Gay Teenager on Catholic Policy: ‘Somebody Had to Say Something”

Liam Finnegan

A gay teenager in Canada’s Yukon province has successfully lobbied to have a document which describes homosexual orientation as “intrinsically disordered” and homosexual acts as “acts of grave depravity” to be removed from his Catholic high school’s website.

Liam Finnegan’s complaint arose when he read the document “Living with Hope, Ministering by Love, Teaching in Truth,” on the website of Vanier Catholic Secondary School, in the city of Whitehorse.  According to The National Post Finnegan, 16, observed:

“There were a few things in the document that were not homophobic and that made me think that maybe this isn’t such a terrible thing, since it said homosexuals shouldn’t be discriminated against, and I liked that part of it. But then as I continued reading the policy it veered into the ridiculous, describing homosexuality as an ‘intrinsically moral evil’ and saying that I was a ‘sinner’ and that I needed to be ‘healed.’ ”

“Somebody had to say something.”

So Finnegan, supported by his fellow students, started speaking out about the document, and his complaint eventually rose to the highest level of provincial government. reports that Scott Kent, the provincial education minister eventually met with Bishop Gary Gordon of Whitehorse, and the bishop agreed to remove the document:

“ ‘Both [Kent] and the bishop could agree immediately that the most important thing was that students felt safe, welcome and protected in school,’ cabinet communications director Matthew Grant says. ‘The minister requested that an actual policy be developed around the particular issue in question, something developed on the grassroots level with students, parents and members of the school council.’ ”

Catholic schools in Canada receive government funding, and so are answerable to government policies concerning education. explains the church-state relationship and why the Catholic document needs to be re-thought to conform with government standards:

“[Grant] says that work needs to be done to bridge the gap between the religious document and the Department of Education’s policy on gender identity and sexual orientation. That policy, which was adopted in September 2012, requires schools to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer and questioning people.

“Grant confirms that the policy applies to all publicly funded schools, including the Catholic schools. With the exception of the French secondary school, Yukon does not have school boards. Instead, Yukon’s 28 public schools, which include three separate Catholic schools, are administered by the territorial government with the assistance of elected school councils, which advise the minister. Both public and Catholic schools in Yukon receive all their funding from the government.”

Congratulations to Mr. Finnegan for his successful campaign!  May we all follow his example of speaking up against injustice!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


11 replies
  1. Richard Baldwin Cook
    Richard Baldwin Cook says:

    Thanks to Liam Finnegan for showing his courage and integrity. And thanks alos to New Ways Ministry and Bondings 2.0 for – once again – highlighting an important, underreported item of news.

    Let it be noted as this article points out, when a Church received government funding, the church becomes “answerable to government policies.”

    This point is pertinent here in the US, when church groups, such as the Archdiocese of Baltimore, want schools under church supervision to receive increasingly greater subsidies, Meanwhile, Archbishop announces his intention to “double down” on his demonstrably failed campaign to deprive gay Marylanders of their civil rights.

    Shameful when the courageous objections of a teenager are required to make the Church desist from hate speech.

  2. Terence
    Terence says:

    This is remarkable, and (obviously) most welcome. The language around “disordered” is not just a creation of Mr Finnegan’s school, but is deeply embedded in the most authoritative documents of the CDF – alongside the warm and fuzzy words about “respect, compassion and sensitivity”.

    From the Vatican originals, the same contrasting messages have been frequently borrowed and applied to further documents by church bodies at all levels – from national bishops’ conferences, to local schools (like
    Vanier Catholic Secondary). For far too long, the message of respect and opposing discrimination and malice have been neglected, in favour of the message of exclusion and disapproval implied in the disordered language.

    By agreeing that “the most important thing was that students felt safe, welcome and protected in school”, and that to achieve that, the language of “disordered” would need to removed, Bishop Gary Gordon has in effect conceded that the Vatican’s infamous phrase is itself intrinsically disordered, and harmful, especially to the LGBT young people who suffer most at the rejection, hatred and violence that it encourages.

    Like Bishop Gordon, many others around the world are also rebalancing the relative importance in their own messaging of “disordered” against “respect, compassion, sensitivity”. Perhaps, we can begin to look forward to the day when the balance is changed in other documents and websites too – not only by Catholic schools, but also by Bishops’ Conferences, and by the CDF.

  3. says:

    At the same time, I believe in separation of Church and State. The Canadian (and American) government has no business funding religious schools. They should sink or swim based on how much the faithful think they are worth supporting.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] In April 2013, Finnegan, who is gay, successfully challenged Vanier Catholic’s use of the terms “intrinsically disordered” and “acts of grave depravity” when referring to lesbian and gay people on the school’s website. At the time, he said: […]

  2. […] April, a gay teenager who was a student at Vanier Catholic Secondary School complained to the provincial government that the school’s […]

  3. […] also reports a gay-straight alliance has now been formed at the school. These changes began after a high school student spoke out about the anti-LGBT policy, yet another reminder of the impact a single voice can […]

  4. […] April 11, 2013: “Gay Teenager on Catholic Policy: ‘Somebody Had to Say Something” […]

  5. […] week, we reported the case of an 11th-grader in Yukon province who successfully lobbied to have a bishops’ document removed from his […]

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