A Toronto Catholic school trustee who last week avoided censure over comments connecting gender issues to bestiality and pedophilia is under fire for new commentary saying he won’t back down from “evil.”
Michael Del Grande’s statement was published Friday on LifeSiteNews.com under the headline: “Catholic schools trustee defends vote against ‘evil’ gender ideology from LGBT attacks.” LifeSiteNews.com was founded by Campaign Life Coalition, which opposes official protections for gay Canadians and abortion rights.
“I have been called a ‘hero’ by supporters. I am not a hero,” reads the statement from the Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee for Ward 7 Scarborough—North York. “I am a faithful Catholic with an informed conscience standing up for Catholic education and Church teachings.
“The Church is the instrument of eternal salvation for humanity … We are at a critical crossroads” with media, the internet and the “new gods of consumerism and relativism” inundating society with “post-Christian elements.”
Non-believers and anti-Catholics have united with post-Christians to “accommodate, change, and simply ignore our deposit of truths” explained in Roman Catholic doctrine, Del Grande continues, concluding:
“Each one of us cannot simply take the comfort of the pew on a Sunday, and say nothing or do nothing about the attacks on our faith taking place all around us. Fr. Dwight Longenecker put it best for me: ‘First we overlook evil. Then we permit evil. Then we legalize evil. Then we promote evil. Then we celebrate evil. Then we persecute those who still call it evil.’”
Last week Del Grande’s fellow trustees decided not to censure him for Nov. 8 comments that triggered accusations of homophobia. He made them during debate over amending the board’s code of conduct to include protection from discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, family status and marital status.
He warned colleagues that adopting the terms was a “slippery slope” and mocked such protections by saying they should also include bizarre and criminal sexual acts including pedophilia, vampirism and bestiality. He was ruled out of order and the board voted 8-4 to include the new protections.
Amid complaints over Del Grande’s comments that included criticism from Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, the board voted not to censure Del Grande but to start dealing with conduct complaints in open session rather than, as in the past, closed-door debate.
Del Grande did not respond Sunday to the Star’s requests for comment on the LifeSiteNews.com article. The Star emailed all 12 board members seeking comment.
Markus de Domenico, the Ward 2 trustee, said he is saddened Del Grande has “decided to cast himself as a martyr and a victim in the defence of what he terms ‘evil.’ The true victims in this debacle are the parents and children of our Board when Trustee Del Grande moved his amendment.
“Those children and families who were subjected to this are the ones who have suffered, not a trustee claiming to be using ‘hyperbole’ to make a facetious point,” de Domenico wrote in an email.
Trustee Joseph Martino, who acknowledged in late November when elected chair that the board is deeply divided, said Sunday of Del Grande’s new commentary: “I would say that people have freedom of speech, everyone has a right to express their opinion whether we agree or not.”
Asked what he thinks Del Grande has branded “evil,” Martino responded: “I certainly would not try to interpret his meaning of certain words.”
Martino added that the board remains “committed to creating inclusive learning environments and school communities that are safe and welcoming, founded on the Catholic principles of respect, inclusion, fairness, and social justice, in which every person is valued as a child of God.”
Ward 9 trustee Norman Di Pasquale called it unfortunate that Del Grande “has doubled down a mistake he made.”
Del Grande’s commentary could leave the impression he is calling gay students, or the trustees who sought to censure him, “evil,” Di Pasquale, said, urging Del Grande to clarify his latest comments and apologize for the earlier ones.
Ward 5 trustee Maria Rizzo said she plans to file a complaint against Del Grande with the independent integrity commissioner, a position being newly created.
“He doesn’t understand he’s targeting the most marginalized people in our society,” with ultra-conservative rhetoric, said Rizzo. “I’ve been a Catholic all my life and what he’s saying is not the values I have, that most of the Catholics I know have and certainly not the values of our school board.”
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider