OTTAWA - Amid challenges Catholics are facing in the area of marriage and human sexuality, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) gave John Paul II’s teachings on the Theology of the Body (TOB) top billing at its third “Seminar on the Family.”

Catholic weddings have decreased 74 per cent in Canada over the past 34 years. The picture is similar in the United States and other Western countries, said Christian and Christine Meert, directors of the office of marriage and family life in the Colorado Springs diocese.

Among Catholics who choose a church wedding, 90 per cent of engaged couples are already sexually active, using artificial contraception and planning to continue using it after marriage, the couple said. They said Catholic priests and marriage preparation leaders may be reluctant to bring up the Church’s teachings on human sexuality for fear of scaring away young people.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - The same week a student group came under fire for distributing condoms on the Saint Paul University (SPU) campus, a pro-life group hosted a panel on the benefits of natural family planning (NFP), revealing the contrasts between artificial and natural means of preventing pregnancy.

SPU administrators ordered the student group to stop leaving a bowl of condoms for free pickup by students. That prompted a student to write an open letter, backed by 100 others, that led to stories by the news media.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - Parents must assert their rights as first educators of their children or bear the consequences of government policy that will profoundly re-engineer their children’s views on family and sexuality, says Teresa Pierre.

The director of Parents As First Educators (PAFE) said parents need to get involved in decisions being made that will affect their children.

“Start attending your parent-teacher meetings and start asking questions when you hear a proposal offered that doesn’t sound quite right, or worse, when you don’t hear anything at all,” she said. “Parents have a lot of influence when their criticisms are offered in a respectful way in a context of a community that knows you.

“The Church has told us the importance of parental authority in education and even suggested that families should work together to support each other,” she said, drawing from Familaris consortio (The Role of the Family in the Modern World), Pope John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation.  This document describes parental authority in education as “primary and inalienable” and outlines the duty parents have to maintain an active relationship with teachers and school authorities, she said. Parents are to be advocates of family policies in society, the document says, and warns “families will be the first victims of the evils they have done no more than note with indifference.”

PAFE is a fledgling organization formed last spring during equity policy public consultations with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. When former Ontario education minister Kathleen Wynne introduced the Equity and Inclusive Education policy to Ontario schools in 2008, Pierre said, “It was designed to create openness to all forms of sexual expression by offering them as part of the curriculum from the earliest ages.” The controversial Bill 13, which mandates gay-straight alliances in high schools, is one prong of this policy, which includes a sexual education curriculum.

Though the Liberals tried to introduce the curriculum in 2010, it received so much criticism from parents the Ministry of Education withdrew it, Pierre said, though she notes Wynne has said the policy will come back. This curriculum would teach Grade 3 students about homosexuality and gender identity, teach Grade 6 students about masturbation and teach Grade 8 students about the concepts “heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, transgendered, transsexual and intersexed,” she said.

“The second way the curriculum could be affected is that equity topics could be introduced almost anywhere in the regular curriculum,” she said, noting the Toronto District School Board issued a manual called Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: a K-12 Curriculum Guide that undermines traditional views of the family. The material treats homosexuality and gender identity as fixed characteristics, she said.

“The fact that there are lots of competing views on the origins of sexual identity or even the need for scientific proof is not even mentioned.”

Pierre said few parents even know about the policy, despite the public consultations.  She said the media, Church hierarchy and school boards play a role in dissemination of information but at the school level, parent-teacher associations should be informing parents about these policies.  

“Are they doing that? Most don’t,” she said.

“Even the people who do care and do know better are often afraid to speak against the culture. You need to overcome your own fear, which is the root of the problem.”

Published in Education

VATICAN CITY - The Archdiocese of Milan, which will host the World Meeting of Families 2012, announced Pope Benedict XVI would spend three days in the northern Italian city in June, celebrating the event's closing Mass, but also attending a concert at the world famous La Scala theater.

The world meeting, to be held May 30-June 3, includes family activities as well as workshops and speeches for theologians and people involved in the pastoral care of families.

Published in Vatican
January 31, 2012

Texting overload

There is a new social phenomenon affecting thousands of families. For many, it is bewildering, even infuriating. For others, it’s addictive.

I call this new phenomenon Together but Texting — people socializing through text messaging. We’ve all seen it and, quite likely, been with people while they’ve had their eyes, minds and fingers focussed on their cellphone, Blackberry or iPad. Sometimes it’s as if their very soul is immersed.

Published in Guest Columns

Edmonton - In the eyes of Fr. Jack Gallagher, sociologists have proven Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage right.

“Study after study” shows that the ideal place for children to be raised is with their two birth parents, said Gallagher.

“It’s astounding to me that the empirical evidence is so clear,” he said. “I thought there would be general evidence in favour of the Catholic teaching. On point after point, the sociologists have simply proven it true.”

Published in Canada

WASHINGTON - A letter signed by more than three dozen U.S. religious leaders objects to the specter of religious groups being forced to treat same-sex unions "as if they were marriage."

"Altering the civil definition of 'marriage' does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once," said the letter, "Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together," released Jan. 12.

Published in International