YORKTON, Sask. — Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen described Catholic schools as characterized by a rigorous pursuit of truth. The bishop was called as a witness for Christ the Teacher Catholic School Division in what has become known as the Theadore Court Case.
The division is a defendant along with the government of Saskatchewan in a case brought by what was then the York School District following the closure of the Theadore Public School in 2003. A Catholic school was subsequently organized in Theadore and the students remained there rather than be bused to schools in other communities. The York School District morphed into the Good Spirit School Division in 2006.
Bolen was questioned by lawyers for Christ the Teacher Division about his background to establish him as an expert witness, then questioned about a bishop’s role in Catholic education.
Bolen described his background from childhood up, including his ordination as priest and to the episcopate. He elaborated, as requested by Christ the Teacher lawyers, on his ecumenical efforts and his work with other Christian churches while in Rome. The bishop spoke about the evolution in the church since Vatican II and what it has done to increase relationships with and respect for all religions and what is expected in Catholic schools.
“Catholic schools do not teach anything in contradiction to Catholic teachings,” said Bolen, but Catholic schools are expected to teach about other religions and respect therm. “We hold more things in common than divide us.”
He related how a new curriculum in Catholic studies is being developed with the approval of Catholic bishops. Throughout his testimony Bolen emphasized that parents are a child’s first teachers and they have a right to decide which school to send their children. He described how the first schools in the province were usually established by religious orders and were not restricted to Catholic children.
“The Gospel permeates all Catholic schools, and there is some evangelizing, but Catholic schools do not proselytize,” said Bolen. “We don’t try and convert non-Catholic students to Catholicism.”
The bishop was asked to explain several paragraphs in Vatican II documents and his own writings, all related to Catholic teaching, education and the importance that all children have a right to education.
The cross-examination by plaintiff lawyers focused mainly on having Bolen further explain the meaning of the documents.
The Theadore case is more than 10 years old. It argues that Catholic schools do not have a constitutional right to accept non-Catholic students. The court began hearing the case in late 2015 and after several delays and adjournments is expected to wrap up this summer.