On May 4, 2015 the Holy Father Francis sent a letter to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, His Excellency Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko. The letter was an address to those meeting at the International Study Seminar on the topic: “Coaches: Educators of People” in Rome. The meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

While the Holy Father’s letter was directed to athletic coaches, its applicability to all educators of the young is manifest. It is a papal endorsement of the position taken by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone as he attempts to ensure that the children under his charge in the Catholic High Schools of his Archdiocese receive a proper Catholic education. The Holy Father began:
I give you my cordial greeting and to all the participants in the International Study Seminar on the topic “Coaches: Educators of Persons,” organized by the Church and Sport Office of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Continuing in your path of reflection and promotion of human and Christian values in sports activity, in this fourth Seminar you have opportunely taken into consideration the figure of the coach, putting the accent on his role of educator, be it in the professional or amateurish environment.

All of us, in life, are in need of educators, mature, wise and balanced persons that help us grow in the family, in study, in work, in the faith.

The presence of a good coach-educator is revealed providentially especially in the years of adolescence and early youth, when the personality is in full development and in search of models of reference and identification; when the need is keenly perceived of appreciation and esteem on the part not only of contemporaries but also of adults; when the danger is more real of being lost behind bad examples and in the search for false happiness. In this delicate phase of life, the responsibility of a coach is great, who often has the privilege of spending many hours a week with young people and of having great influence on them by his conduct and personality. The influence of an educator, especially for young people, depends more on what he is as a person and the way he lives than what he says. Therefore, how important it is that a coach be an example of integrity, of coherence, of good judgment, of impartiality, but also of joy of living, of patience, of capacity to esteem and of benevolence to all, especially the most disadvantaged! And how important it is that he be an example of faith!…

Therefore, the coach can be a valid formator of young people, beside the parents, the teachers, the priests and the catechists. However, every good formator must receive a solid formation. It is necessary to form the formators. Therefore, it is opportune that you Seminar appeal to all the organizations that operate in the field of sport, the international and national federations, the lay and ecclesial sports associations to give due attention and to invest the necessary resources for the professional, human and spiritual formation of coaches. How good it would be if in all sports, and at all levels, from the great international competitions to the tournaments of the parish oratories, young people found in their coaches authentic witnesses of life and of lived faith!

The Holy Father’s letter is suffused with the concern that teaching, and the lives of teachers, be informed by the Catholic faith. The word appears in each paragraph. The Pope is asking from coaches and educators exactly what Archbishop Cordileone is demanding from his teachers, his employees: that young people find “in their coaches authentic witnesses of life and of lived faith!” and again: “how important it is that he be an example of faith!” Finally, like Archbishop Cordileone, the Holy Father knows that the educator has great influence on youth simply “by his conduct and personality. The influence of an educator, especially for young people, depends more on what he is as a person and the way he lives than what he says.”

While the Holy Father’s letter does not mention the two issues on which teachers in the Archdiocese of San Francisco are refusing to teach the faith: the sinfulness of sodomy and same-sex “marriage,” his statements on these issues have been crystal clear, despite efforts to distort them. In January 2015 he included same-sex “marriage” as part of the “ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family.” In March of 2015, he described “gender theory” as “pulverizing the family.” Even in the Holy Father’s deliberately distorted “airplane interview” his discussion of sodomy was within the context of sin and forgiveness. The public opposition to these teachings by the teachers of the Archdiocese is opposed to Pope Francis’s call to “authentic witnesses of life and of lived faith.”

[Editor’s note]: Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has issued a pastoral letter, dated Pentecost Sunday, on “why it is so crucial that we reassert and strengthen our Catholic identity, and that our freedom to do so be respected in society and in law.” Blogger One Mad Mom has written a post here.

Excerpts from Cardinal Wuerl’s letter:

“A particular responsibility is incumbent upon the bishop with regard to Catholic institutions and their Catholic identity (Veritatis splendor, 116). His is the responsibility to see that our Catholic institutions are places where the faith permeates the culture. Our schools, for example, at all levels, should provide the environment where revealed truth, reason and charity are engaged in an ongoing effort to shed greater light on the human condition. In whatever area of endeavor, the Catholic identity of the effort should be found, for example, in a mission statement.”

“Those who agree to assist the Church in her mission and ministries represent the public face of the Church. Whether Catholic or non-Catholic, they should respect our Catholic identity and avoid behavior that contradicts the very mission of the Catholic institution.”