It’s always a challenge to write a first column, to introduce oneself to a new audience. My brief is to cover pretty much anything I want, but to write about Canada and Britain in particular. The reason is that I spent the first half of my life in London, the second in Toronto. I married a Canadian. We met at a G.K. Chesterton conference in 1986, where I delivered a startlingly boring lecture entitled “Chesterton, Belloc, the Marconi Scandal, and Edwardian Anti-Semitism.” Not a usual subject for future wife attraction, but even so this highly intelligent, extraordinarily beautiful woman approached me at a cocktail party at the end of the conference and exclaimed, “You’re amazing.” She was doubtless drunk.
Thinking this would never happen again, I married her. And I was right: it hasn’t happened again, and as far as I can recall she hasn’t said it again either.
Thus Canada, which is one of those geopolitical mysteries. Like Costa Rica’s peacefulness or the beauty of Bruges. People just don’t usually know. Thirty million inhabitants, incredibly wealthy, absurdly large, enormously successful, culturally and artistically fertile, and often a predictor of what the USA will become 10 years later. But because it’s a former British colony and on top of the world’s only superpower it’s often forgotten, ignored. Frankly, it rather likes it that way. Similarly with the Canadian Church. There are more than 13 million Catholics in Canada, 44 percent of the population. There are eight million Protestants of various denominations, the largest claiming to be the United Church, at around half-a-million members.
It’s the most liberal of the churches and is hemorrhaging adherents. As are the Anglicans and the Presbyterians. Unlike in the US, Evangelicals at around 11 percent are not a major force. Immigration has, of course, enormously increased the Hindu, Sikh, and, in particular, Muslim communities.
There is an extensive and publicly funded Catholic education system in the country, a tiny but still permitted Catholic television station, and in the past two generations it’s been unusual to have a prime minister who is not Catholic. Of a sort. Liberals Pierre Trudeau, Paul Martin, Jean Chretien, and John Turner and Conservatives Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark were all nominal Catholics, with one or two of them claiming to attend Mass and perhaps even sometimes doing so. They also governed a country that is unique in the western world in having no abortion laws at all—publicly funded up to the ninth month, and all sorts of restrictions to prevent protests outside abortion clinics. Canada was also the fourth country to introduce full same-sex marriage and had led the world in same-sex adoption and hate crime prosecutions of people who criticize the gay community just a little too much.
A good example of the paradox was the fight in Ontario, the country’s most populous province, over what was supposed to be the government’s anti-bullying policy in high schools. It soon became not a campaign against bullying, but one to affirm homosexuality. A Liberal administration led by a man—Dalton McGuinty—who claimed to be a Roman Catholic, whose wife still teaches in the Catholic system, and whose children attended it, decided that gay students were bullied and that something had to be done. McGuinty is a malleable politician, and over the years when I’ve interviewed him I’ve seen him change his mind on numerous subjects. He has also refused to support or uphold Church teaching almost every time it has been politically challenged. There’s no such thing as a Kennedy Catholic; believe me, neither is there such a creature as a McGuinty one.
The anti-bullying fetish is partly the work of gay extremist Dan Savage, who began the “It Gets Better” campaign, and who has subsequently bullied opponents, including teenagers, whenever he gets the chance. Irony aside, the whole idea is based on nonsense. First, it’s not true that gay children are particularly targeted at school and all credible surveys reveal that it’s obesity and body image that are the major reasons for bullying, with sexuality hardly registering. Second, it’s not true that Catholic schools preach homophobia or that Catholic teachers would allow a gay child to be bullied. Third, being gay has become fashionable rather than dangerous in modern schools. All of this, however, was ignored as a “Catholic”-led government ruled that Catholic schools would have to implement “Gay-Straight Alliances,” where gay students, sympathetic teachers, and activists brought into the school would discuss lifestyle, sexuality, and why there is nothing wrong with being an active homosexual. Bullying, ran the argument, was a product of homophobia, and homophobia was a product of, well, things like Catholicism.
Good Lord, where to start? The Church does not and cannot accept homosexual behavior. It’s really pretty simple. As Catholics we believe that God made us with a plan, based on order and not chaos, which has at its epicenter the procreation of humanity. We are obliged to never consciously exclude God from the sexual act, which is supposed to be an extension of love, within marriage. This doesn’t mean that every time a married couple sleep together they have to conceive, but that to aggressively disallow such a result by contraceptives or by sexual behavior that makes procreation impossible is to remove God from our lives. It reduces sex to an entirely selfish and self-loving exercise. Homosexual sex has to be, by its nature, exclusive of God. Thus there can be no such thing as homosexual marriage, so Catholicism can never affirm homosexual behavior.
But that is entirely different from rejecting the gay person, in that we are far, far more than our sexuality. A child at school may not be sexual, but all of the evidence of gay-straight alliances is that they approve entirely of homosexual relationships, encourage a young people to embrace their inclinations, and reject Catholic teaching in strong, sometimes insulting, language. They are, in fact, little more than media-shaped and propaganda-fuelled glee clubs, celebrating the gay community and dismissing Christian attitudes as archaic and damaging. Yet they have been forced on Roman Catholic schools and millions of children. Predictably, the Catholic teachers union—about as Catholic as a Richard Dawkins look-alike contest—backed the alliances, and the Church did too little and too late.
Bullying is anti-Catholic, and no gay child would be left to suffer, if indeed any suffering was genuinely involved; it tends to be the seriously devout children who are the victims in Catholic schools these days. The only bullying now is from governments and activists, who show far less tolerance for Catholics than Catholics ever did for them. It’s going to get worse in Canada, as it has in Britain, and will in the United States. So this is, I suppose, a report from the front lines. I better start wearing a helmet and flak-jacket!