San Francisco Teachers Approve New Archdiocesan Contract by Slim Majority

Students participate in vigils supportive of Catholic school teachers earlier this year

By a slim majority, teachers at San Francisco’s Catholic high schools passed a new contract which doesn’t classify them as “ministers,” but still allows them to be fired for certain forms of “personal conduct” off the job. This is the latest step in a months long struggle between Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Bay Area Catholics for justice in the church, including LGBT inclusion.

The 90-80 vote concludes tense negotiations between the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers, Local 2240, which focused on whether teachers’ personal lives could be grounds for termination. An article in the National Catholic Reporter explained:

“While the contract does not describe the teachers as ‘ministers,’ a term that would have allowed the archdiocese to fire teachers for any reason, it includes phrases about ‘personal conduct’ and ‘teacher conduct on and off the job.’

“To fire a teacher because of personal conduct, however, the archdiocese will need to prove that the conduct adversely affects the classroom. The contract also includes grievance procedures for teachers if they are in a dispute with their employer.”

Teachers were clearly divided over whether to accept the new contract. Those in favor, like Archbishop Riordan High School religion teacher Ted DeSaulnier, were pleased Cordileone “compromised.” DeSaulnier said the contract now provides union members “more protection while rolling back any contractual language that might give the archbishop any advantage in initiating the concept of the ministerial exemption.”

Ish Ruiz

Others, like Sacred Heart High School religion teacher Ish Ruiz, objected to the contract’s interference in their personal lives. The contract’s preamble includes phrasing that teachers’ “personal conduct will not adversely impact their ability to teach” and “teacher conduct on and off the job” can affect their employment, language that potentially might be used to fire somoeone for being married to a same-sex spouse or endorsing marriage equality, as has happened to a large number of church workers who have lost their jobs in recent years.

Archbishop Cordileone’s initial draft of the contract, which classified teachers as “ministers,” can be seen as part of a larger agenda that included stricter morality clauses in the teacher handbook and a new Office of Catholic Identity Assessment earlier this year.

The teacher handbook required teachers to affirm a number of highly specific moral issues, including: opposition to contraception; condemnation of homosexual acts, masturbation, pornography; upholding heterosexual marriage as the only legal option; condemnation of artificial reproductive technology and cloning. Some observers had dobuts about the archbishop’s committee tasked with revising the handbook. After widespread criticism, the language was toned down slightly to its final form.

Cordileone’s decisions have already forced out one dedicated teacher. In July, social studies teacher Abi Basch resigned from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, much to students’ deep disappointment.

Taken together, the archbishop’s actions have drawn sustained protests from thousands of Bay Area Catholics centered around the #TeachAcceptance movement. In April, more than 100 influential local Catholics signed an open letter to Pope Francis calling for Cordileone’s resignation because, they said, he caused grave harm to the local church. There have also been public vigils at the cathedral and online advocacy through a Facebook group and awebsite. Parents have written letters of support to students and many objected to the archbishop’s comment that transgender people “undermine the faith.”

Now that the contract is approved, Catholics must be watchful to prevent the targeting of LGBT and ally employees. Hopefully, the harm done to the San Francisco church will end and it can now be a time for reconciliation and healing.

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

6 replies
  1. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    I am glad the teachers will not be categorized as “ministers” since this was just a way to deny worker rights. In fact, any believer can “minister” to another and we should be doing this for one another all the time. I am outraged that the language about reproductive/sexual conduct is still in the contract. This contract is a total misrepresentation of what Catholicism should be. It does not address what Catholic teachers in a Catholic school should be doing: teaching with love, encouragement, and positive regard for the students. I am beyond concerned with the emphasis on sexuality and the attempts by the church to define people on this basis. By concentrating on this one aspect of life, the church is missing the boat entirely. The hierarchy is a laughing stock to young people. Young people will never condone the witch hunts of Cordileone, Chaput, et al. These men are damaging the church. The faithful must not stand for it.

      • Annette Magjuka
        Annette Magjuka says:

        First, withhold all donations and parish support until it is changed. Put a slip of paper in the collection basket saying that no more $ will be forthcoming until discriminatory practices are stopped. I suggest sending $ to NETWORK, a Catholic lobbying organization that works for legislation that helps the poor and middle class. It would be great if parents could withhold tuition until the discriminatory wording is taken out of teacher contracts. We must also be VOCAL and speak out immediately and often when we see discrimination occur. We must constantly say that the bishops do not speak for us, and that the church they espouse is not our Catholic church.

  2. Anton
    Anton says:

    I agree with rachelfs!!! It does seem strange that for CENTURIES this did not apply to popes (Borgia, anad those who castrated young men for sopranos for the Sistine choir, supporters of Mussolini and Hitler and other dictators), cardinals, archbishops, bishops or priests or deacons who were just moved from parish to parish and even offered more benefices where they could molest more people. But today regular parishioners have to live up to the standards these perpetrators compose and impose, even when they and their children are the ones victimized by the law makers!! God, according to the story, even got the mother of Jesus pregnant out of wedlock and allowed for a cover-up (of sorts) and luckily we can still invoke HER for help, “…nostras deprecationes non despicias IN NECESSITATIBUS, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos SEMPER….” She received it when SHE needed it, but it is forbidden for us to get it when WE need it. Well, not according to God but according to the “powers that be” in the church … the potentate prelates who prefer to rule rather than pastor.


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