On Restrictive Employment Policies: 'Catholics have to stand up to this.'

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s controversial new loyalty oath for Catholic school teachers which requires that they do not express “public support for a homosexual lifestyle,” among other things, has been receiving opposition recently, and has been the subject of scrutiny of several labor and education professionals.

Some of the Cincinnati protesters.

Over 100 Catholic protesters took to the street in front of the archdiocese’s chancery when they delivered 24,000 signatures on a petition which called on Archbishop Dennis Schnurr to re-write the teachers’ contract without the objectionable clauses.

Parents, teachers, and parishioners were among the protestors.  WCPO-TV quoted one teacher who is also a parent of a gay man:

“Molly Shumate says she has been a teacher at a Catholic elementary school in Hamilton County for 14 years. She has a gay son and refused to sign a contract that says she’s can’t publicly support a homosexual lifestyle.

” ‘I would never initial next to a statement saying that I will not support my son who in my eyes my God made perfectly. I will not do that,’ Shumate said.”

WLWT-TV further quoted Shumate about her decision not to sign the contract:

“The main reason I will not sign this contract is my son is gay, and the day he came out to me, the world was lifted off of his shoulder as well as mine, and it was at that moment that I said to myself I will never hide who he is, be embarrassed of who he is and at that point I said I’m going to use this opportunity to make a difference.”

The Human Rights Campaign joined in the protest by sending a letter to Archbishop Schnurr, from which WKRC-TV quoted the following:

“Dozens of LGBT teachers, who have committed their life’s work to their Catholic faith, have already lost their jobs in schools across the country.  HRC calls on Archbishop Schnurr to remove this anti-LGBT police from Cincinnati Catholic schools and ensure that LGBT Catholics no longer have to choose between who they are, who they love and what they believe.”

The Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii, has recently instituted a similar policy to that of Cincinnati.

The National Catholic Reporter’s Joshua McElwee has reported on the growing trend in U.S. Catholic dioceses of making teaching contracts more explicit about what types of ideas teachers can support.  One expert quoted notes that the new, stricter policies “are effectively an end-run around legislation protecting employees from discrimination in the workplace.”   Leslie Griffin, the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of  Nevada, Las Vegas, stated:

“It’s about churches trying to do everything they can to avoid the anti-discrimination laws, because they don’t want to be held to gender equality, sexual orientation equality, racial equality or equal pay. . . . They want to do their best to get outside all of these laws.”

Rita Schwartz

Rita Schwartz, president of the National Association of Catholic School Teachers, a labor union for Catholic educators, worries too about other implications of these new policies which seem to try to solidify the ministerial role of a teacher:

“When dioceses start to call their employees ministers, I look at that as a way for a diocese to tell an employee, ‘Well, you’re a minister, you can’t unionize.’

“If that’s what they’re aiming to do, I have serious issue with that.”

Though diocesan officials state that teaching is a ministerial activity, Schwartz doesn’t disagree totally with that notion.  Where she differs is in the detailed, explicit listing of all the things that a teacher cannot support.  For instance, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati morality section expanded from two pages to six.  McElwee reported on her position:

“While she said she understood the need for a morality clause in Catholic teachers’ contracts –‘I don’t think you can be a Catholic school teacher without one,’ she said — the organizer called the Cincinnati contract ‘six pages of “thou shalt not.” “

” ‘There’s no reason for that,’ she said. ‘There’s got to be a happy medium here.’ “

McElwee’s reporting expands on these themes with interesting details and perspectives.  For those who want more information about the complexities of these employment situations, I recommend you read his entire article by clicking here.  He closes with a plea from Schwartz for greater organizing on the part of Catholic teachers:

“Most Catholic teachers, she said, ‘have no job security, have no due process. They just work at the pleasure of the employer.’

” ‘They need to stop doing that,’ she said. ‘They need to organize themselves into an association, they need to petition for recognize and collective bargaining. That’s the only way that they’re going to have a say over the conditions under which they work. And the sooner they do it, the better.’

“Griffin suggested that teachers consider consulting with lawyers if they have to sign contracts defining them as ministers. Particularly, she said, those teachers might consider trying to insert language into their contracts that specify that while they are ministers, they still claim their rights to sue for workplace discrimination.

“Ultimately, said Griffin, ‘Catholics have to stand up to this.’

” ‘The laws won’t change unless people start seeing it more from the employee perspective,’ she said.”

New Ways Ministry has been encouraging Catholics to adopt employment non-discrimination policies for their church institutions.  To find out how to begin the process of implementing one, click here.  New Ways Ministry has also supported DignityUSA’s call to write letters to church leaders protesting restrictive employment policies.  All three efforts can have an impact on our church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related Article:

Cincinnati.com: Marchers seek change to Catholic teacher contract



0 replies
  1. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    “Pope Francis has warned that priests can become “little monsters” if they aren’t trained properly as seminarians, saying their time studying must be used to mold their hearts as well as their minds.”

    The archbishops, bishops, and priests who demand loyalty oaths for Catholics to withhold support (dignity) from our LGBT brothers and sisters are “little monsters.” The faithful must stand up to this!

    I taught in Catholic schools in the 80’s and 90’s. I had ten years of infertility treatments to help me have two out of three of my children. The priest and nuns I worked with all prayed in support of me. No one shamed me, judged me, or suggested that I was a bad Catholic. We had an environment of dignity, mutual respect and love. In other words, we followed Catholic teaching.

