November Reflection from Brother Domenic

November Reflection from Brother Domenic

Brother Domenic issued this document to all staff at the end of October. The following is the preface to the document which you may find in its entirety by clicking the link here.

For the time is coming when the people will not endure sound teaching, but having itchy ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their passions (2 Timothy 4:3).

In this document, my intention is to provide the entire staff with some thoughts for reflection and prayer on several matters raised recently by teachers in the Physical Education Department of the College.  This particular discussion arose in light of the rescindment of aspects of the sexual education curriculum legislated by the previous provincial government.  Whatever the reason for the discussion, it is always good for us to review the teaching of the Church.  As staff and, more specifically educators, in a Catholic school we need to be familiar, to the degree required of us, with what we are called to witness, and in the case of those engaged more directly in the proclamation and explanation of the Gospel and the Magisterium, like our religion teachers, it is necessary to be well-informed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an invaluable resource for all persons involved in Catholic education.  I recommend that all teachers have their own copy.

The purpose of this reference guide is to provide a brief overview of some of the issues we may confront so that we are more aware of Catholic moral doctrine.  It is not a series of policy statements. Rather, I wish to share with you the thinking and wisdom of the Church to assist you in your role as teachers and as witnesses or supporters of the Catholic Faith here at De La Salle.  In addition to what can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the Archdiocese of Toronto, through the Cardinal Archbishop and the Canadian Conference of Bishops have provided direction and policy directives on all the matters I will be summarising.  In our time Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have reinforced, on behalf of the Universal Church, Her deposit of teaching relating to human sexuality and morals.  It is my recommendation that teachers in the areas of religion, physical education and science become familiar with the masterful work inspired by St. John Paul II, entitled the Theology of the Body.  It, too, is a great resource.

First, let us recognise that what takes up residence in our minds and hearts is of no small consequence with regards to our own desire for salvation, but also as to how these matters relate to the salvific nature of our mission as Catholic educators.  It is my hope that these reflections will prove beneficial to you, personally, and in your dealings with our students, when and where relevant.  I think it is necessary though to recall that as people of faith, even if we are not always cognizant of Church teaching, we be careful not to bring to Church teaching an attitude whereby we limit ourselves to pre-conceived notions and prejudices.  I do want to be clear on this point.  It is not appropriate or fair to presume that our own personally held views can or should be legitimately projected on our students.  Dissent among equals is tolerable but it is a serious breach of responsibility when this involves the young.  The themes I will present on abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, transgenderism, and the Sacrament of Matrimony are intended to refresh or deepen a fuller understanding and appreciation of what the Church proclaims.

As an independent school we are not bound to the “Education Act” but as an inspected private school we are obliged to meet ministry requirements where necessary and to the degree curriculum is not in conflict with our mission, and the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.  Courts in Ontario have fortunately upheld the rights of religiously-affiliated independent schools to act in accordance with their respective set of beliefs.  Such is not necessarily the situation in publicly-funded Catholic schools in the Province of Ontario.  We may recall the debate a few years ago, where the Bishops of Ontario, led by our own Archbishop Thomas Cardinal Collins, raised serious concerns about Bill 13 – “Accepting Schools Act.”  This piece of legislation, intended to address the issue of ensuring a safe and accepting climate for all in public schools, went beyond its intent of addressing bullying by disregarding the Catholic faithful and other groups with respect to the establishment of gay – straight alliance clubs in schools. To this day, the legislation applies even in publicly-funded Catholic schools.  Catholic School Boards attempt to comply with the legislation by adopting and refashioning the legislation as best they can to fit Catholic values.

Interestingly, fifty years ago this year, Saint Paul VI promulgated his encyclical "Humanae Vitae" (Of Human Life). This encyclical outlining the official teaching of the Church met with not a little resistance. In retrospect though, it is now worth considering the value of this work issued by the Pope in 1968 in the midst of the so-called Sexual Revolution.  He warned about the culture of contraception which has now devolved into the culture of death.  Subsequent Popes have spoken much on this terrible reality.  What is most significant, I believe, in this encyclical is the prophetic nature of the document.  Today, it would be hard to argue that the widespread acceptance of artificial contraception by Catholics has not resulted in separating human sexual activity from the generous love fostered in marriage that finds its roots in the love of the Blessed Trinity.  The degeneration of what we believe is moral, and what not, makes it harder for all, but especially young people to live fully in the end since not upholding expectations in light of the truth, is, in effect, participating in the dissemination of evil.  The realities of human weakness and the fragility of man's nature dictate the need for incentives in the face of temptation.  The reverence with which man and woman are bound to demonstrate love to one another can only be damaged without surrounding sexual acts with care and affection.  Use of contraceptive methods forgets this reference, reduces human sexuality to being a convenient and superficial instrument for the satisfaction of one's own desires and will.

Whatever one may continue to think of the worth of "Human Vitae", it is evident that the acceptance of a contraceptive lifestyle has led inescapably to many of the forces at work now in the culture of death and, I add, diminution of what it means to be truly human.  The obsession and exaggeration of the concept of the individual to the exclusion of the natural inclination of the human being to be connected or joined in unconditional love as we believers deem true in the essence of the Triune Persons of Providence is a departure, or better, rupture with all of known human history.  The claims made with respect to abortion, euthanasia, homosexual life-style, gender issues, and marriage by the secular world find their articulation in a fundamentally erroneous sense of the human person and, not a willed entity created by God whose ultimate destiny is to be found in the love and mercy of a God who redeems human nature, making it part of his own, as intended.

The Church does not arrive at Her Magisterium other than through revelation -- the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the early Church Fathers, and the discernment of popes, bishops, including Councils, and Synods.  Of course, this collective "Tradition" is reaffirmed through the lives of the saints and the lived witness of the faithful.  This reality begins with our understanding and accepting that man did not create himself, and, therefore, as such, in intellect, will and nature, man is called to respect his nature, listen to it, and accept himself in light of one who does not create himself or have a nature that can be manipulated at will or without consequences.  Despite what may be the opinion and misconceptions of the secular world, and even sometimes within the Church Herself, the Church continues today to uphold what God has revealed.  For those who deny the existence of God the discussion ends here.  For those who express belief in God, the discussions lead us to seek God in order to understand how God intended and intends creation to be.  For us, creatures of God, this means how to live life and how to live according to the divine plan.  It is not always easy to recognise, seek and live the truth, but this reality does not nullify the truth.