|St. Damiano Church|
Of course there's a need for a large diocese to have a diocesan strategy as to the best way to move forward, but is the idea of raising money for new buildings and programs really necessary at this time? Most of the faithful already have made or are making a contribution to a building fund at the parish level. Parishioners also donate to Share Life, the Shepherds' Trust, St. Augustine's Seminary and other yearly collections for the needs of the Church.
Here we are well into the Year of Faith and so far all the faithful have is a promise that a pastoral plan will be forthcoming. Shouldn't the priority be to put the spiritual needs of the faithful ahead of every other concern? If there was time to plan for a Planning and Engagement Study and get strategic advice from the Community Counselling Services Company, then surely there was time to issue a pastoral plan for the Archdiocese. It would be good to remember that it was St. Francis who heard the voice of God coming from the crucifix at the chapel of San Damiano say, "Francis, Go and rebuild my church which you can see has fallen into ruin." Francis believed that he was being asked to repair the physical structure of the church and only later did he come to realize that the message was about a spiritual renewal.
For almost five years now, we have had in this Ontario a frontal attack on Catholic education through Equity and Inclusive Education policies and the passing into law of Bill 13. Will we accept that future Christians in Canada will merely have the freedom to worship? What has been the Catholic response to the legislated anti-Christian agenda? Mostly silence and unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with a provincial government that conceded next to nothing as it undermined the family, human sexuality and Catholic education. Why was there no pastoral letter warning parents and guiding pastors on how best to respond? On this issue, most of our shepherds have sadly chose to abandon the flock.
In fact, the minister of eduction and the premier both have said that students cannot go to a Catholic school and be pro-life. Catholic boards, Catholic trustees and many Catholic teachers have defied the Catechism and the response has been, for the most part, business as usual. If Catholic institutions and schools can change the teachings of the Church at will, then what's the use of calling them or saying that they are Catholic? Why spend money to repair buildings that nobody may ever use? Do we not see what has been happening to some churches in Quebec? They have been sold to build condominiums because the faithful are no longer there. Once the faith goes, the buildings are spiritually worthless.
We mention these things because if the Catholic Church is not prepared to defend Catholic education, we see little value in promoting and spending large sums of money on bricks and mortar and building new spiritual centres. Who will attend tomorrow's churches if we are not preparing today's children to know the faith and why it's worth defending. We can renew the spiritual life of parishes communities and follow Jesus without spending millions of dollars. It's just a question of determining one's priorities and putting our faith first. For example, the Bishop of Portsmouth, in England, issued, on October 12, 2012, a Pastoral Letter for the Year of Faith asking and suggesting that the faithful make greater efforts at home, at school and at church to deepen and strengthen their faith. The message has many practical examples of what can be done. In the Diocese of Pembroke, here in Ontario, Bishop Michael Mulhall wrote a Letter telling Catholics that he would defend Catholic education and the Catechism from government attempts to undermine the faith. We only wish all the bishops had spoken with this kind of determination and clarity. And what does it cost to issue a statement asking the faithful to read the Pope's letter, Porta Fidei, for the Year of Faith?
The Respecting Difference document to address bullying issued by the Ontario Catholic Trustees' Association and supported by the Ontario bishops is not being implemented by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association. The teachers' union instead is promoting Egale Canada's MyGSA. They have every intention of allowing students that want them to establish gay/straight alliances to do so. This contradicts Catholic teaching on human sexuality and the person. Some university preparatory courses that have been offered in conjunction with instructors from the Toronto Catholic District School Board to new teachers have openly contradicted the Catechism. And why have our Canadian bishops refused to fully embrace Humanae Vitae even after we see the moral fallout for not having done so? In other words, there are many other vital diocesan spiritual issues that need our attention before we embark on a huge campaign to raise millions for what amounts to a building fund. Let's work first on our faith houses as a main concern and then we can surely deal with the physical structures. We are asked for our views about this initiative, and respectfully, here is our reaction to the proposal plan put forward by the Archdiocese of Toronto.