Do we really need Catholic schools anymore?


Guest Column

Fr. Steve Ballard

The following is a copy on an email sent Father Steve Ballard to the Renfrew County Catholic District Board office in Pembroke concerning the events taking place at St. Joseph’s High School in Renfrew. Some edits and additions have been made since its original submission.

Fr. Ballard notes that since this communication will likely trigger the usual catch phrases: “right wing”, “conservative”, “needs to get with the times”, etc., he pointed out the very liberal comedian and commentator, Bill Maher (hardly a hard-line conservative or Roman Catholic!) has raised the same types of questions.

“These must be addressed, especially when it seems that society is hellbent on heading down a road, in rapid fashion, without serious discussion, reflection or debate,” Fr. Ballard maintains.

* * * * * *

As a graduate of the high school and as a Roman Catholic priest, and as a citizen, I must raise my considerable concerns about the recent scandal involving St. Joseph’s High School (SJHS). As you know, I have never been afraid to offer my opinion in the past and I am certain that the disparaging comments about this communication will be many.
I must point out that your decision to remove all email addresses for school staff and the Board is broadly viewed as cowardly. Clearly, your hope is not to invite legitimate debate or constructive criticism, but to relegate legitimate concerns to a benign email address that can be ignored. I understand that some threats may have come to some, but as you have said, these can be forwarded to the OPP, which I support totally.
The events at my former high school raise more questions than answers. Naturally, you are bending over backwards to quote the Human Resources Code but in at least one place you imply that their directives are a ‘guide’ and in the next breath, they are quoted as gospel truth. Which is it? School teachers have frequently demonstrated that they would go on strike about almost anything not to their liking. How much of a fight has been made against the Human Rights Commission concerning these issues? Was a strike vote threatened? Or has this not occurred since school staff favour this agenda?
I have other questions, which I am sure will never be answered:
1) Do all students have ‘human rights’ or just a few minor students who are struggling with gender dysphoria?
2) Is it your policy/belief that all minor children have the capacity to make monumental decisions about their lives that should always be respected and/or tolerated? Recognizing that ‘all things’ transgender is the new normal (fashion?) what else is the school prepared to tolerate? In the media, we have seen every absurdity imaginable: some identify as: felines, canines, broccoli and inanimate objects. Should we expect these to be the next group of minor students who deserve special treatment?
3) Does a minor have the capacity to make informed consent? Could this tendency to question their identity be an attention seeking ploy?
4) Are students at the high school (or any school) being quietly encouraged by any staff member to question their identity and transition?
5) Are students being coached by staff concerning gender identity, and in secret, without the knowledge of their parents? Why? Have they been reprimanded for doing so?
6) Have students and parents been encouraged to seek out and receive appropriate psychological/psychiatric treatment? Are these therapists screened appropriately? Do they have agendas? Are any of their therapeutic methods in harmony with or counter to Roman Catholic teaching? Do they possess bias against the Roman Catholic Church?
7) Are staff members encouraging students to seek out or arrange for medical intervention, specifically puberty blockers, chemical castration or surgery, with or without their parent’s knowledge or consent?
8) What protection and safety measures have been put in place for the young ladies who use the girl’s washroom — frequented by males who are presenting as female? Are their safety concerns being heard? Do they matter? Why would these individuals be allowed to frequent a washroom with access to the young ladies? An alternative, as you note, is available.
9) Theoretically, if a minor child, a boy, is sufficiently confused about his gender, how do you not know that they are not also harbouring other unspoken tendencies or attractions that may never be disclosed? Is it possible that a young man could prey upon a vulnerable young lady, in a washroom, because of some unaddressed psychological disturbance? Might they possess predatory/sexual tendencies?
10) The young man who has been ‘trespassed’ seems to have been demonized. Why? Was as much effort put into protecting his human rights as was those who are confused by their gender identity? Do his values, faith and religious identity matter?

11) Do you think that the public removal or ‘arrest’ of this young man was a ‘good look’ for the school board or the high school? Was there no other alternative available? Do you understand that many view it as heavy handed and as an unspoken threat to others who may have their own opinions and faith-filled principles?
12) Are schools within the Board participating in ‘Drag Queen’ story time with children? Will the Board provide a complete list of books, videos and DVDs that are being used in primary school or high school libraries? Can parents and guardians request such a list?
13) Are teachers being routinely monitored to ensure that the subject matter being taught is age appropriate, without an agenda and in accordance with Roman Catholic teaching? Are parents receiving lists of printed materials in use in their son/daughter’s classroom for instruction?
14) As I understand it, part of the spectacle concerning the young man who was trespassed, came about as a result of a classroom discussion where, two young men with gender dysphoria, were present. Is this true? Were all students permitted to speak their minds without qualification? Was it prudent to engage in such a discussion about the subject matter in the first place, knowing full well that strong opinions would be offered?
15) Why are school staff members behaving like mutes in the community, refusing to discuss these issues? Are they afraid? Have they been given special instructions to ignore peaceful inquiry or discussion? Since the schools’ trumpet staff as consummate professionals, and are paid as such, is it appropriate for staff, outside the school itself, to present themselves as if they are above questioning or are gagged’?

Within the wider community and the country, everyone knows that the academic world is inundated with a very, very left-wing agenda. Doubtless, many have different opinions about the issues, however what many of us observe is far left-wing activism. Your websites display, quite explicitly, the political agenda that is in force. Sadly, except for a few taglines and slogans, the importance of the Roman Catholic faith, for which the schools were established, is sadly missing.
As I understand it, since I am off on sick leave, the diocese will be facing some critical decisions about priestly/pastoral service and church closures and soon! How do our schools feel about that as we observe virtually zero children and zero staff members joining with the Eucharistic community on the Lord’s Day?
Do we really need separate schools anymore?
By all appearances, they may have disappeared long ago.
If our schools are not about being “Schools to Believe In” in the Roman Catholic faith, united with our parishes, then we have our answer.
Obviously, big money, pensions and jobs are on the line, but at least in my time, 1977-82, at St Joseph High School, the priority of Roman Catholic School was not that.

Father Steven F. Ballard (J.C.L.)
Priest of the Diocese of Pembroke