Holy Homophobia: Doctrinal disciplining of non-heterosexuals in Canadian catholic schools

Year: 2012

Author: Callaghan, Tonya

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


In 2012, clashes between Catholic canonical law and Canadian common law regarding sexual minorities continue to be played out in Canadian Catholic schools. While Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures same-sex equality in Canada, this study shows that some teachers in Catholic schools in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario are fired for contravening Catholic doctrine about non-heterosexuality, while students' requests to establish Gay/Straight Alliances are denied. This proposal for an individual paper presentation is based on my recent doctoral study that seeks to uncover the causes and effects of the long-standing disconnect between Canadian Catholic schools and the Charter by comparing the treatment of and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (lgbtq) teachers and students in publicly-funded Catholic school systems in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario.  This comparative study employs a multi-method qualitative research framework involving: 1) semi-structured interviews with 20 participants (7 current and former teachers and 13 former students), 18 of which are re-presented as condensed narratives using the qualitative method of narrative inquiry; 2) media accounts that illustrate the Catholic schools' homophobic environment; and 3) two key Alberta and Ontario Catholic policy and curriculum documents. The central question driving this study is: How does power operate in Canadian Catholic schools?  Is it exercised from the top down solely, or are there instances of power rising up from the bottom as well? To answer this question, I draw upon the critical theories of Gramsci, Althusser, Foucault, and Giroux. The chief finding of this study is that contradictory Catholic doctrine on the topic of non-heterosexuality is directing school policy and practice regarding the management of sexual minority groups in Alberta and Ontario Catholic schools, positioning these schools as potential hotbeds for homophobia.