A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for May 2012

[LINK] “Catholic schools’ opposition to gay clubs revives public-funding debate”

National Post‘s Charles Lewis notes that the gay-straight alliance controversy may yet cost the Roman Catholic school system in Ontario public funding.

The note from John Tory, who as leader of the Progressive Conservatives lost the 2007 general election because of his suggestion to extend funding to schools belonging to other religions and denominations, strikes me as politically noteworthy.

The Ontario government’s decision forcing Catholic schools to host anti-bullying groups called “gay-straight alliances” has brought to the fore a deep divide between Roman Catholic teaching and secular society, even calling into question whether public funding for Catholic schools should continue.

At the root of the issue is a polarizing debate about whether public money should be used to support a religious education system that says homosexuals deserve love and respect but that gay sex is a mortal sin.

“The question as to whether Catholic schools should be required to support gay-straight alliances has been satisfactorily answered,” Justin Trottier, spokesman for the Toronto-based Centre for Inquiry, an atheist group, said. “The real question now is whether Ontario should be required to continue to support Catholic schools. The elephant in the room — public funding of Catholic schools — has become so destructive to fundamental rights and equality it’s impossible to ignore.”

For the Catholic Church and its supporters, it is now about the right to teach their own morality in a constitutionally protected school system without infringement from the government.

“It looks like they’re bullying the Catholic Church right now and the Catholic education system,” said Lisa MacLeod, the Conservative education critic, who is not a Catholic. “They have done this broad provocation against the Catholic Church … and really shifted focus away from bullying to a very divisive clause.”

John Tory, a Toronto broadcaster and community leader, advocated for public funding of denominational schools — not just Catholic schools — when he was Conservative leader in the 2007 provincial election. The idea of giving all religious groups public money, he said, was a way of ensuring all faith-based schools would be required to buy into Canadian values.

Mr. Tory said the church’s stand could turn public opinion against funding of its schools.

“I don’t understand how an institution can take this stand in the year 2012,” he said.

“The values of the Catholic Church do not match public policy. But if they take public money they can’t have it both ways. By looking like they’re not fully embracing acceptance [of gays] the Catholic hierarchy is starting to push public opinion against funding their schools.”

In January, Forum Research Inc. found that 49% of Ontario adults did not want public funding of Catholic schools while 45% supported it. Earlier this month it found 53% opposed pubic funding with only 40% in support.

The poll did not look for a causal link between the debate on GSAs and support for public funding. But Forum Research did say in January that 50% of Ontarians approved of GSAs in Catholic schools while 32% were opposed. In May, 51% said Catholic schools should have GSAs and 28% disagreed.

One passage from the article merits sharing.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the head of the Archdiocese of Toronto and the leader of the provincial bishops, called the move “micromanagement” and said he was troubled that the province seemed to think there was a problem with Catholic teaching on morality. GSAs, he said, come with an agenda that would not fit with Catholic teaching.

He would not speculate about potential court challenges after the bill is passed, something expected to happen next week.

On Monday, Cardinal Collins was asked how he would defend Church teachings on homophobia. He said that it was too complicated an issue to discuss for a news story.

Too complicated? Or too revealing?

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2012 at 9:28 pm

[LINK] “Church, Sect, the Ship of Peter, and GSA’s”

Livejournaler jsburbidge has an interesting post up analyzing the response of the Roman Catholic Church in Ontario to the presence of gay-straight alliances in the context of a general shift in the Church’s ethos, abandoning the idea of maintaining a presence throughout a diverse society and instead concentrating on a hard core of conservative believers. I’ve seen talk of this before, raised by some conservatives who hope that, after retreating to a durable base, the rump church could then reevangelize society.

Thoughts?

The Church of Rome has, for about a thousand years, give or take a few centuries identified itself as “the Church”, with some vague accommodations regarding the Eastern Orthodox and a detailed theory of church-like bodies coming out of the Reformation. Since the days of Theodosius it has (until recently) also assumed itself (at least in theory) to be coterminous with society — a church in Troeltsch’s classification. There have been irregularities locally — e.g. the situation in England prior to the “late Roman aggression” where there was no local hierarchy and where the C of E made the same assumptions but only locally — but broadly speaking the two positions have coexisted hand in hand.

