The growing impotence of the institutional Catholic Church in Canada was clearly shown with the passing of Bill 13 in early June, which legally obliges Ontario’s Catholic Schools to allow Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. Six months before the bill was passed, Premier McGuinty confidently (and arrogantly) said, “Catholic schools will have Gay-Straight Alliances. What they call them is up to them.”
The premier obviously knew that he held all the aces. He is an experienced politician who understands power politics. Regardless of the constitutional guarantees for Catholic schools, he knows that it would be fairly easy for the government to pull the plug on the Separate School system. He also knows that the bishops are afraid of losing funding for “their” schools, so he wasn’t expecting them to put up much of a fight. And, of course, he was right.
The strongest opposition came from Catholic parents. This should come as no surprise. Many parents are rightly concerned that GSA clubs are a cover for promoting the homosexual lifestyle and, understandably, they do not want their children influenced in this way.
The tepid opposition to Bill 13 from Ontario’s bishops should surprise no one. They are afraid of losing funding for Catholic schools, but, more than that, they have been rationalizing the steady retreat of the Church in Canada for decades. For example, if you point out to the average bishop (as I have) that the Church in Quebec is a disaster area, he will probably say, “Well, at least, the vast majority of Quebecers are still Catholic.” The fact that only a tiny percentage of these “Catholics” attend weekly Mass doesn’t seem to bother them. The public response of bishops to the passage of Bill 13 can be paraphrased as, “Don’t worry, we can accept GSA clubs and remain faithful to traditional Catholic moral teaching.” However, the mere presence of GSA clubs in any Catholic institution will be perceived by the public as a tacit approval of the homosexual lifestyle by the Church. It seems to me that the bishops are more concerned about preserving Catholic institutions than ensuring that these institutions are truly Catholic.
Ontario’s Catholic leaders are intelligent men and they understand the deeper significance of Bill 13. They know that the new legislation is an infringement on religious freedom. They also know that their authority over Catholic institutions is gradually being usurped by the State. However, they are not bold enough to break from the self-defeating pattern of making concession after concession in the hope that they will not have to make any more. Naturally, they want to be left alone to run “their” Church (and its institutions) their own way. However, ultimately it is not their Church, nor is it the State’s Church. It is God’s Church and when the bishops finally decide to completely submit to His will, they will find that they are not as impotent as they must feel right now.