Catholic parents in Ottawa do not want federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau speaking in Catholic schools because of his support for legal abortion and same-sex marriage, two phenomena in our society that are directly opposed to Catholic teaching.
I support those parents. Public figures who speak in Catholic schools should be people whose views are not in sharp conflict with Catholic teachings on current issues.
But in supporting those parents, one needs to point out where that logic leads. It leads, first of all, to excluding the leaders of all major federal political parties because they all support legal abortion and same-sex marriage.
One might even say that Prime Minister Stephen Harper should be the first one to be excluded. For several years, he has had the power to bring about change on those issues, but not only has he failed to do so, he has tried to silence his own backbenchers who want to raise these issues in Parliament. No other Canadian prime minister has gone as far as Harper in shutting down debate on these crucial issues.
Moreover, there are more than two issues of concern to Catholics. Pope Francis has been far more outspoken on the huge gap between rich and poor in our world than on abortion and same-sex marriage.
He has criticized the fixation on short-term profits in today’s economy as resulting from “a gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely consumption.”
Should not then public figures and business leaders who fail to challenge this “gravely deficient human perspective” also be excluded from speaking in Catholic schools? In today’s Church, it is hard to imagine the pope using stronger language than “gravely deficient.”
As well, Catholic schools in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario are fully publicly-funded. Is it not odd that schools who accept government money might choose to block government leaders from speaking in those same schools? Elected officials may well believe, not without justification, that their decisions to fund Catholic education give them a right to be heard in those schools.
The long and the short is that Catholic schools need to be countercultural, perhaps far more so than they are today. If they are seriously Catholic, they will stand against all those things that threaten the life and spiritual dignity of the human person – abortion, same-sex marriage, destruction of the environment, threats to religious freedom, rapid economic development and other trends.
Who knows where this will lead? But if we have integrity, we will walk the path that Jesus trod, a path that places morality above conformism and comfort.