EDITORIAL: ‘What’s in a name?’ Gay-straight alliances and the Ontario bishops
June 4, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s Juliet once asked. Her answer? Not a whole lot. Or, to use her somewhat more poetic phrasing, “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Right now Ontario’s bishops are currently engaged in a high-stakes battle over a name. While Bill 13, the Ontario government’s much-debated anti-bullying bill, mandates that all schools allow so-called “gay-straight alliance” (GSA) clubs, the bishops have drawn a line in the sand.
A dotted line, it would seem, because the bishops have already said that they will allow the bill’s anti-bullying clubs in Catholic schools under another name. Which might make some ponder the inverse of Shakespeare’s truism: i.e., if a rose by any other name is just as sweet, then isn’t something rotten still rotten, even if we call it a rose?
That, at least, is the tack that the media has taken in treating the whole debate: as an absurd and embarrassing exercise in semantics. As NOWToronto reports: “Bill 13 would allow students the right to call anti-homophobia clubs ‘gay-straight alliances’, but many Catholic leaders object to explicit use of the word ‘gay,’ and want the groups to go by another name.”
Any Catholic reading that might be excused for feeling as if the gruel they’re being asked to swallow is a bit thin. If we’re going to go to the gallows, it had better be with more substantial fare in our stomachs than whether gay clubs get to use the word “gay” or not.
What everyone seems to have forgotten, however, is a certain little document with the disarming title “Respecting Differences.” Put out by the province’s bishops and Catholic trustees earlier this year, this document, while far from perfect, still had some rather important things to say about anti-bullying clubs in Catholic schools.
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“Respecting Difference” not only explicitly rejects GSA’s, but says that any anti-bullying clubs set up should be “respectful of and consistent with Catholic teaching” and that they should be led by a carefully selected staff advisor who “must know and be committed to Catholic teachings.” And just in case it isn’t clear what Catholic teaching is, the document specifically directs readers to the Catechism’s section on homosexuality.
Furthermore, the document states the clubs are not be used for “activism, protest or advocacy of anything that is not in accord with the Catholic faith foundation of the school,” and all outside speakers must be “respectful” of Catholic teaching. The document also discourages public discussion of issues surrounding sexual attraction, encouraging private counseling instead for students who may be struggling with such issues.
And this is where Billy Shakespeare’s truism stops being true. It turns out there’s a lot more in a name than meets the eye. Even lovesick Juliet learned this lesson the hard way. Her wistful dismissal of Romeo’s cognomen as inconsequential resulted in her and her lover’s tragic deaths: for try as she might, she could not make her Romeo anything but a Montague, call him a rose as she will.
In other words: A GSA, with all its connections with the homosexualist political agenda, is one thing. A “Respecting Difference” club governed by Catholic moral teaching is quite another. And it isn’t just their names.
It is hardly surprising then that the media has refused to acknowledge the existence of “Respecting Difference.” Painting the bishops’ fight simply as a semantic battle about whether to allow the use of the word “gay” serves the Bill 13 agenda by making the bishops sound petty and immature, like already-defeated demagogues making their last stand over a castle built of sand.
Of course, it doesn’t help that some Catholic leaders seem intent on doing their best to feed into that narrative, while still others are clearly not on the same page as the bishops to begin with. It was the former head of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), James Ryan, who bluntly stated that the “anti-bullying” clubs approved by the bishops are simply gay-straight alliances (GSAs) “with a Catholic name.”
But nobody really believes OECTA is Catholic any more, and so perhaps even more damaging than Ryan’s blunt mutiny from the bishops’ ship were the statements last week by the head of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, Marino Gazzola, who said that if Bill 13 passes, Catholic school boards “will comply” with the legislation. Which begs the question, do the Catholic schools really believe Bill 13 threatens their fundamental beliefs and freedom, or are they simply rebels without a cause?
In “Respecting Difference,” for all its unfortunate flirtations with the hackneyed lingo of the homosexualist movement, the bishops built a fort from which to wage a real fight based upon real principles. But the fog of war has descended on the battlefield, and it is no longer clear who is friend and who is foe—and some, it seems, have forgotten the very nature of the cause.
There are Catholics and other Christians in this province who would willingly give everything they have in the defense of the truths of faith, family, and freedom. What they need to know now is that they are being led by courageous leaders who fully understand the peril of their situation and who are willing to stake everything on this fight.
In other words, what is needed now is the brisk, cooling winds of clarity and truth. This is no longer the time for politicking. This is not the time for compromise. We are well beyond that point. In declaring that they will mandate GSA’s in Catholic schools, no matter what the bishops say and no matter what our beliefs, the McGuinty government has declared war on the Catholic Church, our families and our freedoms.
And so, to the bishops and Catholic leaders of Ontario: We stand with you. Will you stand with us?