Cardinal Thomas Collins addresses the 1,700 who attended the 33rd Annual Cardinal's Dinner held on Oct. 11. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Cardinal Collins defends the rights of Catholic Education

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  • October 11, 2012

[Updated at 12/10/12, 10:30 a.m.]

In a rebuke to comments made by Education Minister Lauren Broten, Cardinal Thomas Collins told a packed audience that the identity of Catholic schools must be respected and the mission of Catholic schools includes engaging in pro-life activities.

Collins made his comments to 1,700 people at the annual Cardinal's Dinner on Thursday night a day after Broten suggested that under the province's new anti-bullying legislation Catholic schools should not be teaching that abortion is wrong because "Bill-13 is about tackling misogyny."

"Taking away a woman's right to choose could arguably be considered one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take," she said at a press conference. "I don't think there is a conflict between choosing Catholic education for your children and supporting a woman's right to choose."

Collins did not specifically mention Broten, and neither she nor Premier Dalton McGuinty attended the dinner at Toronto's Metro Convention Centre. The Ontario government was represented by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa. He heard the cardinal defend the rights of Catholic education in no uncertain terms.

Collins said the Catholic identity of Catholic schools is "recognized and protected" by section 93 of the constitution and by section 1 of the Education Act.

"Both the constitution and the Education Act make it clear that the Catholic identity of the school must be respected," he said.

Then, referring to Bill-13, the government's anti-bullying legislation, he said:

"This is true when it comes to the establishment of anti-bullying groups designed to make the school a better place for all, and in Catholic schools that means following the method outlined in the document Respecting Difference, of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association. It is our mission to speak up for all those who suffer, and especially those who are voiceless, for those who are forgotten.

"It is also true when it comes to protecting the freedom of all in the school community to engage in pro-life activities in order to foster a culture of life in which the most vulnerable and voiceless among us are protected and honoured throughout their whole life on earth from the moment of conception to natural death.

"Defending the voiceless is our mission."

Collins reminded the audience that Catholic education has been an integral component of Ontario schooling since before Confederation. He said the province was blessed to have a religious and non-religious education system that "work together in co-operation to make education a treasure for which all Ontarians may truly be thankful."

"There is more beauty in the variety of a garden than in the uniform, undifferentiated, monotony of the dull flat surface of a parking lot," he said.

"The complementary variety in our educational system is an advantage for all, producing not only a healthy competition from which all benefit, but also a fruitful collaboration, and the richness of different approaches to the key issues of life.

"That diversity reflects the reality of the differences that exist in our province. The system works."

Broten, who doubles as the minister responsible for women's issues, made her comments on Oct. 10 after Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) held a press conference at Queen's Park to promote weekend rallies that will demand the province stop funding abortion through Ontario health insurance.  The CLC press conference was sponsored by three Conservative MPPs.

In posing a question to Broten, a reporter said "the Catholic school system in this province is teaching the kind of intolerant thought that we saw coming out of that (CLC) press conference. They let kids out of school to go to anti-abortion rallies. Is that appropriate?" When Broten dodges that question, a reporter again asked: "Should schools be encouraging kids to go to anti-abortion rallies?"

"In Ontario, we support Catholic education, support the teaching of love and tolerance in our schools and at the same time we support the right to chose." she replied. "I am one that supports Catholic education and has been adamantly inn support of women's right to chose for many years and I do not see a conflict in those."

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