The statement is a remarkable work of spin.
Essentially, the Catholic Church is denying students in the separate school system in Ontario the right to form any group that contains the word "gay" in its name. Yet Cardinal Collins attempts to portray the Catholic school board as the victim, because of the "proposed imposition of the GSA methodology on Catholic schools".
Cardinal Collins is wrong. Neither Bill 13 (Accepting Schools Act, 2012) nor Bill 14 (Anti-Bullying Act, 2012) state that all Catholic schools must form Gay-Straight Alliances on the off chance that some statistically insignificant minority of students will bully an even smaller number of individuals because they are perceived (perhaps incorrectly) as being potentially gay.
The bills state that where there is a desire from the student body to create such groups, schools cannot forbid their formation.
The difference is crucial. No one is imposing anything. The law addresses the arbitrary and unjust abuse of power that has denied Catholic students' right to freedom of association. Put another way, the anti-bully legislation removes the Catholic school boards' bully pulpit.
The missive also contains several misleading statements, if not outright lies:
- "Those who share those views will no doubt wish to use the GSA methodology. They are certainly free to do so." They are not. Not if those who share those views are students in Ontario Catholic schools. Hence the lack of a single GSA group in any separate school in Ontario. Diversity and freedom of expression are rigorously suppressed.
- "I question, however, why provincial legislation should make this particular method normative in a Catholic school." It is required, Cardinal Collins, because students are clamouring for this particular method, and they are being thwarted at every turn.
- "If the point is that there is something unacceptable about those Catholic principles, then I find that troubling." If the point is that GSA clubs cannot be permitted because homosexuals are "intrinsically disordered", then I find that troubling.
Further on, Cardinal Collins asks five questions:
- Why is a piece of provincial legislation being used to micromanage the naming of student clubs?
- Why are Catholics not free to design their own methods to fight bullying [...]? Why must they instead be compelled to accept a particular method that comes from a different approach to the great issues of life?
- Why should the power of provincial law be used to override that legitimate adult authority?
- With the principle established that the legitimate local authority is nullified in this case, then is any student free to introduce any program, any club, or any advocacy group relating to any issue?
Groups whose purpose is to advocate violence are not and should not be permitted. Groups whose purpose is to advocate the prevention of violence should be permitted, but are not in Catholic schools. This is not a difficult concept to comprehend.
- Is a GSA the most effective method to help students being targeted by bullies?
The main theme of the letter is how the Catholic Church is an innocent victim of targeted persecution by the Ontario government. This is ridiculous. Catholics are the sole religious group in Ontario to receive full funding for their sectarian school system, and yet they have the audacity to complain vociferously when they must respect the basic Charter rights of their students. Bills 13 and 14 do NOT entail an "extraordinary privileging of one particular way of dealing with bullying and personal support" - they forbid extraordinary censorship and suppression regarding one particular way of dealing with bullying and personal support.
The penultimate paragraph is a variation of the famous poem by Martin Niemöller, "First they came". "Please consider the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community in our province, and intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of conscience. If it happens to us, it can happen to you, on this and other issues." The paranoia and victimization implicit in this statement is revealing. Let's remove some of the obfuscation and be clear: this legislation does not intrude on the freedom of Catholics to act according to their consciences. No one is being forced to join a GSA. It enshrines in law the principle that the separate school board cannot impose its dogma on students when doing so violates their Charter rights to freedom of conscience, expression, and association. There is an old adage, "Your freedom to swing your fist stops at the bridge of my nose." Enshrining this in legislation is not persecution; it is the protection of everyone's rights. To implicitly compare the defending the rights of Catholic students to the Nazi persecution of trade unionists and Jews is despicable.
Shame on you, Cardinal Collins.