If the only difference between a public school and a Catholic school were the crucifix on the wall, as an Ottawa newspaper suggested, then we would be right to close Catholic schools
, said Father Ray Carey
Fr. Carey, a clinical psychologist and a priest with the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon was invited to speak on Covenantal Ethics to employees of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board in four half-day sessions on November 26 and 27, 2010.
Covenantal ethics, suggested Carey
, can be a useful tool for Catholic educators whose belief system is foundationally rooted in the Jesus issue.
"The value system of Jesus Christ is what we are about," said Carey
"A first and primary measure of the efficacy of the enterprise has everything to do with fidelity to Jesus' way of respecting people."
spoke about society's reliance on contracts, which set out the minimum requirements expected of each person in an organization.
"Thank God our God is not about contracts," he
Something can be legal and moral and yet be unethical, noted Carey
Ethics are about doing the right thing for all involved.
There are three main principles in ethics that, if followed, will raise the ethical standards of the enterprise.
The first is agency, a word derived from the Latin verb 'agere' which means to act.
One of the ways to reverence others, said Carey
, is to be as clear as possible about "whose agent is who?
Teachers often mistakenly believe they are agents of the student when in fact they are always agents of the school board.
As agents of the board, teachers are required to embrace the decisions of the board even if they don't believe in them themselves.
"Ethics will keep you healthier," suggested Carey
, "otherwise you're flying by the seat of your pants."
The second principle is fiduciary trust.
Unlike other forms of trust, fiduciary trust is not earned, it comes automatically to anyone in a role or position where there is a power differential.
Role-based fiduciary trust, indicated Carey
, requires that the person in authority do two key things: commit to doing the very best they can; and do no harm.
"One of the great privileges of being a Catholic school educator is that one has the opportunity to embrace fiduciary trust responsibilities within the context of a covenantal community," said Carey
said, fulfilling one's fiduciary responsibilities can help increase the quality of one's work ethic as well as one's satisfaction with his
"Fiduciary trust is that which will lift you up and freshen the fire in your belly that brought you into Catholic education in the first place," said Carey
But, he added, being in a position of fiduciary trust means that you don't violate that trust in any way, through exploitation or self-advancement.
"You have a moral compass," said Carey
A helpful guideline for deciding whether to grant, receive or share a confidence relates to a person's "right to know" and "need to know," suggested Carey
also made the distinction between public information and personal information, noting that personal information is information of a private nature that belongs to someone else.
Before a second party seeks information from another or shares a person's personal information with a third party, the person should first consider whether he/she ethically has a right to know or a need to know.
With the "right to know", the principle of agency kicks in. In other words, as an agent of the principal, everything that a teacher knows, his
principal has a right to know if that knowledge is necessary to the principal carrying out his
A further concern, noted Carey
, relates to the power differential between two persons.
The person with more power must be careful not to seek information from someone who is not free to choose not to disclose that information, such as a teacher who asks personal questions of a student out of curiosity or prurient interest.
Another source of confusion can take place when a teacher may have a legitimate need to know but has not established the right to know - as in the situation where parents share personal information with the principal but for some reason chooses not to share that information with their child's classroom teacher.
In such a scenario, Carey
pointed out, the principal has both a right to know and a need to know.
The teacher may have a need to know but does not have the right to know.
There are circumstances under which a confidence may be broken, noted Carey
, listing the threat of grave bodily harm, the threat of suicide, and physical, sexual or emotional abuse of a child.
In these types of situations, a teacher or principal is obligated to disclose any confidences that will result in the safety or well-being of the child.
"That's what prevents cults," said Carey
"It may be painful but you're taking care of covenantal ethics."
presentation by explaining that discipleship in Jesus Christ is a gift of God's own grace and favour.
The mission of Catholic schools
is to equip and enable students to be faithful disciples with skills to engage the world community.
"Those responsible for Catholic schools have the obligation and privilege of inviting students to participate in and to contribute to building a highly ethical covenantal community in word and action."
"My hope for you is this," Carey