Everyone is entitled to their own perspective and worldview, so long as no one is being negatively affected. The recent media coverage and Premier Rachel Notley’s response to the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta (CCSSA) curriculum proposal is, unfortunately, blowing the issue out of proportion.
As a full disclaimer, I am an active Roman Catholic. I proudly attended Edmonton Catholic School District (ECSD) run schools throughout my elementary, junior high, and senior high school academic career. I played a role during my time as an ECSD student with policy reviewing on many fronts, including my local school and district levels. I also sat for two years on the ECSD Trustee Student Advisory Board.
All I intend to do is to simply express the other side of this often raucous topic. I believe there is value in seeing both sides of an issue and then formulating an informed opinion. I would like to respond to The Gateway’s previous opinion article on this topic, which was critical in its view of the CCSSA’s proposed curriculum.
It is disappointing to see so many people and media outlets pounce on the CCSSA curriculum overhaul in such a negative light. The CCSSA is simply responding to the Alberta Education proposals in a manner that corresponds to Catholic doctrine and social teaching. This is outlined in their response to Alberta Education.
The curriculum is never, anywhere making the conclusion that Catholic schools are opposed to modern beliefs and favour traditional teaching. In fact, the document makes clear that it will always present secular cultural values and, in addition, present (a) what the Church prescribes and (b) why it takes that particular stance.
An example of this is with regards to sexual consent. The proposed curriculum is not saying that consent is against Catholic teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the premier compendium of Catholic teaching, does state that sex is an act that should be limited to the confines of the sacrament of marriage (see CCC Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 7). However, no one believes in consent more than Catholics.
The issue here is with the province dictating that consent is the “only important factor” (pg 5, CCSSA document) when making decisions regarding sexual activity. The curriculum is intending to present both the legal perspective surrounding consent and the Catholic belief which says that, “Although consent is always necessary for any sexual activity to be healthy, it is not the only threshold that needs to be met when considering choices regarding sexual activity” (pg 5, CCSSA document). Rather, some other factors should include faith, family, moral, and personal choice which all factor into making a “healthy decision” (pg 5, CCSSA document).
Everyone is welcome within the Catholic Church and its associated communities. The word Catholic itself means universal. While the Church has not always been completely receptive to LGBTQ+ individuals, everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. Anyone “deserves to feel welcome, safe, included, and respected” (pg. 8, CCSSA document). We are not an exclusive community who criticizes, God’s love knows no boundaries. The CCSSA document never encourages any form of discrimination.
In terms of contraceptives, the Church is against them because they prevent life, an integral part of sexual activity. Schools would teach this Catholic perspective. They would also “teach/educate about different forms of contraceptives in detail” (pg 7, CCSSA document). Both perspectives would be presented.
Anyone would want the ability to present their own view. Premier Rachel Notley has said that this curriculum is attacking and hurting students, and that it is denying science. Nowhere is science being denied. In fact, science is being affirmed in the sense that the Catholic schools would be teaching that life begins at the moment of natural conception.
The issue here is not that the Catholic Schools in Alberta would be unable to teach the new curriculum. The Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta is simply asking that Alberta Education allow the learning outcomes to give latitude for the Catholic Church’s values to be presented. This way students can gain a rich understanding of both perspectives so that they are aware of what their Church does or does not support while adhering to the Ministry of Education’s learning outcomes.