S.F. archbishop says morality clauses are about upholding mission of church


SAN FRANCISCO — Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone told a group of California legislators that he respects their right “to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission” and expects the same in return.

The San Francisco archbishop’s comments came in a Feb. 19 letter to five state Assembly members and three Senate members after they urged him to remove Catholic sexual morality clauses that have been added to handbooks for teachers in the four archdiocesan high schools.

The lawmakers told Archbishop Cordileone in a letter they feel the clauses would “foment a discriminatory environment” and “send an alarming message to youth.”

But the archbishop told them before making a judgment, they should have as complete information as possible about what the archdiocese is proposing and he directed them to various documents and videos on the archdiocesan website, www.sfarchdiocese.org, to dispel misinformation, “such as the falsehood that the morality clauses apply to the teachers’ private life.”

The Archdiocese of San Francisco also is proposing three new clauses to contracts for teachers in archdiocesan Catholic high schools to further clarify that Catholic schools, as the first clause states, “exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as held and taught by his Catholic Church.”

The archdiocese is adding detailed statements of Catholic teaching on sexual morality and religious practice, taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, into the faculty and staff handbooks of the four archdiocesan high schools. The handbook additions will take effect in the 2015-16 school year and are not part of the contract.

The statements cover church teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage and artificial contraception, and other tenets of the faith.

The handbook and contract changes reiterate more strongly the responsibility of teachers and staff not to contradict Catholic teaching in school and in their public lives, said Maureen Huntington, archdiocesan Catholic Schools superintendent, when the changes were announced.

The lawmakers told Archbishop Cordileone in a letter they feel the clauses would “foment a discriminatory environment” and “send an alarming message to youth.”

According to Huntington, they do not contain anything essentially new and are intended to clarify existing expectations that Catholic teachers in their professional and public lives uphold Catholic teaching.

In his letter, Archbishop Cordileone asked the lawmakers: “Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for, and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general?”

The main authors of the lawmakers’ letter were Democratic Assemblymen Phil Ting of San Francisco and Kevin Mullin of San Mateo.

“If you knew a brilliant campaign manager who, although a Republican, was willing to work for you and not speak or act in public contrary to you or your party, would you hire such a person?” Archbishop Cordileone continued.

“If your answer to the first question is ‘no,’ and to the second question is ‘yes,’ then we are actually in agreement on the principal point in debate here.”

He asked if that Republican campaign manager they had hired began “speaking critically of your party and favorably of your running opponent,” would they be likely to fire that person?

If so, “would you have done this because you hate all Republicans outright, or because this individual, who happens to be a Republican, violated the trust given to you and acted contrary to your mission? If the latter, then we are again in agreement on this principle.”

“I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission,” he said. “I simply ask the same respect from you.”

Ting, as the former head of San Francisco’s Office of the Assessor-Recorder, led a three-year effort to impose transfer taxes on the San Francisco Archdiocese totaling more than $20 million on over 200 parish and school properties involved in an internal reorganization by the archdiocese.

In early 2012, a Superior Court judge issued a final ruling in favor of the archdiocese, throwing out the multimillion-dollar “delinquent” tax bill that had been imposed on the Archdiocese of San Francisco by Ting’s office.