Last month, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone published a statement on Catholic teaching derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that he intends to add to the faculty and staff handbook that governs four Catholic high schools in his diocese. This much-needed statement has generated a nationwide dust-up. He has received both support and opposition, but as usual the usual “progressive” suspects are the most cacophonous.
Here’s an excerpt from Cordileone’s statement, which makes clear what is required of administrators, faculty, and staff:
As effective professionals in a Catholic School setting, we all—administrators, faculty and staff—are required and expected to avoid fostering confusion among the faithful and any dilution of the schools’ primary Catholic mission. Therefore, administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or of no faith, are expected to arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny these truths. To that end, further, we all must refrain from public support of any cause or issue that is explicitly or implicitly contrary to that which the Catholic Church holds to be true.
Further, those who identify as Catholic have even more rigorous expectations, especially teachers:
[A]ll administrators, faculty and staff who are Catholics, and particularly those engaged as classroom teachers, have an even higher calling, according to which they must not only avoid public contradiction of their status as professional agents in the mission of Catholic Education, but are also 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.
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Apparently, faculty and staff are shocked, shocked to find Catholic doctrine going on in Catholic schools. Now, 80% of them have signed a petition objecting to the requirement that Catholic teachers affirm Catholic doctrine.
And to which tenets of Catholic doctrine do these teachers in Catholic high schools object? Apparently, their objections focus on Catholic teaching related to sexuality and abortion.
It should come as no surprise to regular IFI readers to learn that an English teacher is among the dozen teachers who created the teacher petition opposing Cordileone’s statement. Jim Jordan, chair of the English Department at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco, expresses these deep thoughts:
As teachers, we are not only seeking to preserve a safe and vibrant community that supports education and the free exchange of ideas, but the safety and well-being of our students. This language in this judgmental context undermines the mission of Catholic education and the inclusive, diverse and welcoming community we prize at our schools. It is an attack not only on teachers’ labor and civil rights, but on young people who are discovering who they are in the world.
Several thoughts about Jordan’s thoughts:
1.) Requiring Catholic teachers in private Catholic schools to affirm Catholic doctrine does not prohibit the free exchange of ideas on the parts of students. Nor does it prevent teachers from exposing students to multiple points of view. It simply requires that teachers publicly affirm Catholic beliefs as truth.
2.) Students are not made “unsafe” upon hearing in a Catholic school that Catholic doctrine views contraception as “morally unacceptable,” or that “adultery, masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations” are “gravely evil,” or that “human life is sacred and must be protected” Students may be uncomfortable when exposed to ideas with which they disagree or that point them toward life choices that oppose unchosen desires, but such discomfort constitutes absence of “safety” only in the infinitely expansive rhetorical universe of homosexualists. And in an academic context in which the “free exchange of ideas” is valued, discomfort should be expected.
3.) Jordan refers to but does not define student “well-being.” Catholic doctrine has the same goal as Jim Jordan and his pedagogical posse. The Catholic Church understands that God opposes, for example, fornication, feticide, and homoerotic activity, and, therefore, such acts vitiate human flourishing and put at risk eternal life. Affirming that which God condemns undermines student well-being.
4.) Jordan finds vexing the “judgmental context” of a restatement of Catholic doctrine in a handbook for teachers who teach in Catholic schools. Would Jordan feel similarly incensed if Cordileone required teachers to affirm Catholic teaching on consensual adult incest, which is called a “grave offense” that “marks a regression toward animality”? Would Jordan argue that such judgmental language inhibits the free exchange of ideas or undermines student well-being and safety or that it constitutes an attack on teachers’ civil rights?
5.) Being a welcoming community does not require the affirmation of all beliefs, all feelings, and all behavioral acts. Certainly, Jesus did not think so.
Catholic moral teaching does, indeed, make judgments about what constitutes moral behavior—as do Jim Jordan and his fellow petition signatories. The problem is that Jordan and his compatriots base their judgments on something other than the Bible.
Jordan feigns opposition to “judgmental contexts” even as he creates a judgement-dripping petition for his colleagues to sign—one which states that “the recently proposed handbook language is harmful to our community and creates an atmosphere of mistrust and fear.”
Since they’re working in Catholic schools, it would behoove these teachers to know that central to the mission of Catholic education is the forging of distinctly Catholic identities in their students. And the mission of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory’s mission is “to prepare our students to become service-oriented leaders with a commitment to living the Gospel.”
An equally outrageous action has been undertaken by a local governmental body. The bumptious buttinskies of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who seek to impose their moral beliefs on even Catholic schools, unanimously voted for a resolution that dogmatically proclaims Cordileone’s statement “contrary to shared San Francisco values of non-discrimination, women’s rights, inclusion, and equality for all humans.” There may have been a typo in their resolution. I think they meant to say “Sodom”—not San Francisco.
The supervisors object specifically to the parts of Cordileone’s statement that identify homosexuality, extra-marital relations, fornication, contraception, pornography use, masturbation, and assisted reproductive technologies as violations of Catholic doctrine.
The supervisors fret that if teachers in Catholic schools should be expected to “conduct their public lives so as to not visibly contradict, undermine or deny these truths,” their personal lives would be impacted. Heaven forbid that Catholic teachers should be expected to refrain from engaging in behavior that God abhors.
Further, the supervisors in all their glorious humility proclaim that “San Francisco is known around the world as a place of inclusion, tolerance, and acceptance of individuals and their life choices, regardless of their…religion.” [emphasis added]
Anticipating that the irony in such a claim might be noticed, the supervisors in all their glorious humility sought to define all religion for all the world: “All religion is rooted in the idea that God is love, which is in parallel to our shared San Francisco values of inclusion.”
I’m not sure how these supervisors arrived at the conclusion that God’s nature “is in parallel to” San Francisco values, but they certainly didn’t arrive at it via the Bible. One of God’s attributes is love, but it’s not the kind of love that involves gentle people wearing flowers in their hair at a San Francisco love-in.
God’s attributes are inseparable. God’s love is inseparable from his holiness, his justice, his immutability, his sovereignty, his wisdom, and his goodness. In 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter,” we learn, among other things, that love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.”
And how do we foolish, fallen humans know what is true? God tells us in his Word what is true. God has told us that homoerotic activity, fornication, adultery, looking at others with lust (i.e., porn use), and murder (e.g., abortion) are wrong.
The supervisors may be correct in one regard. The Catholic beliefs to which Cordileone’s proposed changes allude likely do not comport with “San Francisco values” regarding abortion, homoerotic activity, porn use, and marriage. And apparently San Francisco values don’t comport with San Francisco values regarding non-discrimination, because a lot of San Franciscans endorse discrimination based on religion if the religion in question is Catholicism (or orthodox Christianity).
Here’s another radical proposal: Those who hate Catholic doctrine should seek employment at non-Catholic institutions.
Folks, the Left means it when they say the free exercise of religion extends only to “hearts, homes, and pews.” They want desperately want religion out of even religious schools. Translation: in this brave new world, the exercise of religion is not free at all.
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