The challenge is to really be in dialogue with the culture.  What the archbishop needs is for you to be bridging the gap between what appears to be ancient, awful teachings and where kids are. -- Father Anthony Giampietro, C.S.B. Archdiocese of San Francisco

Last night, various players in the ongoing dispute between Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and the local Catholic teachers' union and its allies, who oppose the proposed "morality clauses" to be added to the new teacher contracts, got a chance to air their arguments.   

The San Francisco forum, sponsored by City Visions, will serve as a wake up call for anyone who thinks it is still business as usual for Catholic education.  The link to the show is here.

The City Visions forum participants include Ted deSaulnier, a union representative, CFT Local 2240 and a religion teacher at Archbishop Riordan High School, and  Father Anthony Giampietro, C.S.B., a "philosopher with a primary focus on natural law and marriage," and the Interim director of development at the Archdiocese of San Francisco.  There were academics on the show, and audience members who called in.

In stark language, teachers explain why it is so hard to present the inconvenient truths of the faith in Catholic classrooms. 

Academics note that many families no longer send their kids to Catholic schools to be inculcated in the faith, but to get a decent academic education.The implication is that the archbishop's initiative could have bottom-line consequence for the schools' admissions.  

Experts argue that masturbation during adolescence is developmentally appropriate, and Church teaching opposing this activity could seriously damage students' psyches. And one teacher fears that the archbishop is trying to dislodge "psychology" from its elevated position in lesson plans.  

Others contend that the archbishop is wrong to describe the prevailing culture as "toxic," and they dispute his suggestion that some teachers are confused about Catholic moral doctrine. The teachers aren't confused, these critics say, they simply disagree with these doctrinal positions.

There is a parallel discussion about whether the archbishop effectively laid the groundwork for the morality-clause additions, and that point will have some traction with his supporters as well as his detractors.

Meanwhile, Father Giampietro provides an important message to those teachers, who assert that the archbishop has needlessly transformed his high schools into a new battleground for the culture wars, and so made Catholic moral doctrine even more radioactive for their skeptical students.

"The challenge is to really be in dialogue with the culture.  What the archbishop needs is for you to be bridging the gap between what appears to be ancient awful teachings and where kids are," said Father Giampietro, who seemed unfazed by the fact that he was outnumbered on the show and repeatedly interrupted.

Archbishop Cordileone "wants teachers who can ... really stand for those teachings -- not apologize for them," and do so with compassion.

"We don’t want kids mouthing what we tell them to say. We want them to believe it. But to believe it they need living, breathing examples of people that are fulfilled living this, and they exist!"

Were the teachers listening, and were they inspired?

Hard to tell, but the union representative, Ted deSaulnier, quickly set aside Father Giampietro's salient message and challenged the priest to explain whether he supported reparative therapy for people with same-sex attraction.

It isn't easy to keep track of this fast-moving conversation, espeically when critics resist engaging the central topic at hand: What is the primary mission of a Catholic high school?