After months of protest, the Archdiocese of San Francisco has revised the enhanced morality clauses proposed for teachers’ handbook for Catholic high school teachers. These revisions are not quieting tensions in the archdiocese that seem far from resolved.
The new draft, prepared by five archdiocesan high school theology teachers, removes the pastorally damaging language about homosexuality primary to critics’ opposition. A preamble explains that the document is a “short compendium of some important teachings,” reports the National Catholic Reporter, and adds:
“The Gospel cannot be reduced to a list of truths no matter how comprehensive because the Gospel is a person, the anointed one, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord.”
In the larger document, the language regarding sexuality emphasizes chastity and the bishops’ understanding of marriage. It addresses homosexuality only in implicit terms, stating:
“The Church makes a distinction between someone’s desires and someone’s actions. Desires/attractions are neutral to the extent they are spontaneous and not willed. Having an attraction to someone isn’t sinful, yet not every human desire should be acted upon.”
Closely mirroring the Catechism, the revised statement also adds that all are to be respected and loved “regardless of sexual attraction.”It does not, however, stop the archdiocese’s attempts to reclassify school employees as ministers which would make them exempt from the protections of non-discrimination laws. Indeed, Paul Hance who is a union leader as well as history teacher, said lawyers believe the revised statement pushes the ministerial classification in even stronger terms. He added:
“What would happen if the archbishop gets his way? We would have termination without legal recourse…Our rights are not negotiable; our profession is teaching, not ministry.”
Those affiliated with “Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance,” the group defending Catholic school teachers and opposing Cordileone’s revisions, rejected the new draft. Since the morality clauses were first added in February, more than 80% of Catholic high school faculty and staff signed a petition rejecting the old versions, and it doesn’t seem the new revisions have won over new supporters for Cordileone’s policies.
In the press release which the parent and student group issued, Kathy Curran, a mother, spoke about the harmful language and ideas that she sees remaining in the revised document:
“The language is still harmful to our children and is an attempt to camouflage his original agenda and fundamentally alter the character and culture of Catholic education in our high schools.”
Former teacher Kathleen Purcell, who lost her job at a Catholic school in the neighboring Oakland Diocese when she crossed out the objectionable sections when signing her 2014-2015 contract, said:
“Under the revised handbook language, teachers would not be able to dissent or discuss ideas that conflict with the Archbishop’s understanding of Catholicism without risking their jobs. This fundamentally alters the character of our schools. Teachers whose jobs are under threat if they step outside the line cannot provide a safe environment for students to learn.”
Others spoke at press conference last Monday, sampled here:
- Jessica Hyman, a graduating senior: “We will not be fooled into thinking Archbishop Cordileone is changing anything. We can thank our teachers for bestowing us with the knowledge to see past this trickery. The language is softer, but the message is still hurtful and wrong.”
- Jim Jordan, a high school teacher: “[The pause is] a small victory for us in that there will be no handbook change this year, which means we’ve stemmed the tide for the moment…[Cordileone] is not backing down at all, merely slowing down.”
- Jim McGarry, organizer with Concern Parents and Students: “Even muted, the Archbishop’s rhetoric of judgment and selectivity about and atomization of the moral life of our students and their families is not simply a storm to be weathered. It is the precipice of a disaster.”
Advocates for church workers rallied outside the San Francisco chancery last week, while dialogue and negotiations between the archdiocese and teachers’ union continued. Teacher Sal Curcio is quoted in Crux, expressing cautious optimism:
“The good news here is that there have been some changes to this document, so it seems as if the archbishop is willing to listen, to a certain degree…We wish he would listen more, and we wish he would really communicate with us more.”
A cover letter from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone accompanied the revised statement, and it said, in part:
“Despite these worthy goals [outlined by the archbishop], several unintended consequences have resulted that have created the tensions we have been experiencing. I honestly did not foresee the reaction that ensued, and I apologize for this lack of foresight on my part.”
Cordileone also a year’s deferral before implementing the handbook’s new language, saying to teachers that he would use the year to “help you better understand the ‘what’ and, especially, the ‘why’ of the full range of church teaching.” The teachers are well aware of the bishops’ articulations; they just happen to have a different approach to how that teaching should be applied in their professional lives and schools.
Supporters of Cordileone are organizing too, hosting a website and a rally attended by the archbishop. They claim he is being “demonized” and a “witch hunt” is underway, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
In April, more than 100 influential San Francisco Catholics signed a full page open letter calling for Cordileone’s resignation, while traditionalist nuns abandoned their Marian High School classrooms because they were upset that students were participating in GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an anti-bullying event.
Controversy is not new for Archbishop Cordileone. A recent article in the National Catholic Reporter documented that his time in San Francisco has been marked by “divisive action” which harms the local church profoundly. The article’s list of the archbishop’s actions are too numerous to name here. You can read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of his response to LGBT issues for the past few years here.
To lend your support for San Francisco’s Catholic school teachers, connect with “Concerned Parents and Students: TeachAcceptance” on their website, Facebook, Twitter, or the online petition. You can also sign up online to volunteer through the Google form here.
For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the almost 50 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry