Archbishop Cordileone Defends Teacher Morality Clause in Open Letter to Legislators

Archbishop Cordileone Defends Teacher Morality Clause in Open Letter to Legislators February 20, 2015

"Salvatore J. Cordileone" by Ffeeddee - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
By Ffeeddee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, archbishop of San Francisco, has issued a measured, respectful, yet strong response to an open letter from eight California legislators.  The legislators had demanded that the archbishop revoke an archdiocesan policy which requires teachers in Catholic schools to be respectful of Church teachings.

Archbishop Cordileone is known as a lover of the Church, and a staunch defender of Catholic teaching.  In his role as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops‘ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, his mission has been to preserve the definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.  A redefinition of marriage to include homosexual couples, he asserts, would be bad for children, detrimental to society, and dangerous for religious freedom.  He has been outspoken in his opposition to abortion.

The current crisis began when the archbishop issued a new handbook for Catholic schools which reemphasized the expectation that teachers in Catholic schools, whether Catholic or not, must support Catholic teaching and may not engage in, or give public support to, abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception or in vitro fertilization.   

Eight liberal legislators in California objected to the morality clause, claiming that it denied archdiocesan employees their civil rights.  The eight legislators are Phil Ting, Kevin Mullin, Richard Gordon, Mark Leno, David Chiu, Jerry Hill,  Marc Levine and Mike McGuire.  In a public letter to  Archbishop Cordileone, the legislators claimed that archdiocesan employees were being denied their civil rights.  The letter said:

“Among these rights are the freedom to choose who to love and marry, how to plan a family, and what causes or beliefs to support through freedom of speech and association.”

On February 19, Archbishop Cordileone released his response, outlining the reasons why he continues to support the morality clause in teacher contracts at Catholic schools. In the letter, which is available at the Archdiocese of San Francisco website, Archbishop Cordileone said in part:

First of all, I always believe that it is important, before making a judgment on a situation or anyone’s action, that one first obtain as complete and accurate information as possible. To this end, a number of documents and videos giving accurate and more complete information about this contentious issue are available on the website of our Archdiocese. I would encourage you to avail yourselves of these resources, as they will help to clear up a lot of misinformation being circulated about it (such as, for example, the falsehood that the morality clauses apply to the teachers’ private life).

The next thing I would like to mention is actually a question: 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? On the other hand, 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? 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.

Now let’s say that this campaign manager you hired, despite promises to the contrary, starts speaking critically of your party and favorably of your running opponent, and so you decide to fire the person. 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.

My point is: I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission. I simply ask the same respect from you.

Thank you, Archbishop Cordileone, for your clear direction and inspired leadership.  May God continue to bless your work.

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  • jenny

    Excellent points…

  • captcrisis

    The real problem is that his own flock disagrees with him, and everyone knows it.

    • kathyschiffer

      Capt, when I was a kid, we used to complain, “Well everyone else is doing it!” To which my grandmother used to say, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

      Archbishop Cordileone’s job is to preach the gospel fully and with the earnest hope that others will listen and embrace Christ’s will as their own. If some members of the Church don’t follow, at least he will have done as Christ commissioned him. (And don’t say that “his own flock disagrees” as though we all did; that’s objectionable to me and to countless faithful Catholics who seek to follow the clear and constant teaching of the Church.)

      • Han Gong

        You need to do your research on the life and times of Salvatore Cordileone.

      • captcrisis

        It’s not a question of “doing what everyone else is doing”.

        An inexperienced and ill-informed hierarchy cannot instruct an experienced and knowledgeable laity. Support for gay rights is highest among people who actually know other gay people well, as siblings, parents, colleagues. Celibate men cannot tell them any more that homosexuality is “disordered” because their own experience tells them it’s not true. Men who have never raised a family themselves can’t grab onto the latest cooked research showing that gay couples don’t make good parents; the laity increasingly knows through its own experience know that it’s not true.

        The Archbishop is a case in point. He says there are no gay people in his family. This is obviously not true — EVERYONE has some gay people in their family. In his case they just are in the closet, or are afraid to let him know. He may be gay himself, in which case he is suffering his own private storm of guilt (after all, there are no “out” gay bishops, and gay men aren’t even supposed to go into the priesthood).

