Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast

Ontario sex ed curriculum threatens parents’ right to judge ‘immoral’ material

  • February 4, 2015

OTTAWA - Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast warned a proposed Ontario sexual education curriculum could threaten parental rights and force “immoral” teachings on Catholic school children.

“We know that the proposed program threatens the fundamental right of parents to educate their children in the moral dimension of sexual behaviour,” the archbishop told supporters of Maryvale Academy at the private Catholic school’s 10th anniversary fundraising gala Jan. 31. “Mandatory instruction in the classroom will prevent parents from protecting their children from material they could judge age-inappropriate or immoral.”

The archbishop criticized the fact Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government plans to introduce the mandatory program with a consultation program involving only a limited number of parents.

“Many parents, concerned citizens and religious leaders already have grave concerns about this curriculum,” he said.

While details of the program have not been revealed, critics such as the group Parents as First Educators (PAFE) have raised concerns it is a reintroduction of a curriculum proposed in 2010 that included instruction on masturbation, anal and oral sex. The program also relied heavily on gender theory, with exercises for elementary school-aged children to question whether their gender is something different from their sex as a boy or a girl. This program raised so much controversy among parents that then-Premier Dalton McGuinty withdrew it.

PAFE has gathered more than 30,000 signatures opposing the new curriculum that it says “parents oppose because they are graphic and age-inappropriate and don’t align with the principles of many religious and cultural groups.”

“We do not believe that pre-pubescent children should be overloaded with graphic information about sex,” the petition says. “As parents, grandparents or other concerned Ontario voters we want to preserve their innocence as long as possible.”

Prendergast stressed the right of parents as the primary educators of children in his comments to Maryvale Academy supporters.

“Parents are best qualified and have the greatest interest in working with their own children to handle this serious topic at an age and developmentally sensitive time,” the archbishop said. “More notably, parents have the fundamental right to do so — a right the province appears willing to usurp without due consideration.”

Prendergast said that as the proposed curriculum now stands, Queen’s Park will not allow Catholic educational institutions to replace it with their own programs “for teaching the moral dimensions of sexuality.”

“If experience is any guide, and from early indications, the government’s program contains material that contradicts Catholic moral principles,” the archbishop said.

“Furthermore, the government will decide how and when to teach this material. This decision will have no regard for an individual child’s readiness for that discussion or her parents’ wishes.”

The archbishop praised the way Maryvale Academy educates students “in a faith-filled environment,” nourishing both spiritual growth and intellectual formation. But the school only builds on the “indispensable” formation the children receive from their parents, he said.

“Parents, you are uniquely qualified to teach your children the moral dimension of life,” he said. “Our school teachers reinforce the lessons that are first taught and modelled at home. They build on the foundation that you laid.”

Prendergast urged the several hundred attending the gala to inform themselves about the “imminent curriculum” and to contact the education minister, the premier and their local MPP.

“Tell them your concerns about this seizure of parental authority,” he said.

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