80% of the teachers and staff at four Archdiocese of San Francisco Catholic high schools have signed a statement to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in which they reject the changes that he has made to the teachers handbook which include an immense amount of “morality clauses” which condemn a wide variety of sexual issues, including homosexuality.
SFWeekly.com reported that the statement, which comes amid contract negotiations, declared the teachers’ reaffirmation to their
“commitment to our students and the Catholic educational mission … and the principles of respect for individual conscience, and the value placed on the diversity of our faculty, staff, and student and parent bodies.”
“We believe the recently proposed handbook language is harmful to our community and creates an atmosphere of mistrust and fear. We believe our schools should be places of inquiry and the free exchange of ideas where all feel welcome and affirmed. Such language has no place in our handbooks. We respectfully ask Archbishop Cordileone to use the faculty handbook currently in place.”
One teacher explained the motivation behind the statement:
“Jim Jordan, an English teacher from Sacred Heart Cathedral, noted ‘As teachers, we are not only seeking to preserve a safe and vibrant community that supports education and the free exchange of ideas, but the safety and well-being of our students. This language in this judgmental context undermines the mission of Catholic education and the inclusive, diverse and welcoming community we prize at our schools. It is an attack not only on teachers’ labor and civil rights, but on young people who are discovering who they are in the world.’ ”
The San Francisco controversy is shaping up to be one of the most protracted protests in the numerous cases of diocesan morality clause additions and firing of church workers over LGBT-related issues. Last week, Cordileone announced that he would form a committee of theology teachers from the affected schools to review the language of the additions, but a diocesan spokesperson said there would be no changes in substance, but only refinements in language to be more accommodating to ordinary readers.
In a New York Times article, one scholar noted that this situation serves as an example of a wider trend in modern Catholicism:
“Michele Dillon, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire who has written a book about American Catholics, said the situation in San Francisco reflected the flux in attitudes among people in the faith.
“ ‘The church wants people to be aware of official church teachings because they think there is confusion in the culture,’ Professor Dillon said. ‘A lot of Catholics aren’t confused. They simply ignore the church’s teachings.’ ”
The Times article carried responses to the handbook changes from a variety of different people connected to the schools:
“We pray for the archbishop that his heart is changed,” said Gus O’Sullivan, an openly gay senior at Sacred Heart who spoke at the candlelight protest.
Mr. Vezzali, the union official, who is also chairman of the English department at Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco, said that union members were “worried about teachers who are gay and who are not able to live publicly.”
“We want to support our gay students,” Mr. Vezzali added. “We understand we are there to carry out the church’s mission.”
Mr. Vezzali said the archbishop was “a very wise man” and added, “We feel our schools are places where we’re supposed to share the gospel of Jesus and love, no matter what.” . . .
Some critics say Archbishop Cordileone should align his priorities more closely with those of Pope Francis, who has emphasized the plight of the poor.
“We sent our kids to these schools because they uphold the fundamental principles of our faith of love, acceptance and respect,” said Kathy Curran, a mother of a Sacred Heart freshman. “This language says some people are not O.K. — and that’s not O.K.”
With such an outpouring of protest from all quarters of these schools’ communities, it will be important for Archbishop Cordileone to take the path of reconciliation and justice. He has already met once with teachers, but the fact that so many are now protesting his proposals indicate that he must continue to dialogue and reconcile. The community of people protesting the new rules are not just employees, not just customers of an archdiocesan service agency. They are Catholics who are expressing their faith, and by virtue of that, they need to be listened to.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry