Why the Ottawa Catholic School Board can’t just blow off the Kenyan bishops

There may be some people wondering if the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) is morally required to comply with the request from the bishops of Kenya asking Canadian Catholics to stop funding a contraception-distributing clinic in Kenya run by Free the Children. After all, some would argue that the OCSB falls under the jurisdiction of the Canadian bishops. Is the request from the Kenyan bishops morally binding on the OCSB?

Evidently, the answer is yes: the OCSB is morally obliged to comply, otherwise both the organization and the Board members risk compromising their communion with the Catholic Church. Let’s see how.

Direct cooperation with evil is the crux of the issue at hand. Given that this is a matter of faith and morals, it  falls directly within the field of responsibility of the episcopacy. Which evil are we talking about? Contraception. Is there any wiggle room in the Church regarding contraception? None.

But aren’t there areas where Catholics can legitimately disagree, given the complexities of real life? Absolutely. Does that apply to the present case? Not at all. Why not? Because there’s a morally acceptable alternative to Free the Children whereby we can help the poor in Kenya without distributing contraceptives. Everybody here wants to help poor Kenyans. But there’s a right way of doing it and a wrong way of doing it. Given the presence of the non-contraceptive-distributing Catholic clinics, this is a no-brainer. Just give your money to the Catholic clinics. There’s no need to cooperate even remotely with evil in this instance.

What about the geographical dimension? Doesn’t the OCSB answer only to the Canadian bishops? I’m glad you asked. Where is the clinic located? In Kenya. Where is the evil occurring? In Kenya. Does a Catholic organization in Canada have authority to act as it pleases in the jurisdiction of another country’s bishops? No. Canon Law says that permission from the Kenyan bishops would be required even if the activities funded by the OCSB were good. Let me repeat that: even if the OCSB was funding the distribution of rosaries and vitamin pills they’d still need permission from the Kenyan bishops. When the Kenyan bishops write a letter asking you to please stop, does it sound like you have their blessing? This principle shouldn’t come as any surprise. Civil society works in an analogous way. If you do business in another country, you must respect the laws of that country, right?

There’s only one way out of this mess: the OCSB cannot legitimately keep the “C” if it publicly flaunts a direct request from a conference of bishops.

I know there are some faithful Catholics among the trustees. If you’re one of them, you need to take action immediately to publicly distance yourself from Mardi de Kemp’s blow off. Break free from the Borg. Don’t risk your soul for Marc Kielburger. Don’t wait for Archbishop Prendergast to do it for you either. How do you think Jesus will perceive you if you only do His will when your arm is twisted by the Archbishop or when he gives you political cover? Do you think Jesus will see you as courageous or as a coward? Can you honestly say you will have placed Him above the love of man? Are you using “prudence” as an excuse? Isn’t it obvious from the above what the only respectable cause of action is?

Jesus is calling to you, as he called to Peter: “Do you love me?” (John 21:15)  How will you respond?

2 thoughts on “Why the Ottawa Catholic School Board can’t just blow off the Kenyan bishops

  1. I wonder if the OCSB is operating on the first world colonialist do-gooder principle: “those ignorant brown (bishops) don’t know what’s good for them”. Are the OCSB racist imperialists? They should be ashamed. Then again if they were ashamed, it would be a step towards repentance.

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