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Archdiocese: Catholic schools exist to ‘affirm and proclaim’ Gospel of Jesus

February 6, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

Faculty handbook changes emphasize that teachers, staff must not publicly contradict Catholic teaching

The Archdiocese of San Francisco is proposing three new clauses to the contracts for the teachers in the archdiocesan Catholic high schools. The purpose is to further clarify that Catholic schools – as the first clause states – “exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as held and taught by his Catholic Church.”

The archdiocese is also adding detailed statements of Catholic teaching on sexual morality and religious practice – taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church – into the faculty and staff handbooks of the four archdiocesan high schools, Archbishop Riordan, Marin Catholic and Junipero Serra high schools and Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory. The handbook additions will take effect in the 2015-16 school year and are not part of the contract.

While the handbook and contract changes reiterate more strongly the responsibility of teachers and staff not to contradict Catholic teaching in school and in their public lives, they do not contain anything essentially new and are intended to clarify existing expectations that Catholic teachers in their professional and public lives uphold Catholic teaching, archdiocesan Catholic Schools Superintendent Maureen Huntington said.

The intent is not to drive any teacher out of the schools, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and Huntington said.

 

Archbishop’s letter

Archbishop Cordileone specifically addressed concerns about job security in a letter dated February 2015 to teachers.

“At the outset, I wish to state clearly and emphatically that the intention underlying this document is not to target for dismissal from our schools any teachers, singly or collectively, nor does it introduce anything essentially new into the contract or the faculty handbook,” the archbishop wrote in the letter.

The handbook additions clearly state that the institution believes in the listed items, and does not require each individual staff member or teacher to assent to each stated item of Catholic doctrine. That is because the archdiocese recognizes that some Catholic teachers and other non-Catholic teachers may not agree with all that the Catholic Church teaches, Archbishop Cordileone said. The aim of the handbook additions is to specify for all what the church teaches and require that high school staff and teachers not contradict Catholic teachings in a school environment or in public actions.

About 470 full and part-time teachers and staff are employed at Marin Catholic, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Riordan and Serra. Approximately 315 full-time teachers belong to the San Francisco Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers, Local 2240, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO and they are the only unionized Catholic school teachers among the 14 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. About 3,600 students attend the four high schools which are owned and operated by the archdiocese.

 

Archbishop to address teachers

Archbishop Cordileone was to address the high school teachers of the archdiocese Feb. 6 on the topic of “Catholic education during the time of Pope Francis.” Faculty from the 14 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese, including the 10 owned by religious communities as well as teachers at the archdiocesan high schools, were expected to attend Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral and subsequent talk.

The union negotiating team was scheduled to present the proposed contract to the full membership by this week. Lisa Dole, president of Local 2240 and a teacher at Marin Catholic High School, released the following statement on behalf of the union executive board late Tuesday to Catholic San Francisco.

“As our weekly Catholic news source, we know that you’re aware of how much good work goes on in our schools every day, in the actions of our faculty, staff, students, and families in support of our mission. The amount of attention being paid to this proposed language shouldn’t diminish how proud we are of the day in, day out efforts of our teachers.

“We are pleased that the document acknowledges that the teachers in our high schools are not all the same – like many Catholics around the world who struggle with their adherence to some of the teachings of the church,” she said.

“However, there are still concerns with the proposed language and some key issues that the union and archbishop are hopeful that we will be able to work out.”

In an earlier statement schools superintendent Huntington said, “As Catholic school educators, administrators, and employees, we believe in and live our lives according to teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.”

“Because we live in a very secular society, the truth as revealed by God gets overshadowed by popular ideology,” Huntington said. “In order to remain faithful to God’s revelations and the church’s teachings, additions and clarifying statements have been developed for our teachers and staff members articulating specific fundamental truths, which are not understood or accepted within our secular society.”

Archbishop Cordileone explained the reasoning in his letter to the archdiocesan teachers, saying “I see a need to provide more clarity for our teachers.”

“For a Catholic high school to attain excellence, it must be at one and the same time an excellent institution of secondary education and a truly Catholic institution,” he said.

“Changes in our secular society over the last few decades have brought new challenges to this endeavor in both senses, as we now face both increased difficulties in educating our students well in an array of academic subjects, and unprecedented challenges in forming our young people with a deep and strong Catholic identity as well as knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith,” the archbishop wrote.

“The faculty and staff at Marin Catholic High School play an integral role in delivering on our mission to support and encourage the highest quality education within the values and beliefs of the Catholic Church,” said Marin Catholic president Tim Navone. “We are very proud of their commitment and understanding of this mission. Upcoming language changes in our handbook reflect this belief and confirm their understanding. Whether they are Catholic or not, we expect them to understand and support the teachings and beliefs of our church every day on our campus as well as in their public and professional lives.”

Riordan president Joe Conti said “we welcome these clarifications, as they will help us to live our professional and public lives as Catholic educators in a manner that is in alignment with these beliefs.”

 

Changes cover ‘hot button’ issues

The additions to the faculty handbooks cover what Archbishop Cordileone termed “hot button” issues and are drawn directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They include statements of Catholic teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage, artificial contraception and artificial means of reproduction such as in-vitro fertilization as well as affirming the authority of the magisterium of the Catholic Church and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

“Confusion about the church’s stance is prevalent in areas of sexual morality and religious practice,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “For this reason, the statements for inclusion in the faculty handbook focus on these two areas. This focus does not imply lesser importance to Catholic teachings on social justice, which in fact are widely accepted and well interpreted in Catholic educational institutions.”

“There is nothing new under the Catholic sun with this approach,” said Jesuit Father John Piderit, moderator of the curia/vicar for administration for the archdiocese. “It is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is straightforward.”

The 2011-2014 contract, which was continued for one year under a Memorandum of Understanding, states “the union and its members recognize the unique nature of the archdiocesan high school system in that it is Roman Catholic, committed to provide education within the framework of Catholic principles; that Catholic teachings and precepts shall remain paramount throughout the terms of this agreement; and that nothing in the agreement shall be construed as interfering in any way with the superintendent’s functions and duties insofar as they are canonical.”

This is supported by another clause from the existing agreement: “The Union and its members recognize that all lay teachers covered by this agreement shall perform all of their duties as set forth in this agreement in accordance with the doctrines and precepts of the Roman Catholic Church, and shall conduct themselves at all times during the performance of those duties in a manner in keeping with the standards of the church.”

Father Mark Doherty, chaplain at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, and a teacher at Jesuit High School in Sacramento before he was ordained, said teachers have to be able to present what the Catholic Church teaches clearly and attractively. Many students do not believe what the church teaches, he said, and his goal as a teacher was always to get his students to understand church teaching and then perhaps someday, convert to belief.

“We are not imposing. We are proposing,” Father Doherty said. “God never imposes himself, he proposes himself.”

 

‘Affirm and Proclaim’: The initiative at a glance

The archdiocese is proposing three new clauses to the archdiocesan Catholic high school teachers contracts to further clarify that Catholic schools “exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as held and taught by his Catholic Church.”

The archdiocese also is adding detailed statements of Catholic teaching on sexual morality and religious practice – taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church – into the faculty and staff handbooks of the four archdiocesan high schools.

The changes do not contain anything essentially new and are intended to clarify existing expectations that Catholic teachers in their professional and public lives uphold Catholic teaching.

The intent is not to drive any teacher out of the schools.

The leadership of the high school teachers union was expected to present the contract to its full membership by this week.

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