It continues to hold the first position: the relative thawing of oecumenical relations after Vatican II were accompanied by a clear delineation of the traditional view in the Council documents, restated in Dominus Iesus from the Sacred Congregation of the Faith in 2000. However, especially since the accession of Benedict to the papacy, it’s possible to argue that it is moving deliberately in the direction of a remnant theology-driven view of the position of the church in (Western) society. It would like to be coterminous with society, and sees itself as the guardian of universal ethical values on which it has a duty to speak out, but much of Benedict’s agenda can be seen as adjustments to make the distinction between inside and outside starker. Effectively, it is deliberately taking on more of the sociological shape of a sect and less that of a church.

Put simply, Benedict’s approach involves a willingness to pay the price of losing adherents in favour of protecting its doctrine and structure. The upper hierarchy would like to eliminate “cafeteria Catholicism”. Of course, the closer to the ground you get the priests and bishops also want to retain the resources which come from larger congregations, so there has been a lot of a sort of DADT attitude at the ground level towards dissenting views on women’s orders, female participation in the liturgy as lay ministers, divorce, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality (all areas where the divergence between Catholic doctrine and popular practice is particularly marked) as long as they are kept relatively private. (This has been accompanied by a considerable relaxation in the principle that anyone receiving communion should go to confession immediately before the eucharist, and a tendency not to ask about certain areas of opinion which a penitent might not mention in the confessional.) There has been increasing pressure, however, to enforce greater conformity in all of these matters, as well as liturgical distinctiveness. Ecumenical dialogue has also become less fluid and more take-it-or-leave-it.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2012 at 8:44 pm

[LINK] “Church, Sect, the Ship of Peter, and GSA’s”

jsburbidge has an interesting post up analyzing the response of the Roman Catholic Church in Ontario to the presence of gay-straight alliances in the context of a general shift in the Church’s ethos, abandoning the idea of maintaining a presence throughout a diverse society and instead concentrating on a hard core of conservative believers. I’ve seen talk of this before, raised by some conservatives who hope that, after retreating to a durable base, the rump church could then reevangelize society.

Thoughts?

The Church of Rome has, for about a thousand years, give or take a few centuries identified itself as “the Church”, with some vague accommodations regarding the Eastern Orthodox and a detailed theory of church-like bodies coming out of the Reformation. Since the days of Theodosius it has (until recently) also assumed itself (at least in theory) to be coterminous with society — a church in Troeltsch’s classification. There have been irregularities locally — e.g. the situation in England prior to the “late Roman aggression” where there was no local hierarchy and where the C of E made the same assumptions but only locally — but broadly speaking the two positions have coexisted hand in hand.

It continues to hold the first position: the relative thawing of oecumenical relations after Vatican II were accompanied by a clear delineation of the traditional view in the Council documents, restated in Dominus Iesus from the Sacred Congregation of the Faith in 2000. However, especially since the accession of Benedict to the papacy, it’s possible to argue that it is moving deliberately in the direction of a remnant theology-driven view of the position of the church in (Western) society. It would like to be coterminous with society, and sees itself as the guardian of universal ethical values on which it has a duty to speak out, but much of Benedict’s agenda can be seen as adjustments to make the distinction between inside and outside starker. Effectively, it is deliberately taking on more of the sociological shape of a sect and less that of a church.

