Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
Amid the ongoing negotiations between the San Francisco Archdiocese, and union leaders representing teachers in four Catholic high schools under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the San Francisco Chronicle announced that the local church leader was "reassessing [his] strict moral code for teachers."
"Under pressure from parents, students and staffers at the San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese’s schools, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Tuesday that he is reexamining strict guidelines he proposed for teachers that would require them to reject homosexuality, use of contraception and other 'evil' behavior." the Chronicle reported in a Feb. 24 news story.
That got readers' attention.
Thus far, Cordileone had defended his efforts to include proposed contract language that calls on teachers to avoid public statements or actions that oppose Catholic teaching on a range of issues.
When eight state lawmakers intervened to request that he drop the "morality clauses" in the contract language, he fired off a pithy response that asked them if they would retain employees who openly rejected the Democratic Party and its policies. See his response here.
The Chronicle's story was picked up by the CBS local affiliate, which promptly announced: Archbishop "backtracks."
Not so, said Jesuit Father John Piderit, the moderator of the curia and the vicar for administration in the archdiocese, who was with the archbishop when he met with the Chronicle staff. In a Feb. 24 statement, Father Piderit offered the following clarification:
The Archbishop has not repealed anything. He is adding explanations, clarifications, and material on Catholic social teaching, via a committee of religion teachers he is establishing. The committee is to expand some areas of the material to be included in the faculty handbook, and clarify other areas by adding material. Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.
With respect to the use of the word “ministers,” the Archbishop only said that “ministers” is no longer being considered. That is all the Archbishop said. The word currently being used is “ministry.” Nonetheless, the Archbishop did say that he would work hard to find language that satisfies two needs. One is the need to protect the rights of the teachers in the Catholic high schools to have complaints fairly treated. The other is the right of the Archdiocese to run Catholic schools that are faithful to their mission. Language must be identified that meets both needs. Even if a substitute for “ministry” is found, the substitute must guarantee that the teachers in the Catholic archdiocesan high schools promote the Catholic mission of the institutions.
Archbishop Cordileone also wrote a letter to his teachers, asking for their patience and outlining his plans to respond further to their concerns and questions about the language in the contract and the faculty handbooks for the 2015-2016 school year.
In one portion of his Feb. 24 letter to teachers, he made the following commitment: "[A]fter speaking with your union negotiators, I have decided to form a committee consisting of theology teachers from the four Archdiocesan high schools to recommend to me a draft which, while retaining what is already there, expands on these statements and adjusts the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider readership. I will also leave to their discretion how to include the proper wider context within which to understand these points of doctrine, ...
"Each of you may approach them with your thoughts, concerns and suggestions which they can then take under consideration as they prepare their draft. It is my hope that this can all be completed prior to the beginning of the next academic year."
Meanwhile, state lawmakers continue to react to the dispute.
"On Monday, Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) urged an assembly committee to investigate working conditions at the high schools administered by the San Francisco archdiocese," reported the CBS local news.