The following comes from a July 29 SF Chronicle article by Jill Tucker:

Teachers at four Catholic high schools emerged from an emotional and drawn-out contract battle this week with a tentative agreement that limits the ability of San Francisco’s archdiocese to link their private lives to their job description.

Yet amid the gains at the bargaining table, critics feared that a morality war ignited by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was not over.

In a letter early this year to teachers at the four high schools, Cordileone wrote that the schools must buck the “tremendous pressure the contemporary culture places on everyone to conform to a certain agenda.”

Cordileone also sought in the contract to redesignate teachers, calling them ministers, a label that teachers said could give the archdiocese greater power in punishing or firing those whose words or actions contradicted Catholic doctrine.

But Cordileone backed off on both counts. The handbook has been put on a back burner pending community discussion in the upcoming school year, and any reference to teachers as ministers was removed from the contract.

“We are grateful that the (archbishop) recognized the damage caused by the proposed changes and he decided on a different approach,” said Lisa Dole, union president and a social studies teacher at Marin Catholic. “We urge that he keeps listening to the men and women, union and nonunion, who work at our four high schools.”

Both sides, however, agreed to include language clearly stating that “the purpose of Catholic schools is to affirm Catholic values,” and that “teachers are expected to support the purpose of our Catholic schools in such a way that their personal conduct will not adversely impact their ability to teach in our Catholic high schools.”

But disputes over teacher conduct on and off the job would be subject to grievance procedures, offering teachers increased protection should their personal or professional actions be questioned, according to the tentative agreement.

“We strongly believe there are no remaining issues between the negotiating teams to be dealt with,” said Mike Brown, spokesman for the archdiocese. “The ball is in the union’s court. We’re optimistic and unaware of any further negotiating points that must be discussed.”

It might not be a done deal, though.

The agreement heading toward a teacher vote has not assuaged the concerns of vocal critics who say Cordileone has shown the community his cards and could still play them in the future — firing or punishing teachers for being gay, for example, or for having a child through artificial insemination.

While the contract doesn’t say teachers are ministers, federal law and legal precedent offer religious institutions “ministerial exemption” from antidiscrimination laws, giving them wide berth in whom they hire and fire. Cordileone could claim that exemption.

“We celebrate the fact that we’ve been able to stop him to date,” said Kathy Curran, a parent at Sacred Heart and one of the founders of, a group formed to oppose the archbishop’s proposals.

Still, behind it all is a “homophobic and anti-union agenda” that remains, she said. “We hold on to the fact that we’ve been able to stave this off to date.”
Faithful identity leads to success for Catholic schools 

The following comes from a July 30 Cardinal Newman Society article by Justin Petrisek:

The best Catholic schools are those that remain true to their purpose and mission, says The Cardinal Newman Society’s Dr. Jamie Arthur, senior fellow and manager of the Catholic Education Honor Roll. That schools remain steadfast in the faith is increasingly important for parents who desire a genuine Catholic education for their children yet find themselves in a society where religious freedom, traditional marriage and the ability for schools to hire according to their mission are all under attack.

One of the latest developments on this front concerns Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s efforts to shore up the Catholic identity of his schools in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The archbishop has received criticism for adding language in contacts and handbooks which would ensure that teachers cannot publicly oppose Church teaching, but rather assent to authentically hand on the Catholic faith.

Despite the criticism, thousands of families have gone out of their way to let Archbishop Cordileone know that they value authentic Catholic education over the disparagement of a few dissenting groups.
Additionally, a report by Arthur issued by the Newman Society last month demonstrated that morality clauses for teachers are nothing new, and that they implement longstanding requirements of the Catholic Church for teachers. Another Society report this year showed that, among U.S. dioceses, there is evidence of a “broad and substantial movement toward high standards for Catholic school teachers with regard to faith and morals.”

But just last week, California State Assembly member Phil Ting called a judiciary hearing in order to gather information on the situation “because he was worried about the impact of the archbishop’s proposed changes on the schools.”

One of the lawyers present at the meeting reportedly stated that the Catholic schools must decide what brand of school they are going to be. “Are they religious institutions that cater to students of a particular faith and teach according to that faith, or are they private schools that adhere to state standards and welcome students of all religions,” the National Catholic Reporter questioned.
“Catholic schools cannot compromise on Catholicity for it is the integrity and reputation of this ‘brand’ that parents are desperately seeking to assist them in the intellectual and spiritual development of their children,” said Arthur.

Arthur explained further how Catholic schools sometimes depart from the mission of education to hand on authentic Catholic teaching and morality.

“When enrollment in Catholic schools wanes, strategic decisions made by administrators deviate from core values to accommodate a broader student population and fill empty desks. The Church’s mission in Catholic education is clearly outlined in the magisterial teaching,” and it is always nonnegotiable, she said.

“In the short term, tuition dollars increase. However, the long term effects of weakening of Catholic identity, the sole reason many parents choose Catholic education for their children, results in faithful Catholic families leaving the school with more seats to be filled,” continued Arthur. “This cycle, once started, ultimately results in a school that is secular in many aspects and no longer fulfilling the intended purpose of the Catholic Church.”

“With the closing of so many Catholic schools, when faced with enrollment decisions, school leadership should take note of others’ experience and make decisions with a full understanding of what’s at stake,” she concluded.