Cardinal Thomas Collins

Wily McGuinty’s Orwellian law scorns Church over Bill 13

By 
  • July 10, 2012

What makes Premier Dalton McGuinty’s treatment of Toronto Archbishop (and Cardinal) Thomas Collins over the gay-straight alliances particularly distressing is that the Church asked for so little and wound up with nothing. To go down fighting in defence of core teachings of the Church would be one thing, but to get a dismissive backhand from the premier when the Church had already accommodated almost every item of Bill-13 and when all that was left is nomenclature, well, that is truly humiliating.

Of course, Cardinal Collins was betrayed by many of his putative allies. OECTA, the Catholic teachers’ union, made it clear that they sided with McGuinty and not with the Church from which they derive their raison d’etre. Quislings too, publicly or privately, were many Catholic school trustees. With allies like these, how could anyone confidently go into battle?

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association produced a document entitled Respecting Differences which, for sheer insipidity and political correctness must set some new world record. One example: “Often disputes and disagreements about difference underlie fears of rejection, lack of acceptance, lack of support and lack of affirmation. Properly understood, difference is something to be recognized in a society that honours diversity, multiculturalism and human rights.”

I do not doubt for a moment what a  spokesman for the Ontario bishops said after the defeat: “The bishop and those working in the Catholic community attended literally hundreds of meetings on the issue.” Was it worth it, I wonder, those hundreds of meetings with bureaucrats and politicians during which the clerics must have prayed silently for the moment when they could get away?

But the diplomatic dance took time and in the end the clerics waltzed away with nothing at all. The wily politician snookered the good cardinal. The Orwellian “Accepting Schools Act” is now the law and any single student in a Catholic high school can demand the creation of a gay-straight alliance at his school. And what say does the school principal have? Nada.

At some point in the negotiations did the dialogue, I wonder, go something like this: “With respect, Mr. Premier, you must see that we cannot create organizations that undermine Catholic teaching.” To which the premier might have replied: “Of course I understand. I am a Catholic, my wife teaches in a Catholic school, my children have all been educated in Catholic schools.”

I cannot think of a war, or even a battle, that has been fought over such picayune stakes as the name of a school club. Unless, of course, GSAs are just the opening salvo and the real battle plan is to defund Catholic education.

In these times, to appear as anything less than a full supporter of the gay-rights agenda is to insure public obloquy. Perhaps those opposed to GSAs could not gird their loins to face such obloquy.

If so, this was a foolish calculation because the Church, Catholic teaching, priests and bishops are already roundly discounted by most of the chattering classes. The weakness exhibited in the fight over Bill-13 will only increase the disregard in which they are generally held.

Just one more point.

If this is the beginning of a Liberal campaign to defund Catholic education, McGuinty will hear no opposition from me. Anything authentically Catholic about the separate school system disappeared a long time ago. All that can be said about Catholic schools is that they provide a slightly better quality of education than the public system. But then again, it’s small praise: how could they not?

(Hunter is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Law at Western University. His latest book is That Time of Year).

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