        One thing I’ve noticed among anti-same sex marriage people is that they isolate themselves from gay people, particularly gay couples. They won’t go to gay weddings or even invite (say) their sister and her female spouse to their children’s birthday parties. To knowledgeable, experience people, such shunning seems like bad family values.

        As for Christ? He said nothing about same sex marriage. It was not an issue in his time, any more than slavery was.

        • Athelstane

          “knowledgeable laity…”

          Whatever they’re knowledgeable about, it’s not Catholic theology.

          Once upon a time a fair number of Catholics declared that they rejected key Church teachings. These people came to be called “Protestants.”

          He said nothing about same sex marriage.

          He gave a quite unambiguous definition of marriage in Matt. 19:5.

          • Korou

            The majority of the laity seem to have a considerably better grasp of basic morality than the hierachy.

      • Korou

        “Countless”? Let me help you.
        There are some 78 million Catholics in America (let’s stick with America, as it is American Catholics who are concerned in this context).
        Recent surveys show that of those 78 million, 60% (almost 47 million) disagree with the Church’s policy on divorce; 76% (almost 60 million) think that abortion should be allowed in at least some cases; 79% (just over 61 million) support the use of contraceptives; and 54% (just over 42 million) support same-sex marriage. While it is quite clear that some Catholics seek to follow the teaching of the Church it is even clearer that they – you – are in the minority.
        Captcrisis is quite right. The laity know better than the hierachy.

        • Athelstane

          As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once observed, “Truth is not determined by a majority vote.” Undoubtedly he had in mind that it was a majority vote that resulted in Christ being crucified.

          • Korou

            The Catholic Church tells its subjects that contraception is an intrinsic evil. The Catholic laity know that this is not true. They can see, feel and experience that the Catholic Church is talking nonsense.
            The Catholic Church preaches that gays should not be allowed to marry. Increasing numbers of Catholics know that this is not true. They know more about the facts of homosexuality and homosexuals, and they know that they are being lied to.
            The Catholic Church tells its people “We are right and you should listen to us.” The more that people realise that the first half of this sentence is wrong – as they are – the more that they will come to recognise the second half as being wrong too.
            You can keep arguing about this, but people are not listening to you.

  • Pax Vobis

    Heb 13:17 Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of yoursouls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you.

  • a son of God and friend

    Do gays expect God to approve of their sins of gay self idolatry against his will, laws and holiness? Their lies separate them from God. There is no sex in hell. God made his art statement about gay sins at Sodom and Gomorrah. When gays lusted for the angels who appeared with Lot they became blind unable to see the fire coming. Gays are anti-freedom because they expect everyone to accept them whether they like it or not. Like forcing Obama to become republican.

  • erin

    Awesome. Love this archbishop.

  • The Eh’theist

    Two things are getting muddied in this discussion. (1) Whether or not the Catholic Church should have some discretion in employing people who have a different opinion/undertake actions contrary to the teaching of the church, and (2) whether it is appropriate to use the “ministerial exemption” to achieve this discretion.

    While I think there should be some discretion for the employer, much like the archbishop argues in his example, that doesn’t automatically justify the use of the exemption as the means to do this. That’s the argument that the politicians are making.

    There’s an element of doublespeak in the use of the exemption, with even the story in the Register ( ) using quotes around the term “minister” throughout the piece, showing that they don’t really believe the staff to be ministers, but are supporting the misuse of the exemption because it accomplishes their ends.

    The exemption was originally created to recognize that individuals employed in one sense by a church, often fulfilled other roles with the organizations, such as a principal of a school that also preached during chapel, or a teacher who also did spiritual counselling. Recognizing the legitimate ministerial aspect of these situations, the courts created the exemption to ensure that the church had flexibility in those situations.

    By waving a wand and declaring anyone and everyone “ministers” in an attempt to circumvent employment law, Catholic (arch)dioceses are putting that exemption at risk and creating a situation wherein a higher court might have to remove the exemption on account of abuse.

    It’s an action that Catholics in the social justice tradition would decry if it were being done by the management of a private company to circumvent union protections, and it is contrary to Catholic ideals. The archbishop and others should be looking at other means to develop their employer-employee relationships to respect the faith in an appropriate fashion rather than tarnishing the legal protections the courts have assigned to the term minister.