    The recent firings of gay teachers, couples who use infertility treatments, and others the “little monsters” in the church deem unworthy–these firings must stop. We have to get back to the gospel. We are to love and support one another. Firing people for being who they are is not love.

  2. Greg Bacon
    Greg Bacon says:

    I am Catholic for a reason. I believe that Jesus founded one Church, upon Peter MT.16:18, and that Jesus gave Peter authority to Bind and loose, MT. 16:19 and that Jesus would bind in heaven what is bound on earth, I am also comforted in the knowledge that Jesus sent to him the Holy Spirit to guide him into ALL truth. Jn. 16:13, God cannot bind a lie, either on earth or in Heaven. I don’t think the Church bullies anyone; you can accept their teachings or walk away. When Jesus told his disciples “My flesh in real food and my blood real drink” Jn. 6:35-71, He did not bully them He simply told the truth, and they walked away. The Church does not teach “Manmade laws” The church holds to scripture and tradition. If you walked with the apostles you would never had read a word of the bible, for it would not be co-edified until nearly 400 years later. We are told in the bible to “hold on to the traditions I have handed down to you” 1 Cor. 11:2. Only in the Catholic Church is ALL revealed Truth to be found, many others carry parts but not the whole. My child will have a Catholic education, I do not want a Pentecostal minister teaching her Salvation by faith alone, nor do I want a Baptist to teach her that Baptism, which saves us, 1 Pet. 3:21, is just another form of getting your hair wet, nor do I want any protestant telling her that going to communion is only a symbol, not the true Body and Blood of Jesus. I will always teach her to love one another as Jesus told us, but Jesus also warned us about sin, left a church in charge and gave that Church the power to forgive sin, bind and loose. I don’t want a teacher to tell what they believe; I want them to teach what the Church believes and teaches. Where does it stop, look at Hobby Lobby, being forced to go against their religious beliefs on abortion and contraception? It is their business they should be able to run it as they wish, this is being bullied. My daughter like myself will never bully another because of their color, race, creed, or who they are attracted to. I have worked with many people in Cincinnati and I have treated them all fairly, as individuals, and I will continue to do so. I do not impugn a race because of the actions of a few, nor will I do so with a person who sins, for I am a sinner too, we all are. I don’t believe in feelings or moods, for those can change, but the love and Truth of God does not. I am not protected by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Church is, and though I may not fully understand Transubstantiation, or the Trinity, I believe in them for these truths and many more have been revealed to us by Jesus through His Church.

    • Ghosty Wolfe
      Ghosty Wolfe says:

      Mr. Bacon, Are you aware that Hobby Lobby’s president, Steve Green and his brother Mart Green (their father was the founder of Hobby Lobby) are pushing to have their version of the Christian religion taught in public schools? They actually achieved part of that in Oklahoma. So if you’re in Oklahoma and you don’t wish for your daughter to be taught their version of Christianity (fundamentalist protestant) you’re out of luck. Here’s the story on that: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/hobby-lobbys-steve-green-launches-a-new-project-a-public-school-bible-curriculum/2014/04/15/e26a1176-c4d1-11e3-9ee7-02c1e10a03f0_story.html
      Also, Hobby Lobby was caught out last month a mile deep in their hypocrisy over the health insurance issue. As Hobby Lobby fights against providing full insurance packages for women because of their religious issue with birth control it was revealed to the public that Hobby Lobby’s retirement plan has more than $73M invested in mutual funds, some of which invest in manufacturers of contraception, including some forms which are specifically named in the complaint (one is a form of the morning after pill btw), even though there exist several boutique mutual funds that specifically screen companies that are not in line with their client’s religious beliefs. So if it makes them money, they’re fine with birth control. If it’s about women having the right to make their own decisions about family planning, etc? Hobby Lobby bails. That is a religion of convenience if I’ve even seen one. Reminder: Hobby Lobby is not a church, a mosque or a synagogue. In no way is Hobby Lobby a religious institution. They are a public business. No one is forcing one of the owners to get an abortion or use birth control. Hobby Lobby has people working at their stores that are from many different religions..It’s not Hobby Lobby’s business to decide what’s right for their employee’s in this area. Also, where did you get that Hobby Lobby was being forced to do something? At this point Hobby Lobby is not being forced to do anything. The case hasn’t been lost or won yet and the company was granted a temporary exemption from the contraceptive-providing mandate by a US District Judge last July.

    • Annette Magjuka
      Annette Magjuka says:

      Greg, I am a lifelong Catholic and taught in Catholic schools in the early 80’s. I had infertility treatments and later, realized that I was “against Catholic teaching” being inseminated WITH MY OWN HUSBAND’S SPERM! The medication I needed was also “forbidden.” I did not talk to the children about any of this, of course, but neither did the nuns I taught with try to turn me in or “out” me for seeking treatment for my infertility. If someone is gay and living with a partner (or is married in a state that allows this) that person should not be isolated, maligned, or fired. This is not treating the person with dignity and respect. Demanding bigotry or injustice cannot be a tenet of faith. My conscience will not allow it. And yes, I am Catholic. I am against the witch hunts against gay people, infertile people, and those who use birth control. This must end. I support all those who are protesting against these draconian and hateful practices.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Leslie Griffin, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Law School, will examine “Religious Liberty, Employment, and LGBT Issues” […]

  2. […] yesterday, one teacher, Molly Shumate, has already publicly resigned from teaching in Cincinnati over the contract and others have begun […]

  3. […] Ohio, is the latest diocese to announce new teacher contracts which contain an enhanced morality clause and explicitly refer to […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *