Ontario Court intrudes into an "Authentically Catholic Position"


The Catholic Civil Rights League is astounded and fearful of the decision of Mr. Justice Robert McKinnon to grant an injunction to allow Marc Hall to bring his boyfriend to his Catholic school prom.

Press Release (May 10, 2002) - The Catholic Civil Rights League is astounded and fearful of the decision of Mr. Justice Robert McKinnon to grant an injunction to allow Marc Hall to bring his boyfriend to his Catholic school prom. It is especially concerned that the Court has acknowledged that the school's decision, one recognized as an authentically Catholic position by its bishop, can be subject to scrutiny as being "not the only Catholic position" and subject to concerns as to whether it is the view of the majority. The Court has opened a new season for attacks on genuine teachings of faith groups when those teachings collide with so-called Charter values.

League president Thomas Lagan spoke to the situation:

"We are very disappointed with the judge's decision. It's clear that this is yet another direct attack on Catholic rights and religious freedoms. It is yet another imposition of vague community values over long held Church beliefs. What it tells Catholics is that their beliefs are not welcome in a pluralistic society, while at the same time they must tow the line and show respect when a non-Catholic or secular authority decides to oppose Catholic doctrine.

"Contrary to much of the misinformation promoted by activists, the Church has clear guidelines on homosexual behaviour. Homosexuals are to be loved as everyone else, but homosexual activity is wrong. Dating and courting generally are discernment exercises, hopefully leading to chaste lives, whether celibate or married. However, a homosexual relationship cannot lead those parties to marriage of each other. Homosexual dating is acting on that orientation, and is not condoned by the Church.

"However alien chaste lives may be in secular eyes, it remains the strongly held belief of the Catholic Church. While the court in this case made reference to its inability to dictate religious beliefs, it held that the assertion of religious belief cannot be used as a shield to discriminate against attacks from equality seeking groups, such as homosexual activists. Whereas some people use the separation of church and state as a weapon when faith groups wade into public affairs, they have no problem allowing the state to interfere in Church matters. Why the double standard? This case and others seem to promote as constitutional principle: 'Keep your religion to yourselves. Moreover, if there is any public benefit received by your institutions, check your religious views at the door.'"

The impact of this decision will affect a number of faith groups and their institutions. Should Catholic charities or the Salvation Army continue to receive charitable status in their outreach to the poor and homeless, in circumstances where it seeks to have recipients adopt Christian moral standards? How long will it take for purported adherents of any number of faith groups to bring their applications to court to resist the religious teachings of their faith?

The court noted: "In 1867, homosexual activity was viewed both as a crime and as a sickness. Today it is viewed as neither. Canadians' understanding of human behaviour and of its people has changed over the last 135 years." The judge seems to have ignored that the Catholic Church's position to treat homosexual behaviour as sin has not changed since confederation.

Instead the court relied upon dissident theological positions to suggest a diversity of opinion within the Catholic community on pastoral care of homosexuals. The judge then purports to compare homosexuals dancing at the prom with dancing as between family members at other public functions. The court suggests that the school could have adopted less restrictive options and maintained its proscription against premarital sexual activity. Allowing Mr. Hall to bring his boyfriend to the prom is suggested not to be an attack on the essential denominational nature of the school. The judge stated that his order does not permanently infringe the school's constitutional rights.

Curiously, the court then proceeds to state that the injunction will not compel any change to Church teachings. The judge states that his order restrains the school's conduct and not its religious beliefs, and thus does not impair the school's freedom of religion. From the perspective of the League, the judge has imposed homosexual conduct into a Catholic institution. Whereas Mr. Hall's counsel castigated the Church's position as "It's okay to be gay — just don't act gay", the result of this decision suggests that the Church can have its deeply held beliefs, so long as they do not result in actions that follow from those beliefs, at least when it comes to homosexual conduct. League president, Thomas Langan, continued:

"As a measure of damage to religious freedom in Canada, it is devastating. The court is sending the message that it knows better than Catholics, and their bishops, what they can and can't believe in. The judge is sending the message to Catholic students and their parents that the values of the Charter trump the teachings of your faith within your Catholic schools. Unfortunately, that logic exalts the individual over its hierarchy, and mocks the protections afforded to denominational schools. Will the court make similar decisions against other religions in the future? The door seems to be open to anyone who has a problem with any religious group, whether Christian, Muslim, Jew or Hindu.

"Has the court placed the School Board in a tragic dilemma — obey conscience and avoid the power of the State, or cave in and betray the word of God? The lions are licking their chops."

Catholic Civil Rights League assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For more information contact: Thomas Langan. President telephone (416) 466-8244, fax (416) 466-0091 email: ccrl@idirect.com, www.ccrl.ca


Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter



Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.