AIDS program attacked
By Donald DeMarco
In the fall of 1986, the Ontario government ordered that AIDS education be provided in all schools. In response to this mandate, Roman Catholic schools developed the program Education About Intimacy, Education About AIDS. Some bishops denounced the program, however, because condom use was presented as the lesser or two evils in certain circumstances.
In response, educational authorities developed a new program, AIDS: A Catholic Education Approach to HIV, which was supposed to be piloted in Ottawa and in Toronto's Dufferin-Peel school districts in the spring of 1998. It soon generated enough controversy, however, that it was stalled. That controversy has since continued to intensify, creating serious doubts about whether it will ever be implemented.
Ontario's Catholic bishops did not design the new program. It was written by the American National Catholic Education Association and slightly revised by Toronto's Institute for Catholic Education. Bishop James Doyle of Peterborough read the program on behalf of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, and gave it his approval.
Fr Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight magazine, has called for the withdrawal of the program for three principal reasons: (1) it lacks a full and balanced presentation of Catholic teaching; (2) it contains significant errors about AIDS and homosexuality; and (3) it undermines opposition to the homosexual "lifestyle," while promoting a misguided compassion for it.
Fr de Valk is joined in his opposition to the program by a number of highly qualified people, including Dr Jeanne Ferrari of Ottawa, who holds doctorates in medicine, pharmacy, and law; Ottawa physician Dr. André Lafrance; Toronto's Dr. John Shea, a diagnostic radiologist; and Judy Anderson, president of REAL Women (Ontario)—not to mention many parents.
The critics question the reasoning behind choosing to institute an AIDS program from kindergarten to Grade 12, when there are other issues touching on human sexuality that are of much greater urgency and practical importance to young people attending Catholic schools.
The critics are also concerned about violating the latency period of young school children. Robert Eady, a widely published Catholic commentator and writer, states that in North America, AIDS can be described as a crisis only among intravenous-drug abusers and homosexuals—the latter group making up only about one per cent of the population, not the widely discredited 10 per cent mentioned in the program. Eady points out that in Ontario, only six or seven persons in 100,000 are reported to have AIDS, while one of every 100 persons in Canada suffers from schizophrenia.
Those who have read the program have ample reason to believe that the highly disproportionate emphasis placed on AIDS is connected with a gay indoctrination agenda. For example, the program suggests that representatives of Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) be asked to speak to students about "their acceptance of their gay or lesbian family member." PFLAG is advertised in Xtra!, a large-distribution, Toronto-based homosexual tabloid. PFLAG can be seen as directly connected to the promotion of the homosexual "lifestyle"; but as an organization that denies homosexual acts are immoral, it certainly has no place in a Catholic curriculum. According to a document of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person, "No authentic pastoral program will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral."
The program, according to its critics, is too open to avenues for homosexual propaganda—an especially dangerous flaw, they say, at a time when the secular climate is already rife with it. Sylvia MacEachern, a spokeswoman for Ottawa's St. Brigid's Association, calls the curriculum "unadulterated homosexual propaganda." The program is defended by a number of gay activists. Perhaps even more important, the program is said to downplay Catholic doctrine. Critics point to its failure to say that the homosexual condition itself is a disorder. They also say the program does not emphasize the crucial role of chastity.
The program states that "the Church calls us to work against homophobia," but in fact the word "homophobia" does not appear in Catholic teaching. More troubling still to some parents is the reality that the charge of "homophobia" is made indiscriminately, and often in reference to objections to the immorality of homosexual acts. The program's uncritical use of the word, they say, could silence students' natural aversion to the gay "lifestyle."
The furor over the program came to a climax recently in a letter published in the June, 1998 issue of Catholic Insight by Bishop Roman Danylak, apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto. Bishop Danylak denounced the curriculum, saying it contains "errors in doctrine and methodology and serious omissions," and that it is not in conformity with a recent Vatican instruction on family-life education, The truth and meaning of human sexuality.
The bishop also called for the withdrawal of the controversial Fully Alive family-life education series. He is the second Canadian bishop to do so.
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