Unemployed, non-religious educators are turning to Catholicism in an attempt to secure a coveted teaching position, even it means lying in confession about whether they’ve had pre-marital sex, some have revealed.
“I don’t particularly like going (to mass) every Sunday, but if this is what I have to do, then I’ll do it,” said a Toronto-area woman, who didn’t want to be identified.
“I just really want to be in a career. I just want it so badly.”
The teacher said she has also been going to confession regularly and speaking with a priest on a weekly basis in order to receive the documents she needs to apply to the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
She is not Catholic. In fact, she doesn’t consider herself religious.
The oversupply of qualified, unemployed teachers in Ontario has been a well-documented problem. According to the Ontario College of Teachers, there were about 12,200 new teachers in the province in 2009, but only about 5,000 positions.
“What you can see, fairly quickly, is you have twice as many teachers as you do job opportunities and that has been going on for a number of years now,” said Frank McIntyre, a researcher for the college, who added the gap has been accelerating since 2005.
“We’re getting a backlog of qualified teachers who are not able to get teaching jobs.”
This has left teachers desperate, so they’ve decided to cast their net wide.
“You feel really helpless,” said the teacher. “I thought, why not try this option. It was kind of out of desperation… not that I think it will work for sure, but it’s to have another option.”
The teacher said she has read about the sacraments in a catechism book and has performed religious rituals.
During her first confession, she crept into a dark confessional box and tried to spout out nearly 30 years of sin, but the priest startled her with one question: Had she engaged in pre-marital sex?
“That was one of the things he mentioned at the end. I said no,” said the teacher, who admitted she felt guilty for lying to a priest.
“I haven’t gone for my, um, what do you call it the bread thing yet…Communion. I’m nervous about it,” she added.
Even some non-practising Catholics have said they are returning to the church — trying to wriggle their way into the Catholic board.
“My main target was to get into the school board, just because every single door was closed for every single public board, said another woman, a former-Catholic, who gave up on the church a decade ago.
“In terms of going the Catholic route, I’d have more doors open.”
Under the rules for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, all teaching personnel and others who work directly with children need to be Catholic.
This is protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code. A subsection of the code states the act doesn’t affect the rights and privileges of separate school boards under the Constitution Act of 1867.
“We have an expectation that anyone we’re interviewing is Catholic and we’re also looking for pastoral letter,” said Gary Poole, the superintendent of human resources for the Toronto board.
Poole said he doubts teachers have disingenuous reasons for joining the board. He said non-practising Catholics may simply be returning to the faith after a long absence, and those deciding to convert are usually vetted during the interview process.
The Catholic-only policy has been challenged before.
A Guelph man stirred up controversy last year after filing a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against the Wellington Catholic District School Board. He claimed that its policy of hiring Catholic teachers was discriminatory.
“(The application) said I needed to have a pastoral reference, and had to answer a question,” Lloyd said in a phone interview.
“It asked me whether I considered myself Catholic or not, and I thought ‘that’s kind of discriminatory.’ ”
Lloyd completed his teaching degree four years ago and said the job market is so tough that while he is working he still hasn’t secured a permanent position.
A spokesman for the minister of training, colleges and universities wouldn’t comment on the individual choices made by some teachers, but he said the ministry recognizes the surplus problem.
“We are going to be reducing and limiting teacher-ed spaces by 1,000 spaces,” said Tyler Charlebois.
The plan will be phased in over three years starting on April 1, 2011.
For the non-Catholic teacher, the process of learning about Catholicism has been valuable.
She said while she respects the religion, she has had difficulty reconciling her own beliefs with the faith.
“I know what I believe in. I support abortion. I support gay marriage,” she added.
“I’m going through what I have to go through to get a job. I know it sounds bad.”