He’s ready to lecture Catholic trustees on their theology, but what is his own theology?
One of the more amusing aspects of the debate over sex clubs in the Alberta schools is the sudden absorption by the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of subjects. We have, that is, the offer of the Edmonton Public Schools to take over the Catholic schools on the apparent and unflattering assumption that a non-Catholic board would do just as good a job at teaching Catholicism as a Catholic board was doing. This was contemptuously rejected by the latter.
More amusing still, however, was the sudden nosedive by the inaugurator of the sex club movement in Alberta into the often murky pools of modern moral theology. He attempts to show the province’s Catholic school trustees how and why it is their religious duty to open sex clubs in all the Catholic schools. Not one of the Catholic schools has so far allowed them.
The man behind this latest venture is Dr. Kris Wells, whose Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services is directing the formation of sex clubs in the Alberta public schools. The institute is an appendage of the University of Alberta and the school sex clubs are presumably one of the “services” it has taken upon itself to provide for all schools, public, Catholic, or independent.
But the Catholic boards have been something less than grateful for this sweeping offer, in fact have flatly turned it down. Then up rose the brave Dr. Wells to assail the Catholic boards in their dreadful (as he saw it) dereliction of duty. He offered four reasons, all ostensibly compatible with Catholic Christianity, why the boards had gravely erred in rejecting the sex clubs. To wit:
Reason #1: The trustees were claiming that the clubs seriously infringe upon parental authority over children. This statement represents a fundamental misconception about the clubs, writes Dr. Wells. Known as GSAs. (Gay-Straight Alliances) “they are student-led and teacher-facilitated extracurricular groups. Participation is open to all students and is voluntary. As a result, they do not infringe upon parental authority any more than any other extracurricular activity, like participation in a chess club or volleyball team.”
Tut, tut, Dr. Wells, do notice the absurdity. Homosexual activity has been denounced by the Jewish religion for about three thousand years, by the Christians for two thousand, and the Muslims for about thirteen hundred. To equate it with chess and volleyball, which have never to my knowledge been denounced by anybody, at any time, anywhere, is a classic example of what the logicians call a “false analogy.” Now if Dr. Wells didn’t realize this failure in his reasoning, we must sadly conclude that he is an incompetent academic. If he realized it was a false analogy and used it anyway, we must even more sadly conclude that he is a deliberate liar. Take your choice.
Reason #2: GSAs do not restrict parents’ freedom to instruct children in a manner consistent with their faith. “How could creating safe and caring learning environments for vulnerable students be inconsistent with the Catholic faith?” asks Dr. Wells. If the intention of GSAs is (as stated) to gain social acceptance for deviant sexual conduct, this inevitably will become for some students a process of seduction, thereby exposing the converted gay to the very dangers against which the club exists to protect him.
Reason #2A: “The creation of a GSA in a school does not interfere with the ability of any parent to provide religious instruction, because participation by students is voluntary.” Come now, Dr. Wells. If the school teaches the student to accept, even to celebrate, a form of behaviour which his parents and his church condemn, would this not constitute an “interference” with parental instruction?
Reason #3: Critics say GSAs interfere with Catholic worship and the practice of religious beliefs. Since this is precisely the same question raised in #2A, the same answer applies.
Reason #4: “Steps taken by Catholic schools to address all forms of bullying are laudable. However, by definition, GSAs are about far more than addressing bullying; they are critical alliances to help understand and celebrate our differences as inherent gifts that we all possess.” Notice the underlying assumption here, that homosexual inclinations are one of the “gifts we all possess.”
What Dr. Wells regards as a “gift,” Christians across the centuries have regarded as a “sin.” Surely, that’s what the argument is really about. Is homosexual practice a good thing or a bad thing? Therefore, by describing it as a “gift,” Dr. Wells is assuming what he’s setting out to prove, another logical no-no. Four reasons, two of them grounded in irrationalities. What do they teach in these faculties of education?
But the use and validity of the exercise he has undertaken here — to lecture the Catholic school trustees on how to teach Catholicism — depends very much on something that he does not tell us. We all know what Christians think. We point to the Bible; we point to the ancient creeds of the church, to the thoughts of great Christians across the world and across the centuries. There’s nothing secret about our beliefs and there never has been.
But what does Dr. Wells believe? Does he believe in a God or gods? Does he believe in a God who gradually reveals Himself to His creatures? Who does he think Jesus Christ was, or is? Does Dr. Wells think our ideas of right and wrong are grounded in reality, or are they simply feelings that we can change whenever we like– confidently enshrining homosexuality in one era, and just as confidently horsewhipping homosexuals in the next? Perhaps he’s written his personal credo somewhere. but it hasn’t been mentioned during this present controversy over acceptable sexual conduct, and it is directly relevant.
In his campaign extolling the sex clubs in the schools, Dr. Wells lauds the virtues of “open discussion” which, he says, the clubs will foster. He plunges vigorously into the theology behind the Catholic schools, Now let us hear his own theology. What is the Wells take on the purpose of life. He’ll tell us, of course, all about human rights. But that would be a cop-out. We know what he thinks about them. But what of the moral principles that underlie those human rights? Where do they come from? Is there a God? Is there a real right and wrong? Does man actually have free will, or are we machines? Don’t be so reticent, Dr. Wells. If we’re going to have an argument. let’s get down to what it’s really all about. Why hide your ultimate beliefs? What are you afraid of?
Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century. a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The Christians.com, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered. You can order both copies here.