2 min

Papal outrage

How much cash for a homophobe?

Credit: Xtra files

The Pope is coming to Toronto, and one local group thinks that the queer community should be outraged at the expected cost and anticipated indoctrination of half a million Catholic youth.

Challenge The Church is composed of community organizations, Catholics, non-Catholics and other individuals concerned about funding World Youth Day from the public purse, as well as the policies and positions that the Catholic Church holds and promotes. World Youth Day runs from Thu, Jul 18 to 28.

“Particularly for queer people the Catholic Church position on homosexuality is totally oppressive,” explains Jane Walsh, a member of the outreach committee. “There is no space for me as a Catholic woman who is a lesbian.”

The governments of Toronto, Ontario and Canada have all made large contributions towards the cost of World Youth Day, despite the well-known wealth of the Vatican and the Catholic church worldwide. The City Of Toronto is spending almost $7-million, including extra transit service, police and parks and recreation staff.

At the same time the city is cutting recreation programs for youth and looking at increasing Toronto Transit Commission fares.

“Our job is to be a host for the city,” says Councillor Joe Mihevc, who chairs the city’s World Youth Day committee. “Our job is safety, security, cleanliness and transportation.”

Mihevc says World Youth Day is paying for many of its own costs, including $800,000 to rent Exhibition Place, and $6-million towards TTC.

The Trillium Foundation (an arms-length provincial body) announced in February it is making a donation of $500,000 to help train the anticipated 35,000 volunteers.

“I would like to see, particularly now with Trillium contributing, community groups asking why public funds are being used,” says Walsh. “Community organizations and gay organizations should be upset that $500,000 is being taken out of the public funds when underfunded community organizations are being asked to do more and more with less and less.”

Some community groups are coming on-side including the Ontario Coalition For Abortion Clinics and the Metro Network For Social Justice, which passed a motion condemning the use of public funds for a non-pluralistic religious event.

“While the Catholic church in Canada is doing some good work around violence against women and poverty, if you look at what the Vatican is doing at the UN it’s appalling,” says Walsh. She explains that the church is very strong internationally in limiting the distribution of condoms, and speaks out often against reproductive rights of women.

Cardinal Ratzinger recently wrote a letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church in the US on the pastoral care of homosexual persons.

“The Vatican has stated that even the inclination towards homosexuality must be seen as an objective disorder with a strong tendency ordered towards intrinsic moral evil,” Ratzinger wrote.

Walsh says the queer community and the women’s community should be speaking out against the positions that the church holds.

“Whether or not you’re aware of it, the Catholic church is standing on your head as a woman in terms of the influence the church has.”

Mihevc says church policy doesn’t factor into the city’s hosting duties.

“As a city we leave the issues to the church, and in this glorious country of ours there is a division of church and state….. We would pay these costs even if it’s the Shriners coming to town, and do pay them for events like Caribana.”

The Challenge The Church campaign this summer during World Youth Day will include “lectures about sexual morality, women-led liturgy and drop-in forums to chat about and challenge some of the positions in the Catholic church,” says Walsh.

The group also plans to distribute condoms to delegates with the message, “Don’t leave without your guardian angels.”

* Challenge The Church is at