In Winter 2014, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, under the leadership of Archbishop Cordileone, unveiled new morality clauses to its faculty handbook. The changes condemn abortion, contraception, homosexuality, artificial insemination, and same- sex marriage. It goes on to call embryonic stem-cell research “a crime.”
The local Catholic high schools affected by the changes in the faculty handbook are Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, Archbishop Riordan High School, Marin Catholic High School, and Junipero Serra High School.
The clauses have emphasized the disconnect between Archbishop Cordileone and the spirit and policies with which Pope Francis is guiding the Catholic Church. The San Francisco Chronicle quotes Rev. James Bretzke, professor of moral theology at Boston College, saying that the Archbishop Cordileone “does not have his finger up to the ecclesial wind. He has not changed direction. This is not the style of Pope Francis, this is not the language of Pope Francis, and it is not the priority of Pope Francis.”
The restrictive clauses went into effect this 2015-2016 school year.
“A Community Outrage”
A Sacred Heart teacher, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, described the community reaction to the new explicit restrictions in the faculty handbook, “The parents were outraged and supported us, the students were outraged, it was really a community outrage.”
Online reactions to the decision have been passionate but varied. The website http://www. teachacceptance.org/, started by students and parents opposed to the changes in the handbook, attacks Archbishop Cordileone’s policies.
“We cannot in good conscience support language that sows fear, and creates division and discrimination,” reads the website. “We cannot in good conscience accept language which is harmful to our children and their teachers, and threatens our school community.”
The popular hashtag #teachacceptance has gained public notice, and articles surrounding the topic have run in The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and on Fox News.
“#teachacceptance is essentially a movement to peacefully protest the recent occurrences instigated by Archbishop Cordileone,” explains a student who attends one of the high schools affected and chose to remain anonymous. “We, as a community, wanted to ensure that students and faculty alike felt like they were in a safe environment. We were fighting for our equality.”
A petition calling on the archbishop to stop his efforts to implement the “outdated and discriminatory” morality clauses, as of October 6th, has over 7,000 signatures.
One website, Catholicvote. org administered a separate petition to support the archdiocese. The website states, “Given the hostility to the teachings of the Church and growing attempts to coerce our institutions, your decision is perfectly reasonable.” In bold typeface it continues, “We want you to know that we are praying for you and support you 100%.” The petition, as of October 6th, has over 40,000 signatures.
In April of 2015, a full-page ad was printed in The San Francisco Chronicle imploring Pope Francis to replace Archbishop Cordileone. The ad accused Cordileone of fostering “an atmosphere of division and intolerance,” and argued that the proposed language for the faculty handbook is “closer to persecution than evangelization.” The advertisement was signed by many prominent figures in the Catholic community, including Brian Cahill, retired executive director of Catholic Charities CYO, Lou Giraudo, the former city commissioner, Charles Geschke, the chairman of Adobe and former head of the University of San Francisco board of trustees, Catholic School Board Members and Tom Brady’s father.
A statement was issued hastily by the archdiocese discrediting the advertisement.
“[The signers] presume to speak for the Catholic community of San Francisco. They do not.”
Many members of the local school communities have reacted negatively as well. A sophomore from Sacred Heart (SH) spoke out in an interview with The Paper Tiger. “SH is meant to be a family, and family includes everything,” they said. “That means everyone is respected for who they are or what choices they make; if we pray, you don’t have to be praying to our God. You can be in our religion class without following our religion. So when Cordileone forced the teachers to sign the contract, it’s like he was forcing his beliefs and his religion on us, which is contrary to what we believe in. I’ve been thinking: what happened to the big, open- minded family that we support?”
This student is not the only one thinking the family-like bond has been broken because of the changes in the handbook. When another student was asked why they chose to attend Sacred Heart, she responded, “Sacred Heart has always been very accepting; I could feel that when I shadowed here. It’s been very loving and warm, and that’s why I came. It’s been fun and it feels like family, but these new clauses are not what we are about.”
While the majority of the community is unhappy with the doctrine, they currently do not see a lot of change. A former parent described the community as “holding [its] breath.”
The archbishop issued a statement soon after the morality clauses were released. He wrote “I honestly did not foresee the reaction that ensued,” in a letter to teachers on May 29, 2015.
No Employment Rights
After several changes to the Archbishop’s original words, teachers voted on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 to ratify the three-year contract that set the morality clauses in motion this September. The vote was sharply divided and the contract barely won with 90 votes for and 80 opposing the changes. The clauses themselves threaten the jobs of many faculty members, specifically those who identify as or support members of the LGBTQ+ community. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone stated that Catholic school faculty should never “contradict, undermine, or deny” the teachings of the church, prompting some teachers to leave these schools. “Most teachers were really upset with the doctrine, that just because you are gay or because you choose to use birth control and so forth, that you could be fired because of those decisions in your personal life,” a teacher said.
“There were two components; the doctrine of what you affirm and believe, all these very Catholic ideologies, and then there was the other component that was more legal, and that was us becoming ministers… by becoming ministers it meant that we had no employment rights,” explained a Sacred Heart teacher. Without being recognized as teachers, they would receive no employement protections or rights under California and Federal Law.
The word “ministers” has since been altered, ensuring the teachers’ employment rights, for now.
Still, the community is strong. “This is all amazing,” a Sacred Heart student said in an interview with the Paper Tiger. “This all shows that our students are unified on this topic and we want to support the teachers who are heavily affected.”