PEREGRINATIONS - Canadian Catholic Perspectives and Reflections by members of the PERSONAL ORDINARIATE OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER
Monday, 14 April 2014
Catholic Education in Canada at a Crossroads
The so-called "separation of Church and state" is really an idea from the Constitution of the USA (and one initially designed to protect the Church from state interference - contrary to current secular propaganda). Separation of Church and state is not, however, explicitly part of the Canadian constitution.
Over time, Canadian federal and provincial structures have developed in a relationship with the Church including, in Ontario and other provinces, co-operation in the field of education to the extent that there is provincial government funding for Catholic schools and an entirely separate Catholic system of education in Ontario.
With an Ontario court judgement this month, however, students are suddenly not required to attend Mass or religious instruction with their classmates in Catholic schools, the issue is coming to a head. This is a turning point in Catholic education and a further point of tension with the secular authorities and secularist pressure groups.
Now that the court has ruled that children attending Catholic schools need not participate in the spirituality and practice that sets them apart and which forms the culture and atmosphere that is the reason why many parents choose Catholic schools -- better discipline, ethics and morality, etc. -- what is the point of funding a school system that is separate from the public system?
Catholic education in Ontario and other provinces has been under massive secularizing pressure for decades. Many teachers are really only nominally Catholic and relatively few are comfortable teaching the Faith. The agendas of secular activists plays against the clear instruction of children in the Catholic faith despite the provision for this in Canadian constitutional documents.
In recent decades both Newfoundland and Quebec governments have jettisoned public funding for faith-based schools. Some argue that this liberates the remaining independent schools to be free of governmental control, though all schools are still subject to governmental curriculum and other guidelines and restrictions.
It may that we are moving to a time when Catholic schools will have to walk away from public funding, become smaller, freer and more focussed. If the example of the USA serves, many parents will still choose Catholic schools even if they have to pay a premium for tuition.
Refusing funding would allow Catholic schools to insist that teachers and students subscribe to Catholic faith and practice. The alternative seems to be continuing the secularizing of all aspects of school life and the abdication of all but a nominal "Catholic culture".