Catholic Justice Voices Decry New Morality Directives for High School Teachers

The San Francisco Archdiocese’s revised moral conduct code for its high school teachers has been receiving a lot of attention from progressive Catholics in San Francisco and across the U.S.

Protesters at St. Mary Cathedral, San Francisco

A protest was held at St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco, to protest the directives issued by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone this week.  KTVU News reported:

“A group of students and teachers braved a steady rain Friday to stage a protest over a new faculty handbook for San Francisco’s Catholic high schools that includes clauses calling on teachers to lead their lives consistent with church teachings.

“About 100 people dressed in black, including some students and parents, attended the vigil and rally on the steps of St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“They stood in silence on the route teachers took morning mass from St. Mary’s to Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory school. There were also speeches, a song and a prayer.

“Organizers say Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s plan will ‘lead their schools away from the true spirit of their Catholic heritage: justice, compassion, inclusivity and welcome.’ “

Additionally, a group of San Francisco Catholics have written an open letter calling on Cordileone to retract the directives.  They are also asking Catholics “to withhold our dollars from all Catholic institutions unless they stand in opposition to these repressive and regressive actions.”

The group is seeking people to sign their names to the open letter, which they plan on printing in The National Catholic Reporter.   The statement says, in part:

“The requirement that teachers and administrators sign a binding contract and operate under a faculty handbook that articulates a selective set of doctrines focused on sexual ethics, condemnation of the LGBTQ community, and restrictions on women’s healthcare and marriage represents a coercive exercise reminiscent of morality oaths and inquisitions of times past.

“The Archbishop’s action creates a repressive environment in which not only dissent, but any critical thought, robust exchange of ideas and genuine dialogue are discouraged and punishable by loss of livelihood.

“Rather than ‘clarify Catholic social teaching’ or foster unity Archbishop  Cordileone’s actions sow fear and division and inspire intolerance.

“The tenets propounded by Archbishop Cordileone do not reflect the gospel principles of love and inclusivity. Nor do they reflect the central tenets of the Catholic tradition which uphold the primacy of conscience and the principle that the church is all of us (Vatican II).

“Most U.S. Catholics believe very little of what is in the Archdiocesan document and actively reject much of it.”

To receive a copy of the full statement, send an email request to: [email protected].

Other Catholic voices also condemned the new directives.

Brian Cahill

In a National Catholic Reporter blog post, Brian Cahill, the former executive director of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, outlines “What is really toxic in the new San Francisco teacher handbook.”   Cahill questions one of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s major premises:

“Cordileone stated that Catholics who endorse contrary views ‘create toxic confusion about our fundamental values.’ But if Catholic couples, in the spirit of the pope’s recent comments, limit the number of children they have, is that toxic? If you are a little girl who is only here because science helped her mom and dad conceive her, is that toxic? If you are a 10 year old abused child and the only adoptive parents who want you are a loving, qualified gay couple, is that toxic? If you think that the civil rights of gays and lesbians should be protected, is that toxic?”

Similarly, Bay-area resident Christine Haider-Winett, writing a San Francisco Examiner op-ed for the Equally Blessed coalition, sees the new directives as the “Catholic Church infringing on personal lives.”  This imposition, she stated, is a terrible lesson for children in Catholic schools:

“Perhaps the most disturbing part is the hierarchy’s claim that this is for the good of children. What our children need are good teachers and safe, affirming environments in which to learn and grow. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender role models and open, accepting communities are essential not only to the safety of our children, but to their growth and overall well-being. As research indicates, kids who are LGB or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity are up to four times as likely to commit suicide as their straight peers. Being in a community that rejects them increases that risk astronomically.

Equally Blessed Logo“What are Catholic school students to think when they see a beloved teacher fired for getting married? Or hear she lost her job for getting pregnant using alternative methods?

“Some argue that the teacher should have stayed in the closet, or pursued his or her call to teaching in another setting. What are our children to learn from such arguments? What are our children to make of such an example? More importantly, what is a student who is questioning his or her sexual or gender identity to do when confronted with the high costs of coming out? After all, they’ve seen the scars this leaves behind.”

