For the first time, educators at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Oakland must sign a contract pledging to conform to church teachings outside the workplace.
As someone who has taught at a Catholic school in the San Francisco Bay Area where non-Catholic teachers were welcomed, this is a huge turn-around, and one that many teachers, Catholic and otherwise, disagree with.
And yet, this seems to be a recent trend. Far from demonstrating Christian values, it seems that many Catholic schools have become instruments of persecution.
Non-Christian Values at Catholic Schools
As Care2′s Kristina Chew reported here, a Catholic school in San Diego, Calif., fired a teacher for being a victim of domestic abuse. In fact, not only did Holy Trinity School fire second grade teacher Carie Charlesworth on account of her being a survivor of domestic abuse, the school also said that her four children, all students at the school, could no longer go to school there.
Then there was the case of Carla Hale, dismissed because of her mother’s obituary. Hale and her brother wrote an obituary for their mother, and in it Hale named her long-time partner, Julie. When she returned to work at Bishop Watterson High School following the funeral, school administrators presented Hale with a copy of the obituary and an anonymous letter from a parent, calling the presence of a gay teacher in the school a disgrace.
The 57-year-old teacher was fired less than two weeks later.
So perhaps this month’s ruling by the Catholic Diocese of Oakland in California is not so surprising.
Follow the Catholic Church‘s Moral Code
The new language in the contract for teachers at 54 Catholic schools in the East Bay says teachers in their professional and personal lives are expected to “model and promote behavior in conformity with the teaching of the Roman Catholic faith in matters of faith and morals.” The contract states that teachers can be fired for “failure to teach in accordance with the doctrine and moral teachings of the Catholic Church.”
In other words, teachers who are gay, have sex outside marriage or use birth control could be fired.
“In both the employee’s personal and professional life, the employee is expected to model and promote behavior in conformity with the teaching of the Roman Catholic faith in matters of faith and morals, and to do nothing that tends to bring discredit to the school or to the Diocese of Oakland,” the new contract says.
I taught at a Catholic high school for three years, and was never asked to sign such a contract. Times have changed.
As SFgate reports:
Tim Newman, who has taught science at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland for 23 years, says some of his colleagues won’t sign a contract forcing them to be disingenuous. Others worry the contract gives the diocese a reason to discipline them for actions outside the classroom.
“I will lose good teachers in my department,” he said.
This is not the first time such clauses have been invoked.
Earlier this year, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati had teachers sign a new contract that banned them from “public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or homosexual lifestyle.”
In California, Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa tried to require educators to sign a morality clause that described contraception, abortion and gay marriage as “modern errors” that “gravely offend human dignity.” However, he later backed down from the proposal.
Private schools can in effect do what they want, but the reality is that Catholic schools have shown no hesitation in hiring non-Catholics for years.
Bonnie Sussman, a teacher representative at Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd school, has taught in Catholic schools for 40 years.
“I love O’Dowd. I don’t want to leave. But the question is: Do you want to fight discrimination from within the system or from the outside?” Sussman says. “There are some fabulous teachers who in good conscience say, ‘I can’t sign it.’ And if that happens, ultimately, the Catholic Church loses out.”
What do you think? Should Catholic schools include a morality clause in their teachers’ contracts?
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