If there is one thing religion has in common with schools, it is the desire to help others, and teach children to do the same. Whether we attended public, Catholic, private, or any other type of school growing up, most of us will remember doing fundraisers like the Read-a-thon for MS, or Jump Rope For Heart.
But what happens when charities that help others conflict with the religious values of a school?
This is the dilemma faced by the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) this year. As practicing Catholics teaching Catholicism, it makes sense for the board to uphold the doctrine of the church. For Catholics, this means refusing to violate “the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.” Such violations, according to the HCDSB, would include abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research.
These ideas are controversial in their own right, even amongst Catholics, many of whom support abortion, accessible contraception, and other practices that would technically go against the definition of sanctity of life outlined by the church; but in a move that has outraged many of its members, the HCDSB has decided to withdraw fundraising efforts for any organization which supports, directly or indirectly, the above practices.
Some of the charities affected could include the Canadian Cancer Foundation, SickKids, the Terry Fox Foundation, The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Unicef, and others. Many parents and students are not on board with the decision.
More than 11,000 people have signed a petition rallying against the decision, and seeking for it to be repealed. They echo the statement of Christ the King Catholic School student council president Ben Sabourin, “The opinion of eight trustees should not outweigh the opinion of over 10,000 students and community members.”
Sabourin’s school raised over $100,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society last year, and he worries the opportunity to support them again will be lost due to their involvement with stem cell research.
Other students highlighted helping others as a value of the Catholic church, and felt that refusing to support these charities, based on a broad definition of sanctity of life, violated this highly regarded Catholic value. “If we are not helping other people, how is that us being Catholic?” asked Ashlee Dixon, a grade 10 student.
One HCDSB parent remarked, “Catholic kids get sick too.”
Another questioned, “Not sure how banning support for these charities brings us Catholics closer to God and our Faith.”
The overwhelming feeling within the community is the board has overstepped, and in an effort to adhere to Catholic beliefs, it has ignored the duty to help others. Most feel that the good the charities do outweighs any tangential association with the practices deemed to violate the sanctity of life.
Indeed, wouldn’t holding back progress in life-saving research also be in violation of the sanctity of life?
While the board is defending its decision, it will open the floor to members of the community to voice their concerns at a March 20th board meeting. HCDSB parents are encouraging parents, students, and anyone who feels strongly against this motion to attend the meeting and make their case.
They urge the community, particularly parents, to hold the trustees accountable for their votes, and explain the perception by some as the trustees’ choice to push their own political agendas instead of representing the desires of the school communities.
The meeting will be held from 7:30 pm to 10:00 pm, March 20th, 2018, at Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School in Oakville, Ontario.