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An IDEA About Roman Catholic Christian Schools in Canada

2023-01-02

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/01/24

Within Canadian society, we continue to see the remnants of a biased educational system with a predominant preference in funding of one religious institution in the Roman Catholic Christian Church compared to others, whether Protestantism, Humanism, Sunni Islam or Sunni Islam, Sikhism, or Paganism.

The Roman Catholic Christian Church does not by necessity amount to an inherently bad system by itself, but, in practice, the implications of a long-time biased system within Canadian society regarding education has set the dials against the general principles of fairness and equality within the society.

Where, for a time, there may have been some marginally understandable reasons for this; in that, the majority of the Canadian populace within its recent history — a truism given the relatively young age of the nation, comparable to modern Japan — held fast to the belief structure and participated in the suggested practices more, and with greater seriousness, of the Roman Catholic Christian Church at the outset of the settler colonial society.

However, in the current moment, and certainly over time, we continue to observe the continual decline in the level of adherence to the Roman Catholic Christian Church, in the raw numbers and in the degree of adherence to the signifiers of the faith, e.g., attendance at church, implicit belief in the secondary or non-core beliefs, and partaking of a variety of other practices of the Roman Catholic Christian Church, and so on.

One Catholic school employee in the Calgary Catholic School District contacted IDEA, or Inclusive Diverse Education for All, and wrote a letter, where this was distributed via email to those on the mailing list or associated with the organization, including myself. The employee chose to remain anonymous and identified as a homosexual as well.

They stated, “Sit with that word “homosexual” for a minute before moving forward. I am also Catholic. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school. Though I was not hired as a religious education teacher, the subject of Catholicity is a topic that I address with my students daily. As a teacher with CCSD, and as a homosexual, my motives for continuing to stay with CCSD are often questioned. How can I be gay and work for a board that identifies “homosexuality” and “sin” as synonymous?”

They found the CCSD easy to defend. The employee remarked on working with and teaching LGBTQ students on numerous occasions and worked to ease any tensions that may have arisen as a member of the LGBTQ community as well as a Catholic. The employee remarked on the simple difficulty of existing as a homosexual in the province of Alberta in Canada.

That remains one problem. But this also lead into conversation around covenant. As has been seen at wider scale in a postsecondary institution in Canadian society with the Trinity Western University case, an Evangelical Christian university, in an attempt to acquire a law school, where this failed in a 7–2 decision and then the university (TWU) then removed the mandatory covenant for its community.

“The word “covenant” is being thrown around the hallways and offices in our schools and in our buildings. There is a belief that a new document is coming down the chain, one that CCSD employees must sign and agree to,” the anonymous employee said, “Though my eyes have never actually read this document, I have come to understand — from conversations with those who have read this covenant — that it reminds employees of the expectations in which Calgary Catholic employees must be mindful of, should they wish to continue their careers with our board.”

Now, the CCSD covenant is different with its lack of emphasis or even addressing of homosexuality. In that, in more indirect language, it is, apparently, stipulated that if an employee is found to be a homosexual, then their — the board’s — efforts to remove the remove the employee may be justified. Now, the employee, to their due credit, argues that if these stipulations are true, then the CCSD should immediately remove the document, the CCSD covenant.

Noting, of course, the terminology of “covenant” contains a special meaning within the Christian tradition. The seriousness with which Catholic teachers, administrators, and staff members, and thus schools, can be taken will, in some sense, emerge from the inclusion of homosexuals within their public culture, not the private-kept-secret and publicly-shamed culture.

“As a Catholic teacher, I am called to celebrate and to strengthen my faith, and to teach children to do the same. Love. Kindness. Mercy. Forgiveness. Humility. Righteousness. Faithfulness. These are the attributes I attempt to instil in my students,” the employee stated.

This employee, going out on a limb — though anonymous, represents non-zero membership within the educational system of the Roman Catholic Christians, where their support or lack thereof within their own community becomes a marker of how much they truly fix themselves to the image and example of their Christ.

There are, according to the anonymous homosexual employee, many former employees who were forced out of the school system and the community at the same time, simply for being outed as a member of the LGBTQ community as well. It becomes about justice, fairness, and equality.

“On a personal note, I know of four former employees who all felt pushed out of our board because they identify as LGBTQ. Recently, CCSD was given an opportunity to address one of these latest stories,” the employee opined, “and instead of speaking about how you support employees who identify as LGBTQ (which you do not), your statement only addressed supports made for students. Shame on all of us.”

This letter and the work for a single secular public school system throughout Canadian society could move the dial further towards the vaunted justice, fairness, and equality spoke about by the ethical visionaries of the past in North America. If the changes can happen within the Canadian educational system, we will have done, at a minimum, what would be ethically required of us, cleaning our own backyards.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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