Alberta’s Education Minister expressed hope that a compromise on LGBTQ policies could be found for Catholic education after meeting with the province’s bishops.
Minister David Eggen met with the four bishops of the Canadian province last Monday to quell the increasingly heated debates around developing policies to support LGBTQ students. He said the conversations were “frank” and sought “common ground” to ensure that “we protect all students regardless of their gender identity in schools and to make sure that everybody is equal under school policy and equal under the law.”
The outcome was, according to Eggen as quoted in the Calgary Sun, that Catholic officials would be given some “latitude” in developing their LGBTQ policies by March 31. He explained:
” ‘It’s latitude to ensure that the integrity and the protections religion is allowed here, both in the province of Alberta and across the country, are adhered to. . .But that protection has never allowed faith-based edicts to compromise the letter of the law.’ “
Moving forward, Eggen hoped that his ministry could collaboratively work with Catholic school boards in Alberta in “looking for a way by which we can accommodate theological beliefs and the letter of the law.”
This meeting came after each bishop had released their own sharply-worded letter against newly released LGBTQ guidelines from the Education Ministry. Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary described them as “totalitarian” and “anti-Catholic” and later refused to apologize for his harsh remarks. Letters from Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan, and Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul were critical, but less confrontational.
Archbishop Smith commented on their meeting with Minister Eggen, reported Global News, saying the open conversation was “warm” and “cordial,” and he agreed that a solution was possible because the “fundamental common ground has to do with the love and the protection of the children.”
Minister Eggen’s meeting with Alberta’s bishops appears to be progress towards protecting LGBT students. The harsh rhetoric and hyperbolic acts which have surrounded this debate for months now have only hurt students who may already be marginalized or suffering.
Both Eggen and the Catholic bishops seem interested in helping the province’s Catholic education, which is publicly funded, to become safer and more inclusive for all students. The rub is in the details of what that means, but I hope Alberta’s bishops can come to see that Catholic education is actually strengthened when sexual and gender diverse students are welcomed, supported, and allowed to identify as they know God to have created them.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry