Opinion General

It’s time for the Catholic school system to evolve

You would think it fairly intuitive that if you benefit from public dollars, you need to acquiesce to public sentiment and contemporary public values. Yet when it comes to accepting modern sex-ed education, and concepts even as simple and straightforward as consent, the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta (CCSSA) would like to make an exception. The CCSSA submitted a document outlining “areas of concern” from a Catholic perspective, of which I’d like to highlight their responses to consent, contraception, same-sex relationships, and gender.

The bit on consent actually surprised me. It is one thing to suggest that there are other considerations after consent in regards to having sexual relationships, but it an entirely different thing to suggest that consent is not the major criterion for sexual activity, to suggest that consent is actually subservient to the “higher standards of family or faith beliefs or our understanding on the importance of sex within marriage.” This distinction is problematic because it suggests consent is subservient to other values, which serves to degrade the importance of being able to say yes or no to sex. This enables things like modern rape culture, by weakening the understanding of consent.

The document outlines that sex should always be linked to procreation, and that trying to separate them, through the use of things like contraception, is “problematic from the Catholic worldview.”  It is almost as if they believe that all married couples who engage in sexual activity are always ready to have kids, and should always be ready to have kids. While large families are nice for some, others would both prefer not to, or simply cannot, support such a family. Moreover, when children experiment it’s more likely to lead to teenage pregnancies and teenage abortions when that experimentation is done without knowing about contraception.

I’m confused when they say that all people are “to be treated with respect” and that they support teaching about the “dignity and worth of all people” but then also state “sexual relations between persons of the same sex are not part of God’s natural order” and that a sex-ed curriculum would be problematic if it “required the promotion of multiple relations and/or family types that are incongruent with the Catholic view of the sacrament of marriage.” Firstly, suggesting that same-sex relations are unnatural is to suggest that some part of homosexual people is unnatural, a claim that should be thoroughly condemned. They also seem to think that the solution to appearing homophobic is to spit some drivel about respect before stating they can’t teach children that homosexual people are equal in all aspects of life. They are effectively claiming that gay and lesbian folks will be welcome in the Catholic community, so far as they refrain from being themselves.

Finally though, the document doesn’t even pretend not to be transphobic. It straight up states “gender and gender identity are always linked to one’s natal or birth sex,” and then makes some claim about how it is “ideological colonization” to force the church to recognize modern gender theory. There is a growing body of medical knowledge, social science, and psychology behind the contemporary understanding of gender theory that validates it. It isn’t “ideological colonization” to say, then, that their approach to gender is outdated and wrong, and it certainly isn’t colonization to require them to teach contemporary knowledge. That would be like the Church saying “It is part of our faith that it is creationism and not evolution that is the truth of biology” and then crying ideological colonization when the province requires them to teach the understanding backed by contemporary knowledge. Moreover, that their defense of discriminating against trans folks by identifying them as unnatural is that it is part of their beliefs to do so, then maybe their beliefs need to modernize a bit, like they have before in their approach to gay and lesbian folks.

This document amounts to the CCSSA crying foul over the distinction between modern understandings and outdated views of the world that they have entrenched in their beliefs. Beliefs change though, and the resistance that the CCSSA is trying to give is fairly ludicrous. Accepting homosexual relationships as supported by God, and modern gender theory as an aspect of His vision won’t make Catholics any less Catholic than when they went from viewing the world as the centre of the universe to realizing it was not. You would think that realizing they have been wrong before would encourage them to be more open-minded to changes in social science and physical science discourse. Ultimately though, unless the CCSSA really does want to get defunded, they need to accept that times change, and this time they can’t just cry religious exemptions.  

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