Monica Doumit: Why are Catholic school staff supporting an abortion rally?

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A Catholic school senior student organises a pro-abortion rally and announces two of her teachers are there supporting it. What’s going on?
A Catholic school senior student organises a pro-abortion rally and announces two of her teachers are there supporting it. What’s going on?

Not your usual pro-abortion Rally

Last Sunday, I went to a pro-abortion rally held in Sydney’s Hyde Park. No, I haven’t lost my mind; it was part of “opposition research,” if you will, trying to keep an eye on those who are seeking to decriminalise abortion in this state.

In some ways, this rally was similar to all the others: a sad sight of mostly young women showing a disproportionate level of anger and holding signs or marking their bodies with unnecessary vulgarity.

In other ways, the rally was different.

The crowd was younger than usual, with most of the participants in their teens or early 20s.

There was also a greater lack of logic or rationality compared to other events.

Organiser Bella Ziade, a Year 12 student from an eastern suburbs Catholic high school (I’ll return to that later), addressed the crowd about human rights.

“In the field of human rights, violation of the bodily integrity of another is regarded as an unethical infringement,” she said. “We all deserve to be treated as humans.” Except, of course, if you are an infant inside the womb.

The event continued, with the first musical performance being a cover of Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All. For those unfamiliar with the song, it begins with the words: “I believe the children are our future…” And it was sang at an abortion rally. With no sense of irony at all.

The crowd was also larger than others, with news reports suggesting it was the largest pro-abortion march Sydney had seen. A police officer at the event told me he thought there could be 700 people there, but he wasn’t sure.

Whatever the numbers, it was a smaller crowd than the annual Day of the Unborn Child march. The march’s small size would usually mean I would not give it any coverage in this column, but young Bella goes to a Catholic school.

Over 3,000 people turned out for the Day of the Unborn Child in Sydney on 24 March. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
Over 3,000 people turned out for the Day of the Unborn Child in Sydney on 24 March. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Why is a Catholic senior student organising a pro-abortion Rally?

Bella told media: “my school is Catholic but I’ve never encountered anyone who is not pro-choice.” What’s more, Bella reported that she had received broad support for the rally.

“Even my English teachers are coming,” she said.

Yep. School teachers at a Catholic school giving up the Sunday of the June long weekend to join their students at a pro-abortion rally held in the shadow of St Mary’s Cathedral.

The school was not named in the media, and I won’t name the school either, but its identity was not that difficult to establish with reasonable certainty. I will say that it is an independent school, and not one under the authority of Sydney Catholic Schools.

I would like to know what the school and its independent board intend to do about one of their senior students organising a pro-abortion rally with the support of at least two of her teachers who themselves attended the rally, and telling media that she has never encountered someone at her school who was pro-life.

I know what they should do. First, they should fire the English teachers who attended the rally. Immediately.

At a time when we are asking the government to ensure our religious freedoms are preserved, particularly when it comes to choosing staff to work in our schools and agencies who share our beliefs. Why should we expect politicians to stand up and defend freedoms in our schools if our schools aren’t willing to exercise them? Fire the teachers.

Secondly, there should be compulsory formation on life issues for staff. It is a scandal that Bella has made it to Year 12 in a Catholic school without ever encountering anyone who “was not pro-choice.”

The school needs to scrap whatever climate change meditations and basket-weaving activities that usually fill their “staff spirituality” days and give the staff some authentic Catholic spirituality and formation.

Thirdly, the school should invite some of the outstanding young women and men from groups like the Culture Project or LifeChoice to hold regular talks for students.

LifeChoice executive team at the opening of their office in Sydney on 1 April. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
LifeChoice executive team at the opening of their office in Sydney on 1 April. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

The remarkable peer-to-peer ministry that these groups conduct is effective and attractive, which was evident in the students from LifeChoice who attended the rally to provide a counter-witness on the day. Serene and smiling, they engaged in pleasant and thoughtful conversations with those who approached them. Bless them.

And fourthly, there should be some specific and intentional formation and pastoral care given to Bella and her friends, with the co-operation of their parents. I don’t think punishment would be fair after they received encouragement from their teachers.

But let’s not dismiss them as another group who leave Catholic school with no intention of ever again engaging with the Catholic Church, and instead make one more attempt to invite them into the rich beauty of what the Church offers.

After all, if we are truly pro-life, we must be concerned about the quality of the lives of the students in our Catholic schools, who have a right to be introduced to the truth, goodness and beauty of the Catholic understanding of the dignity of the human person and of human sexuality.