SF archbishop is re-wording his strict morality code

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is tempering the strict language of morality clauses he added to teacher contracts. (AP Photo)
By Kevin Fagan 

SAN FRANCISCO — Under pressure from his Catholic schools community, the archbishop of the San Francisco archdiocese is re-wording strict guidelines he proposed for teachers that would require them to reject homosexuality, use of contraception, and other “evil” behavior.

Most significantly, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said he is dropping an effort to designate high school teachers as “ministers,” which, under a 2012 US Supreme Court ruling, would have eliminated them from government-mandated employee protections by placing them solely under Church control.

In an hour-long meeting with The San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board, Cordileone said he is forming a committee of theology teachers from the San Francisco Archdiocese’s four high schools to go over his proposed teacher guidelines. The committee, he said, will “recommend to me an expanded draft” and “adjust the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider leadership.”

“I was surprised at the degree of consternation over this,” Cordileone said. What he is drafting, he said, is merely a reiteration of existing Catholic morality doctrines concerning behavior.

The modifications Cordileone drew up this month for the Faculty Handbook for his archdiocese’s 350 or so teachers ignited a firestorm of opposition when teachers, parents and students interpreted them to mean staff could be fired for being in same-sex marriages, using contraception, approving of abortion, or engaging in other actions the handbook labeled as “evil.”

Of particular concern to some faculty was the prospect of punishment for behavior done behind closed doors. One statement from the archdiocese said high school administrators, faculty, and staff who are Catholics “are called to conform their hearts, minds and consciences, as well as their public and private behavior, ever more closely to the truths taught by the Catholic Church.”
Cordileone said he has no intention of invading private lives. The purpose of his guidelines, he said, is to make sure his teachers’ behavior, and the examples they set in public, don’t contradict bedrock Catholic principles — which condemn same-sex marriage, abortion, and birth control, among other things.

The new language is meant only to “clarify,” he said, and not to trigger teacher firings or ignite “a witch hunt.”

“My primary concern is for the good of our students,” he told the board. “We want our students to flourish.”
Publicist Sam Singer, who is representing parents and alumni of San Francisco Catholic schools as they try to counter the proposed dictates, said the archbishop’s statements were welcome news.

“The proof is in the pudding, so we’ll have to take a look at what the archbishop comes back with,” Singer said. “But this is certainly a step in the right direction, and is welcomed by many of the parents, teachers and alumni. But there is still much work to be done.”

Story via New York Times News Service.