SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — The Archdiocese of San Francisco is proposing three new clauses to contracts for teachers in archdiocesan Catholic high schools 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. The handbook additions will take effect in the 2015-16 school year and are not part of the contract.
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, said Maureen Huntington, archdiocesan Catholic Schools superintendent.
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, she said.
The intent is not to drive any teacher out of the schools, said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and Huntington.
Archbishop Cordileone specifically addressed concerns about job security in a February letter to teachers.
“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,” he wrote.
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. 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 four archdiocesan Catholic high schools. Approximately 315 full-time teachers belong to the San Francisco Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers Local 2240, which is part of the American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO); 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 that are owned and operated by the archdiocese.
Archbishop Cordileone was to address faculty members from the 14 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese, including the 10 owned by religious communities, Feb. 6.
The union negotiating team was scheduled to present the proposed contract to the full membership during the first week of February. Lisa Dole, president of Local 2240 and a teacher at Marin Catholic High School, said in a statement that the teachers union had some “concerns with the proposed language and some key issues” that they hope to work out.
Archbishop Riordan High School 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.”
The additions to the faculty handbook 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 an affirmation of 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 and 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, who was 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.”
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Schmalz is assistant editor of Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.