Catholics schools in Hawaii have revised the contract for teachers, adding an an amplified morality clause that explicitly names offenses for which teachers can be fired, including homosexual activity . This announcement comes a little over a week after the Cincinnati Archdiocese announced similar changes in their contract for Catholic school teachers.
According to the Civil Beat, the new contract affects educators at three dozen parochial schools and includes prohibitions against “homosexual activity” and “same sex unions,” along with several other selectively enforced teachings relating to sexuality. Notably, “unmarried cohabitation” is included. Civil Beat reports further:
” ‘The school expressly reserves the right to terminate the employment of any Teacher, who by word or example, denies the teachings or authority of the Church, or whose personal life or conduct is, based on Catholic teaching, immoral,’ says a portion of the contract..
“Schools have not yet distributed the contracts to teachers, but the documents will apply to all teachers working in parochial schools operated by the Diocese of Honolulu, which covers the entire state. A few private Catholic schools are not parochial schools.”
Both full- and part-time educators will need to sign this new contract annually, beginning next year. Except for a handful of religious-order run schools, the contract will affect every Catholic school in the state. Dioocese of Honolulu Schools’ Superintendent Michael Rockers claimed there was nothing new in the contracts and attempted to tie teachers to ministry, which has been a common tactic to defend discriminatory firings as a matter of religious liberty.
Most troubling are additional comments by Rockers, noted by Civil Beat:
“[Rockers] said the ultimate goal is to provide positive role models for students and that if a teacher’s homosexuality were made public it would negatively affect the children.
” ‘We want to be authentic about what our moral teaching is,’ he said. ‘We’re trying to be pastoral about this and centered on what’s best for the students.’ “
While the diocesan schools’ office denies this new contract is a reaction to the state’s passage of marriage equality last November, it is hard to see it as anything but a reaction to advancing LGBT equality. It is part of an increasingly punitive reaction by anti-LGBT Catholic leaders who, recognizing they have lost the civil rights struggle, are trying to punish those who are LGBT or their allies. There have been instances of a Virginia priest withholding funds raised by the Boy Scout troop he expelled from their parish, and a British bishop who recently raised the issue of denying Communion to legislators who voted for marriage equality.
Closer to Hawaii, Bishop Larry Silva is on record linking marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and juvenile suicide, as well as defending ‘just discrimination.’ It is not surprising that he would follow the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s decision to add an enhanced morality clause targeting homosexuality and same-gender marriage. Cincinnati’s Catholic schools proposed novel ideas, legally speaking, by more closely tying teachers to ministerial roles, and adding ‘public support’ of any banned activities as a reason for termination.
In that first instance, I voiced my hope that it would not be adapted by other dioceses and that fairer minds would prevail. It appears Silva will instead continue harming LGBT equality Catholic education, and the Hawaii Church, instead of following Pope Francis’ lead of strengthening communities and welcoming all. If these selectively-targeted morality clauses spread, Catholic schools must be ready to sacrifice talented faculty, committed families, and the wide support from the majority of Catholics supportive of LGBT justice.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry