Archdiocese, Legislators Butt Heads Over Proposed Catholic High Schools Morality Clauses

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone on Thursday defended a proposed morality clause in the faculty handbook for Catholic high schools, arguing the clauses do not apply to teachers’ private lives.

State lawmakers representing the Bay Area have objected to the proposed morality clauses, which affect faculty at Roman Catholic high schools in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties, saying they infringe on the civil rights of the schools’ employees.

The new contract and handbook language proposed earlier this month warning Catholic high school faculty and staff that homosexual relations and other sexual activities outside of marriage are “gravely evil” has led to an outcry by the LGBT community and lawmakers.

In a letter sent by Cordileone in response to legislators on Thursday, Cordileone states that the new morality clauses do not apply to the teachers’ private lives.

The archbishop, in an attempt to explain his position to the legislators in comparable terms, asks in the letter, “would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for, and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general?”

At the close of the letter, Cordileone states, “My point is: I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission. I simply ask the same respect from you.”

The new handbook language warns that “all extra-marital sexual relationships are gravely evil and that these include adultery, masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations.” In addition, it outlines church positions on controversial subjects including the ordination of women and notes that faculty must “refrain from public support of any cause or issue that is explicitly or implicitly contrary to that which the Catholic Church holds to be true.”

A letter to Cordileone penned on Tuesday by eight Bay Area lawmakers, including Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu, who represent portions of San Francisco, questions the purpose of reclassifying all archdiocese school employees as ‘ministers.’

The letter states that the reclassification “effectively removes civil rights protections guaranteed to all Californians. Among these rights are the freedom to choose who to love and marry, how to plan a family, and what causes or beliefs to support through freedom of speech and association.”

The letter goes on to state that, “The narrow exception for ‘ministers’ in federal anti-discrimination law was never intended to be a tool for discrimination.”

In a letter sent to teachers in the Archdiocesan Catholic High Schools, Cordileone wrote that the schools must strive to be truly Catholic institutions. In an effort to reach that goal, the Archdiocese of San Francisco is adding statements of Catholic teaching on sexual morality and religious practice into the faculty and staff handbooks of the four archdiocesan high schools and proposing new contract language to “clarify” the church’s view.

Cordileone stated in his letter to faculty and staff that the purpose of these changes is to clarify that Catholic schools, “exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Cordileone writes that the new document clarifies Catholic issues in Catholic schools with the intention “not to target for dismissal from our schools any teachers, singly or collectively.”

He said the staff will not have to sign anything regarding their adherence to the new additions to the handbook.

The handbook additions, which would take effect in the 2015-16 school year, will apply to Archbishop Riordan High School and Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco, as well as Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield and Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo.

According to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, there are about 315 teachers at the four schools who belong to the teacher’s union, which is currently negotiating a new contract expected to take effect on Aug. 1.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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