In a news article in Bay City Newstwo Catholic activists pointed out some of the problems with the new language:

“Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, director of Latina/o and Catholic Initiatives for HRC [Human Rights Campaign] Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program, said in a statement released today that by ‘imposing what amounts to an anti-LGBT purity test, the archbishop is closing the door on dedicated professionals, many of them faithful Catholics, gay and straight, whose moral codes do not embrace discrimination. . . .

“Tim Lennon, the San Francisco Bay Area Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement today in response to the announcements that SNAP would ‘love to see Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone put this kind of energy and effort into telling staff to share everything they know or suspect about clergy sex crimes and cover ups with law enforcement.’

“Lennon said he believes most Catholic parents care more about the physical safety of their kids than about the private behavior of teachers.”

Yet, while discussion is blossoming all over, one group that has been told to remain silent is the faculty and administrators of one of the affected institutions, Junipero Serra H.S., in San Mateo.  The Daily Journal reports:

“Teachers and administrators at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo were ordered to keep quiet about a controversial new document from the Archdiocese of San Francisco that dictates homosexuality and masturbation are ‘gravely evil,’ the Daily Journal has learned.

“Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s document applies to faculty handbooks at four Bay Area Catholic high schools including Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra.

“Tuesday night, Serra President Lars Lund sent a letter to parents indicating the archbishop’s words might garner media attention.

Despite the silencing, Lund seemed determined to send a positive message to parents and families, stating:

“We are proud of our culture of inclusiveness and of the diverse backgrounds of our students, faculty, alumni and families. . . .

“We will continue to be a remarkably supportive environment that promotes compassion and respect for all members of our community.”

Support for teachers and students by administrators will be critical at this time which is so fraught with anger and resentment.  But so are voices of justice needed to speak out for a Catholic Church that welcomes all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Raw Story: “Calif. Catholic schools impose ‘purity test’ over ‘gravely evil’ gay sex and masturbation”

Bilgrimage: “Archbishop Cordileone’s New Anti-Gay Handbook for Catholic Schools: A View from the Belly of the (Evangelical) Beast”




9 replies
  1. Ann
    Ann says:

    Fine to hold such loopy views as the Archbishop, except when you abuse others by imposing them on Catholic schools and colleges, and threaten people’s livelihood. Looks to me like a grave misuse of a position of power.

  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    Totally agree with Ann’s comment! It strikes me that Cordileone has got some sensitive unresolved personal intra-psychic issues which are driving his wild and crazed animus against lovingly-partnered GLBT Catholics. If he keeps behaving this way, and causing uproars of parishioner and media protest within his purported pastoral community, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the “Cardinal Burke Treatment” from Pope Francis, and is named the Papal Legate to Antarctica!

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      ZING! For those who have forgotten (or never heard), Cordileone was arrested for drunk driving a few years ago, and got a “slap on the wrist” sentence from the judge. The curious thing to me is that Bishop McManus of the Diocese of Worcester (MA), who is absolutely just as “hell on wheels” against recognizing faithful gay relationships as Cordileone, did the very same thing, and actually left the scene of an accident that he had caused while DUI. He received what amounted to a very light (almost a token) sentence from the judge. It’s a strange pattern, isn’t it? McManus has also gone as far as attempting to forbid the appearance of pro-gay or divorced and remarried speakers at public events — such as Commencements — at the Catholic colleges in his diocese. He also tried to forbid a gay couple — who wanted to open a bed and breakfast hospitality house — from buying surplus Church property, which had been put up for sale on the open market. Rabidly anti-GLBT bishops with alcohol abuse issues? Hmmmm….

  3. phrogge
    phrogge says:

    During his homily at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope spoke about the mission of the Church. He said it must be like a field hospital that cleans and heals wounds: “So many people need their wounds healed! This is the mission of the Church: to heal the wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people, to say that God is good, God forgives all, God is the Father, God is affectionate, God always waits for us.” It is actions such as SF ABP that put more folks in need of a fleld hospital.

  4. Larry
    Larry says:

    Does the handbook’s restrictions put your job in jeopardy if you support capital punishment, vote against an increased minimum wage, vote for candidates who skew policy to hurt the poor and middle class? If not then this is just a “cafeteria catholic” Cardinal culture warrior.


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