Until September of this year, Joanna Manning was the head of the religious department of Monsignor Percy Johnson Secondary School of the Metropolitan (Toronto) Separate School Board (MSSB). She resigned the position, of her own accord, and has become a part-time history teacher in the same school.

Manning is the leading spokeswomen for the Coalition of Concerned Canadian Catholics (CCCC), an organization of self-feeding, well-placed, dissenting Catholic educators.

Joanna Manning

In November of 1991, CCCC became a founding member of an umbrella group which included the National Assembly of Women Religious, Catholic lesbians and homosexuals (Dignity), former priests (CORPUS) and other groups engaged in attacking the Catholic Church.

Joanna Manning is a proudly professing Catholic dissenter. If she were a competent plumber and a dissenter- and if I needed any plumbing work down- I’d hire her today. Manning- the plumber- can’t do much damage to the Catholic Faith (even if she were writing papers spouting off her views).

But Manning’s potential for damage as head of the religious department of a Catholic high school is mind boggling. And there she was for years. What damage she can do as a part-time history teacher remains to be seen.(Meanwhile, she still gets paid as a department head- on a reduced scale).

Last school year the Mssb allowed her to tour all over the country- and to go to Europe- spouting off attacks on the Catholic Church. Everywhere she goes, she acts as spokesperson for the CCCC and is met by a friendly, posturing press.

Manning even published a book about her views, mentioned previously in this paper ( Interim,  July 1992, p.5). In it she accuses the Church of having deformed the truth through “Patriarchy,” a new feminist-invented sin. She also flatly rejects the church’s sexual-marital-moral teaching. All of this, and much more, has been set forth in articles which the Toronto dailies are only too willing to publish in prominent places like the “Op Ed” page.

I think Manning should be fired. I am not alone in this view. On June 18 of this year the president of the Ontario Association to the MSSB on precisely this topic. Parents, he said, have a direct interest in the quality of the teaching staff. He quoted Canon Law 803.2, stating that “the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life.” Full details may be found in the OACF newsletter of September (153 Donlands Ave. Toronto, Ontario, M4J 3P3, $2.00 a copy).

Criticisms fall on deaf ears

Meanwhile, criticisms by other letter writers to the MSSB regarding a vicious attack on the Church by Manning in a  Toronto Star article( Vatican plays roulette with Fate of the Earth’) were given a limp wrist treatment. In their response Chairman Donald Clune and Director of Education Tony Barone naively suggested that maybe Manning’s sentiments expressed in the Star  article might not be “translated” into the classroom. Now that’s a big pill to swallow.

One letter writer was berated by Dr. Barone with the information that “ The collective agreement between the Board and the Teacher’s Association protect the Associations members against arbitrary action and assures them of due process.” This correspondent wrote back that she wasn’t asking for arbitrary action, but for deliberate, well-thought out, due process of law action! But the tone of letters sent by the MSB in reply to the complaints makes it clear that the leaders of the MSSB think the organization is powerless to do anything. Or, perhaps, they are afraid of the union, despite the fact that as a Catholic teachers’ union it ought to have the welfare of Catholic schools at heart.

There is another very important reason why behavior of the Joanna Manning kind requires action.

In 1996, RC School Boards will no longer be able to restrict hiring to Catholics. For all I know, that may be a good thing in these days. At any rate, from then on newly hired teachers must promise to respect the “Catholic philosophy of Education,” no matter what their background. But how will the MSSB be able to enforce this rule if it doesn’t do something about Joanna Manning today?

Inconsistency is dangerous

Why should Manning be fired? And fired right now. If we don’t fire her – and for just cause – we will be put in the same position as Christian Horizons, an Ontario organization that runs residential homes for the mentally handicapped. They were ordered in July ’92 to pay $65,000 to two women who were fired from their jobs for living common-law.

Why couldn’t Christian Horizons, an independent, biblically-based Ontario organization, that on a yearly budget of $20 million, fire two women who were living common-law, which clearly violated tenets of evangelical Christianity as well as the organization’s policy? Why?

The board of inquiry of the Ontario Human Rights Commission agreed with their right to lay down rules. But on July 3, 1992, they ruled that Christian Horizons had not applied this policy consistently. In one instance the woman’s relationship was initially condoned by he supervisor, and even after being fired from her full-time job she was offered a part-time position! The other woman living common-law claimed that she was never informed about the organization’s lifestyle requirements prior to being hired!

So there you have it. When other teachers, Catholic or non-Catholic, promote ideas similar to those of Joanna Manning in the future, they can point to the unwillingness of the MSSB to do something about Manning in 1992. They could easily say: “Why would you want to fire us? We’re only saying what Joanna  Manning has been saying for years.”

And the Human Rights Commission will agree with them.

Editor: On September 25, the Toronto Star reported that shortly before the school year began, Mrs. Manning “was told she could no longer teach religion and was reassigned to teach Grade 11 history. A non-Catholic (will) take over two of her religion classes.”

The Catholic teacher’s union will fight this decision. Union representative Neil Doherty called Manning “a magnificent teacher,” well within “the mainstream of Catholic teaching today.”