Ambrozic came to office with a mission and a conviction that, as Bishop, he would have a direct impact on Catholic education in the diocese. In 1986, after a series of brief visits to Toronto Catholic high schools, Ambrozic published a report that was highly critical of the teaching of religion. He described Catholic high school students as "sloppy Catholics well disposed towards their church," and went on to lay the blame squarely on religion department heads. These latter he describes as "infected by the disease of liberal orthodoxy" and concludes that "they have been permitted to run their programs too independently." He also lays bare his suspicion that there is some agitation for a change in the role of women in society as well as in the church; one of his recommendations for the curriculum is that "girls should be impressed with the importance of motherhood."3
Ambrozic also recommended that the Bishop have some rights over the hiring of religion heads and should be allowed unilaterally to dictate religion curriculum for the schools. Previously, the Catholic high schools had been run by religious orders who took vows of obedience to the Bishop. Now that these orders no longer have the personnel to staff the schools, religion heads and religion curriculum are less easily controlled. But such recommendations not only would infringe on the statutory independence of now publicly funded school boards, but would also undermine the due competence and rightful autonomy of lay Catholic's running of the schools.
In 1987, the newly formed Religion Heads' Subject Council, of which I was then part, supported by OECTA, looked horns with Archbishop Ambrozic on the issues of hiring and curriculum. Even though we were verbally threatened with termination by MSSB administrators, we forced the Archbishop to back down on both issues. A committee of teachers was set up to work in partnership with Ambrozic to produce a new set of curriculum guidelines. I was elected Chair of the Religion Heads council and, as such, was one of two MSSB representatives on this committee.
In 1990, shortly after he took over the diocese, Ambrozic gave a series of interviews with the media in which he outlined his position on women's participation in the church. He stated that God can never be referred to in female terms "otherwise we will end up with a heavenly hermaphrodite."4 He insisted that the question of women's ordination was not in the books and that girls could not serve at the altar at Mass as this might encourage them to seek to be priests.
Sexual harassment, put-downs of women, jock networks of boys, lack of female role models for girls and other inequalities exist in all school systems. In the Catholic system they are reinforced and legitimized by attitudes like Ambrozic's which are fostered within the institutional Catholic church. By barring women from ordination, by insisting that women cannot represent God to humanity, by refusing to refer to God in all but male language, the Church legislates discrimination against women as part of its very essence as a community.
I immediately tendered my resignation to the curriculum committee, so strong was my conviction that Ambrozic's views were directly harmful to female students in Catholic schools. As long as ,Ambrozic was bishop, I could not even tacitly associate myself with his opinions by working in any capacity whatsoever for the Archdiocese of Toronto.
It was within this climate, in 1992, that the disciplinary action against me was made, and within which I decided to challenge the board's right to silence me from speaking out against what I regard as abuses in the church. Along with many of my teaching colleagues, I take the view that, precisely in our role as teachers, we have a responsibility to the students in our care and to the wider church community to speak out against the abuses of power we witness.