Catholic Partnerships Expose Catholic Students to Negative Influences

Catholic Liberal leader's speeches at Catholic schools expose students to influences contrary to Catholic social and moral teaching

By Deborah GyapongBruce Clark and Gillian Keenan both urged the Ottawa Catholic School Board to have a vetting policy for speakers and field trips. Deborah Gyapong / CCN.Bruce Clark and Gillian Keenan both urged the Ottawa Catholic School Board to have a vetting policy for speakers and field trips. Deborah Gyapong / CCN.
OTTAWA, Friday, 21 June 2013 (CCN)

While Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's speaking fees going to charities are raising controversy, many Catholic parents would rather he did not speak at Catholic schools even for free.

At the June 11 meeting of the Ottawa Catholic School Board trustees, several ratepayers raised concerns a new policy on what they call "partners" would not ensure Trudeau, a Catholic with views in favour of abortion and so-called "gay marriage," would be prevented from speaking.

"Parners" refers to people such as speakers who work with schools.

"I'm very disappointed in the trustees of the Ottawa Catholic School Board," said Teresa Pierre, president of Parents as First Educators (PAFE), who flew from Toronto for the meeting.

"The concerns of parents have been made clear to them for the past few months," she said. "They have failed to respond by giving a policy that would assure them their children are being looked after, having their spiritual lives protected as much as their physical lives are protected."

Some policy adjustments made on partnerships pleased Pierre and the several dozen ratepayers who attended. The policy says: "Controversial products and services are to be avoided (e.g. alcoholic beverages and tobacco products), as well as influences contrary to Catholic social and moral teaching."

"We do congratulate the staff and the trustees who contributed to create a better statement about Catholic education, that the moral and social dimensions will be considered," Pierre said.

Trustees passed some modifications to the policies on field trips, but did not include a mechanism for vetting speakers and ensuring they lined up with Catholic moral teaching.

Bruce Clark, a PAFE member in Ottawa, told the trustees the schools needed to do some simple checks on speakers. He said he Googled Justin Trudeau's views on abortion and discovered right away he has views contrary to those of the Catholic Church.

Trudeau has a "woman's right to choose as a fundamental right," Clark said. "That's diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching. Yet he was brought into the schools to talk about bullying.

"He establishes a 'wow' experience for these kids," Clark said. When the students become voting age, they remember "He's the guy who came to our class."

James Doak, an Ottawa parent, told the trustees that on Good Friday, at 3 p.m., Trudeau tweeted his support for abortion in Twitter. He also tweeted his support for abortionist Henry Morgentaler upon his death, calling him a "crusader for human rights."

Both Doak and Clark urged the trustees to follow the example of Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, of Ottawa, who cancelled the speaking engagements of fellow Jesuit Father Luis Arriaga, a Mexican partner of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, when he would not give assurances of a pro-life stand in line with the Church's teachings.

Father Arriaga was a Jesuit in good standing, Doak pointed out, but that did not stop the archbishop from vetting him and then deciding he would not allow him to speak to Catholic adults on a subject unrelated to abortion.

"Please do not rely on this 'in good standing' excuse when allowing people to come into the schools," Doak said.

Frank Baird, a former RCMP officer, also raised concerns about Trudeau's speaking. "In my years in the force, I knew what brainwashing was and is," he said. "A lot of the things that are being brought into the schools should not be brought into the separate schools. I'm all for stopping bullying, but there's a hidden agenda behind that."

Gillian Keenan, a mother of eight children, asked the board to amend the partnership policy to make sure "no partner, organization, or individual who has publicly opposed fundamental social and moral teachings of the Church will be chosen." She asked for a vetting procedure and that the words "field trip" and "speakers" be included in the partnership policy.

The policy changes were the result of hours of work, including feedback from parents, ratepayers, and Archbishop Prendergast, said Trustee Betty-Ann Kealey. Trustee Gordon Butler revealed Archbishop Prendergast had added the language about "Catholic social and moral teaching."

Deputy Education Director Denise Andre told the meeting principals will vet speakers. There are hundreds of speakers coming into the schools, she said. "There is a heightened awareness on the part of all our principals as well as of superintendents."

Keenan expressed disappointment after the meeting because the Board leaves principals as the "last line of defence." If a principal does not vet properly, "it defaults on us," the parents, to ensure someone like Trudeau does not come to the schools. "I'd like stronger leadership," Keenan said..