Criticizing the Pope.. A Catholic Teacher's Experience
by Joanna Manning
On August 31, 1992, at around 5:00 in the afternoon, I received a telephone call from my Superintendent. He asked, or rather, told me to come to a meeting with himself and the Superintendent of Personnel the following morning at 9:00 a.m. at the Catholic Education Centre. He said it was a "personnel matter" and could not be discussed over the phone.
The tone of his voice told me that this was not to be a friendly meeting. I had previously been on good terms with my Superintendent and his evasiveness was out of character. I decided it would be wise to request that a representative from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) accompany me.
The next morning I arrived at the appointed venue along with Steve Kirby, the Vice President of Toronto Secondary Unit. The interview which followed set in motion a series of events culminating in an eight month Arbitration Panel process, the verdict of which was issued on August 29, 1994.
I have been a teacher in the Catholic school system for nine years, particularly dedicated to religious studies. I taught part time for a couple of years in order to pursue studies in theology at the University of Toronto and, in 1989, completed a Master's degree and then one year towards a doctorate. I concentrated on feminist theology and education, and I came to hold strong views on the place of women within the Catholic Church and the rest of society.
In May of 1992, I published an article in the Toronto Star entitled "Vatican Plays Roulette With the Face of the Earth." I took issue with the Vatican's intervention at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio which had resulted in the removal of the word "contraception" from areas dealing with family planning. I stated that Pope John Paul II's attempt to enforce natural family planning on the whole world had more to do with retaining the power of celibate clergy over the lives of women, despite the environmental focus of the summit. Adherence to this theologically suspect papal teaching disempowered women every where, especially in the Third World, and threatened the fate of the earth.