Put simply, Benedict’s approach involves a willingness to pay the price of losing adherents in favour of protecting its doctrine and structure. The upper hierarchy would like to eliminate “cafeteria Catholicism”. Of course, the closer to the ground you get the priests and bishops also want to retain the resources which come from larger congregations, so there has been a lot of a sort of DADT attitude at the ground level towards dissenting views on women’s orders, female participation in the liturgy as lay ministers, divorce, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality (all areas where the divergence between Catholic doctrine and popular practice is particularly marked) as long as they are kept relatively private. (This has been accompanied by a considerable relaxation in the principle that anyone receiving communion should go to confession immediately before the eucharist, and a tendency not to ask about certain areas of opinion which a penitent might not mention in the confessional.) There has been increasing pressure, however, to enforce greater conformity in all of these matters, as well as liturgical distinctiveness. Ecumenical dialogue has also become less fluid and more take-it-or-leave-it.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2012 at 4:44 pm

[PHOTO] Just eat

Hat on pay phone outside of a restaurant on Spadina in the early night seemed to cohere into a cool picture.

IMG_0934

IMG_0935

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm

[PHOTO] Just eat

Hat on pay phone outside of a restaurant on Spadina in the early night seemed to cohere into a cool picture.

IMG_0934

IMG_0935

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2012 at 9:34 am

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with , , ,

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] On gay-straight alliances and the Roman Catholic schools of Ontario

Right now, the question of gay-straight alliances in the publicly-funded Ontario Roman Catholic school system has become a major political issue.

Gay-straight alliances originate in the United States, as student organizations in high schools which provide safe spaces for non-heterosexuals and their straight allies. Gay-straight alliances have spread beyond the United States, as people have begun coming out at younger and younger ages around the world, Canada being one place where they’ve flourished. In the past couple of years, students at many of Ontario’s Roman Catholic schools, which receive public funding ultimately as a consequence of provisions in the early Canadian constitution allowing certain religiously-mixed provinces to subsidize schools belonging to denominational minorities, have wanted to form gay-straight alliances in their own schools. The Roman Catholic Church that runs the Ontario schools dissents on theological grounds, with prominent people like Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins denouncing legislation allowing for gay-straight alliances as oppressive; the Ontario provincial government, citing equity legislation and the school system’s receipt of public money, and drawing upon broad public support for gay rights, has introduced language into anti-bullying legislation that would prevent any schools receiving public money from banning gay-straight alliances by name or from lumping in organizations concerned with the experiences of gay students with anti-bullying and peer support groups generally.

There is also strong support for gay-straight alliances from students in both public and Catholic schools in Ontario.

In a 2011 survey of over 7,000 students for the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, 88 per cent agreed,”that a student wanting to establish a Gay Straight Alliance club in their school should be allowed to do so.”

What’s more, surveys in both Canada and the U.S. found bullying of sexual minority students is less common in schools that have an anti-homophobia policy and/or have a gay-straight alliance.

In a May 28 interview with CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway, Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten defended her new amendments.

“To many of our students, we know that the term gay-straight alliance has great meaning and that words matter and that if you can’t name something, you can’t address it,” she said.

Philip Squire, chair of the London District Catholic School Board, told CBC Radio’s Wei Chen that “no student has come forward and said they want a gay-straight alliance.”

The legislation actually accounts for that: If no student requests such a group, a school would not be required to establish a GSA.

I made a couple of posts back in 2011 about this but didn’t imagine this.

Is this fair. Let’s turn first to what the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition

What is “unjust” discrimination?

The 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”, authored by Joseph Ratzinger in his position as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, goes into more detail. The document is very hostile towards gay rights. Item 9, for instance, identifies homosexuality as a threat to public safety, indelibly marking the document as product of the great HIV/AIDS crisis.

There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups’ concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.

Item 10 even seems to explain away gaybashing as a predictable, if not quite defensible, consequence of the destabilization of traditional sexual moralty..

It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

More, the 1992 “Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination on Homosexual Persons”, a letter put out by the Congregation (still under Ratzinger), specifies ways in which the 1986 Letter should be interpreted. The 1992 note favours what would probably be termed “just” discrimination against non-heterosexuals, arguing that discrimination in employment (specific careers such as that of teacher or soldier) would be justifiable, as would be discrimination against gays in adoption and foster care, as would be active opposition to any legislation that might grant same-sex couples any recognition or rights, all in the defense of the traiditional family. Sexual orientation, indeed, is not a legitimate characteristic meriting protection: if people are quiet about their sexual orientation they’ve no grounds to fear discrimination.

