April 28, 2014

The union representing Ontario's Catholic teachers is wrong to join in the World Pride Parade and its decision demonstrates an "inadequate and mistaken understanding of their faith," said Cardinal Thomas Collins.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), which represents 45,000 Catholic teachers, passed a motion at its recent annual general meeting to march in the June 29 Pride Parade in downtown Toronto. About 800 delegates attended the meeting.

OECTA president James Ryan said the union's presence is a sign of support for those teachers, staff and students of the Catholic school system who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).


"What will happen is teachers, probably primarily from the Greater Toronto Area, who choose to do so will assemble and they will march in the parade," he said.

Ryan plans to march but said "there will be no float or anything like that."

Collins said a distinction should be made between the union and the teachers.

"I am always inspired by the thousands of Catholic teachers in classrooms throughout Ontario who know their Catholic faith, and whose faith shapes the loving way in which they care for their students, especially any who are facing personal struggles," Collins said in a statement.


"OECTA, however, is not the Catholic teachers; it is a union. Its competence is limited to collective bargaining and the services any union provides to its members.

"When it goes beyond those areas, it can easily go wrong, as it has in the decision of the OECTA delegates to participate in this event. This decision shows that they and the OECTA leadership have an inadequate and mistaken understanding of their faith."

Collins and St. Catharines Bishop Gerard Bergie expressed their opposition to OECTA's decision in a meeting with Ryan.

Collins is president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario and Bergie is chair of its education committee. Collins is also on the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education.


"The bishops are not happy that we are in the parade," Ryan said, adding he expects others will also be upset at the union decision.

"Certainly some of them will phone me or write letters and I certainly will have conversations with them and explain why our delegates have decided that they want us to be in the parade and what it represents and especially what it doesn't represent," he said.

"It is not an acceptance or an approval of some of the peripheral groups that might join that parade, such as the nudists or anything like that. We support the Church's teachings on chastity and we support the Church's teachings on all issues. "