In April, Toronto Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic issued a strongly worded ‘no’ to condoms as a solution to the spread of AIDS or as a contraceptive. Yet, York Separate (Catholic) School Board (YSSB) may place its stamp of approval on a revised policy that will contain an explanation of how condom use may prevent AIDS.
“It seems like the York Region Separate Board is determined to circumvent the Archbishop’s refusal to condone the teaching of ‘safe sex’,” said Janet Smith, a parent living in the area.
The YSSB serves a fast-growing suburb just to the north of Metropolitan Toronto.
At the direction of Program Superintendent, John MacRae, and Religious Education Co-ordinator, Noel Cooper, the YSSB has been trying to draft a ‘safe sex’ policy since the fall of 1990.
When the board was poised to formally recommend that sexually active students use condoms and spermicide, the bishop responsible for York region, Robert Clune, threatened to “make known …that the motion is not in conformity with Catholic teaching and practice” (see “Archbishop says ‘No’ to condoms,” The Interim, June 1991).
“We were taken aback that your Education Committee would not have consulted Archbishop Ambrozic or myself…about such a controversial moral issue before giving out press releases and presenting this motion to your board,” Bishop Clune stated in a letter to Director of Education, Frank S. Bobesich.
In response to Archbishop Ambrozic’s mid-April statement, the YSSB plans to have a revised policy in place by late October, Mr. MacRae said. It will state that abstinence is the only way of avoiding AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, but will also discuss ‘safe sex’ methods.
Mr. MacRae told The Interim that his office is working closely with Sylvia Santin of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Family Life Office, and Msgr. Denis Murphy of the Institute of Catholic Education to clarify the board’s H.I.V. (AIDS) Infection policy.
He distinguished between classroom teaching on the subject which will promote chastity for young people, sexually active or not, and one-to-one counseling where alternative protection methods, including condoms, might be approved.
Mr. MacRae admitted that it may be impossible to be faithful to Church teaching on sexual morality and raise the subject of condoms, but that the YSSB would not stop trying.
The chef architect of the ‘safe sex’ policy appears to be Religious Education Co-ordinator, Noel Cooper who expresses his profound dissatisfaction with Archbishop Ambrozic’s “unrealistic” statement in an internal memo to John MacRae and Frank Bobesich.
As November’s school board elections approach, concerned parents will question candidates for trustee about the sexual policies of the YSSB.