The “sexual orientation” of a person is not comparable to race, sex, age, etc. also for another reason than that given above which warrants attention. An individual’s sexual orientation is generally not known to others unless he publicly identifies himself as having this orientation or unless some overt behavior manifests it. As a rule, the majority of homosexually oriented persons who seek to lead chaste lives do not publicize their sexual orientation. Hence the problem of discrimination in terms of employment, housing, etc., does not usually arise.

As the extensive Religious Tolerance site notes, this formulation seems to justify discrimination against people who are out, or people who are found out despite themselves.

One common theme in the language used by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Ontario regarding gay-straight alliances and anti-gay bullying is that this type of bullying doesn’t need any particular attention, or that highlighting this form of bullying must necessarily–somehow–lead to neglect of other forms of bullying. I don’t buy the thesis that attention paid to bullying is necessarily a zero-sum thing. More importantly, I don’t buy the thesis that the Roman Catholic Church has the best intentions towards the non-heterosexual children who find themselves in the schools that the Church runs, that by its enunciated doctrine the church sanctions discrimination and bullying against non-heterosexuals. It positively needs to be supervised to ensure that it doesn’t do terrible things to the children in its charge.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2012 at 3:59 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On supernova candidate IK Pegasi

I learned via Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog that the nearest candidate for a supernova, the binary star IK Pegasi, is located just 150 light years away. Wikipedia’s description of this star system is succinct.

The primary (IK Pegasi A) is a main sequence, A-class star that displays minor pulsations in luminosity. It is categorized as a Delta Scuti variable star and it has a periodic cycle of luminosity variation that repeats itself about 22.9 times per day. Its companion (IK Pegasi B) is a massive white dwarf—a star that has evolved past the main sequence and is no longer generating energy through nuclear fusion. They orbit each other every 21.7 days with an average separation of about 31 million kilometres, or 19 million miles, or 0.21 astronomical units (AU). This is smaller than the orbit of Mercury around the Sun.

What makes it a supernova candidate? Phil Plait explains.

IK Peg A is aging. It’s still fusing hydrogen into helium in its core like the Sun does. But remember, those pulsations are telling us it’s nearing the end of its life too. At some point in the future, probably in a few dozen or hundred million years, it too will swell into a red giant.

When it does, [. . . m]aterial from IK Peg A will flow onto the white dwarf. Separated by a mere 30 million kilometers or so (closer than Mercury is to the Sun), this transfer of mass will flow steadily. As the matter piles up on the surface of the white dwarf it gets fiercely compressed and hot. At some point the temperature gets high enough to flash fuse it into helium. There will be an explosion — big, but not big enough to destroy the star — called a nova. Some of the hydrogen will remain, as will the helium. When things calm down, the material from the red giant will start to pile up again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

But every time it does this, not all the added material blows away. The mass of the dwarf increases. It’s also possible that the matter from the red giant will accumulate slowly enough that it will pile up without a nova explosion. Either way, the mass of the white dwarf increases. And remember, IK Peg B is already pretty massive. It can only gain so much more mass before something very bad happens…

One day, something very bad happens. When the dwarf reaches a mass of about 1.4 times the Sun, the physical forces inside the star can no longer support its own mass. The white dwarf starts to collapse, and the core temperature rockets skyward. A fusion chain reaction is ignited in the dwarf, and the conditions inside it cannot stop it. Within seconds, the chain reaction runs out of control, consuming the bulk of the star, and it explodes.

Right now, IK Pegasi isn’t close enough to be a threat to Earth–IK Pegasi would have to be within 75 light years of Earth to have an impact. More, IK Pegasi is moving relative to Earth, the longer the time that IK Pegasi B refrains from going supernova translating to a still greater distance. Commenter Eric Mamajek calculates that none of the known nearby likely candidates for supernova status are likely to enter within the lethal range in the time they have left.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2012 at 2:58 am