Brian Lilley

Brian Lilley

Brian Lilley is a newspaper columnist and TV host for Sun News Network. He is on twitter @brianlilley.

He is a man of the poor, we were told.

Pope Francis’ devotion to the poor was one of the first things the media latched onto when the result of last month’s conclave became known. We were treated to stories of his humble apartment, his riding the bus and his overall simple life.

The media attention is fading but the Pope’s message to help the poor should not. The question is how?

In our secular politics we often hear political parties accuse one another of not caring about the poor. That’s not true. In fact it’s quite unfair. In Canada all parties care about helping the poor but they differ on the best way to go about it...

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The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) recently issued a statement saying they are “extremely disappointed” with the news that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace had its latest government funding come in much lower than expected.

I for one couldn’t be happier.

Well, actually, I would be happier if D&P lost all of its government funding, but dropping from a request of $49 million over five years to just $14 million over five years is a step in the right direction.

There has been a strange silence from the top of the Dalton McGuinty government on the  contentious issue of gay-straight alliance clubs.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association gave its response to the government’s proposal on Jan. 25. Catholic schools will respect differences but will not go against Church teaching, the OCSTA document said.
The document was a challenge to the government’s attempt to steamroll over Catholic schools but also a strong affirmation of religious freedom and the constitutional right of Catholics to run their own education system.

Writing in this paper more than 30 years ago, Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter wrote that parents in Ontario would lose the Catholic school system when they stopped caring about whether it was Catholic. We might be approaching that moment.

Faced with a premier who seems determined to force issues and teachings that go against Catholic teaching, and a Catholic educational establishment that thinks there is nothing to worry about, parents will have to either fight back to preserve Catholic schools or watch them fade into distant memory.

There was an interesting moment in the Republican presidential candidates’ debate in California a few weeks back. Brian Williams, the NBC news anchor and moderator, asked Rick Santorum, a prominent Catholic running for the Republican nomination, a question about poverty.

“The Catholic faith has as a part of it caring for the poor,” Williams said. “One in seven people in this country now qualifies as poor. Where do the poor come in? Where do they place? In this party, on this stage, in a Santorum administration?”

The Ontario election campaign has been on for a few weeks now and I have yet to hear Catholic education mentioned once.

That’s odd, considering all three main party leaders are graduates of the Catholic school system.
 Yet none of the three main parties specifically mention Catholic education or faith-based education in their platforms.

In the 2007 election, it seems that’s all we talked about.
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives promised to extend funding for faith-based schools beyond the Catholic system and include Protestant, Jewish and Muslim schools. The Liberals met that proposal with derision, claiming there should only be one public system that did not divide Ontario.