Can Catholic Schools Be Catholic?

A furor is emerging in Ontario about whether or not Catholic schools can teach Catholic teaching, in cases where those teaching may be deemed to contradict current ideas about human rights.

It started with a comment made by Ontario's education minister Laurel Broten. When asked about whether or not Catholic schools should be able to facilitate the participation of their students in anti-abortion activities, she said that arguments against abortion are 'misogynistic', and therefore should not be allowed in schools. She said, “we’re very clear with the passage of Bill 13 that Catholic teachings cannot be taught in our schools that violates human rights and which brings a lack of acceptance to participation in schools.”

In light of these comments, a petition has now been issued be a pro-life organization calling for her resignation. Many Catholics are concerned that this is part of a new policy of Ontario's government to try to dictate what parts of a religion can actually be taught in a school affiliated with that religion.

Whatever one's views are on abortion, it is clearly absurd to say that, on the one hand, Catholic schools can exist, but on the other hand, that they cannot teach central aspects of the Catholic faith. Without the ability to be authentic to their teachings, a Catholic school is not able to be meaningfully different from a public school. If parents object to what is taught in a Catholic school, they are welcome to go to a different school. But, parents who want their children education in the Catholic faith should have a right to send their children to a school which is Catholic in both name and in fact. That right is protected in Canada’s constitution.

Let's hope that this sort of nonsense is never brought to Alberta.