Inclusiveness or caving to woke politics?
The debate over flying the Pride flag didn’t end with last week’s vote in favour by trustees of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.
Some welcome the move – June will mark the first time the board flies the flag – while others see it as pandering to public sentiment rather than sticking with traditional Catholic dogma.
Of course, Church itself has had evolving views of homosexuality, so it’s not just a matter of change within a local school board. Over the last decade alone, Pope Francis’ statements reflect a more progressive stance on the LGBTQ2+ community. In 2010, as the head of the Catholic Church in Argentina, the Pope, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, said gay marriage was “a strategy to destroy God’s plan,” lobbying governments to vote against legalizing same-sex marriage.
Just three years later, the Pope said, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” By 2016, Francis was stating that the Catholic Church should apologise to gay people and Christians should seek forgiveness from them for the way they have been treated.
The Church still refuses to bless same-sex unions, but the position has clearly changed over a fairly short timeline. Is that giving in to public pressure, or a natural evolution of thought? All institutions are subject to changing times – society as a whole held out against gay rights for years and decades, eventually coming to a new realization, which changes seeming to occur almost overnight.
As with other shifts from past behaviour – think of the civil rights and women’s movements that led to changes we now take for granted – no one can really argue we should turn back the clock on gay or other minority rights. The WCDSB decision about the Pride flag does indeed reflect public sentiment.
Board chair Melanie Van Alphen said flying the flag is the right decision and a positive step forward, though not everyone in the community agrees.
“As people of faith, we love, accept, and celebrate all people and raising the Pride flag this June sends a clear message that Waterloo Catholic stands by its mission and vision in creating a welcoming, safe, and inclusive place for all, including the LGBTQ2+ community.”
That said, she added, the Catholic faith remains a central part of the board and its schools. The prospect of reopening the debate over public funds going to the Catholic board wasn’t part of trustees’ discussions about the Pride flag.
Not, of course, that the issue of funding is ever far away when it comes to a discussion of school boards. Ontario has long studied the possibility of a single publically funded board, citing cost savings and fairness in an increasingly secular and diverse society.
The existence of separate Catholic and Protestant schools dates back to Confederation, a sales tool for the project to bring as many regions as possible onboard with the idea. Minority protections, as we’d call them today, were particularly sensitive where Quebec was concerned. Ironically, that province – which once had school boards divided by religion and language, from a small French Protestant board up to the large French Catholic sector – did away with the divides in favour of a secular approach almost 25 years ago.
Given the waning of organized religion in general, the push for secularization and stressed government budgets, the push for a single public system in Ontario is likely to grow. That leaves the Catholic boards with something of a dilemma: grow more in line with public sentiment to evolve with the times, or maintain their separateness and face the prospect of having the government make choices for them.