzel noted that Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins and St. Catharines’ Bishop Gerard Bergie suggested OECTA reconsider taking part in the parade in favour of a more Catholic-oriented means of showing support. 

“We (should) have a special Mass to show our support on the day of the parade with the intention of praying for all of the people who do identify differently,” suggested Reitzel. 

He also praised the Ontario bishops’ Respecting Difference document which was proposed as an alternative to Bill-13’s Gay- Straight Alliance clause. 

Francis Doyle, a Waterloo-area resident and spokesman for Parents As First Educators (PAFE), is also concerned with the message students may interpret from Catholic teachers marching in the parade. 

“We cannot allow our teachers to undermine the teachings of our faith and we cannot allow our students to be given a message by our teachers that leads them away from the truth as presented by the Church,” he said. 

PAFE president Teresa Pierre began circulating an online petition seeking to have trustees pressure OECTA to reconsider. Since it first appeared on Good Friday the petition has garnered more than 4,400 signatures. 

Reitzel agrees that Catholic parents and trustees need to step up and defend their faith-based school system. 

“The only way to keep our Catholic schools Catholic is to have the Catholic ratepayers of this province stand up for their right to have Catholic education in this province,” he said. “Trustees across this province will have to stand up too.” 

But OECTA is not considering overturning its decision. 

“It would be very difficult for a provincial executive to overturn a decision from the annual general meeting,” said Ryan. “There would have to be new and compelling information for an executive to overturn the decision.” 

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