Cincinnati archdiocese alters the wording of morality clause for Catholic school teachers

“We want to set up conditions under which we have good teachers that are good moral examples for our children," an archdiocesan spokesman said.
Fri Mar 13, 2015 - 6:37 pm EST
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CINCINNATI, March 13, 2015 ( – The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has altered the morality clause of contracts that Catholic school teachers must sign, no longer barring teachers from “publicly support[ing]” behaviors that violate Church teaching – like abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage” – but forbidding “advocacy” of such positions.

The archdiocese accepted the new clause in its contracts for teachers after much public controversy.

Now, after several months of questions from teachers confused about what constitutes “public support” for immoral behavior, the archdiocese has changed the wording of the contentious provision, swapping out the words “public support” for “advocacy” in an attempt to be clearer.

Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the archdiocese, told LifeSiteNews that despite the change in wording, the rules of the contract remain the same. “We’re not in any way backing down from anything in the wording," he said. “The new wording is just a clarification.”

Andriacco said the archdiocese had seen a great deal of “misrepresentation by opponents of the contract, who claim that it wasn’t clear what we’re talking about when we say ‘public support.’”

“We think [the word] ‘advocacy’ makes it clearer that we’re talking about publicly and actively promoting behavior in contradiction to Catholic moral teaching,” he said.

But the definition of public and private advocacy has become a sticking point for some faithful Catholics.

“On the face of it, swapping out the words 'publicly support' with 'advocacy,' doesn't really change anything," said Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute. "Of greater concern is that the archdiocese's explanation...allows individuals who reject Catholic moral teaching to maintain teaching positions in Catholic schools.”

Hichborn was referring to comments Andriacco made to the Cincinnati Enquirer, in which he said that the archdiocese draws a line between private behavior and public campaigning.

“'If I go to my gay child's wedding, is that 'public support?'” he asked rhetorically. “Well, the answer is no," Andriacco told the newspaper.

When asked by LifeSiteNews to elaborate, Andriacco said the archdiocese would see attending a same-sex “wedding” as “support for the child, not necessarily support for the activity.”

Asked if a teacher could serve as the best man or maid of honor at a same-sex “wedding,” Andriacco replied, “I’m not going to answer any hypotheticals, you know? There are just too many variables to say. [But going] to a wedding, we see as essentially a private behavior.”

Andriacco also told the Enquirer that, while writing a public blog post in support of same-sex “marriage” would be considered advocacy, writing a personal letter to an elected official probably would not.

“Now, this hasn’t happened yet,” he told LifeSiteNews. “But our expectation is that that would be considered a private behavior.”

When asked how a letter advocating changing a public law could be private, Andriacco replied, “Well, what if you were writing that in a letter just to a relative?”

He admitted that, if an elected official read that letter in front of a press conference, “then we would have a problem.”

“Look, we could write all sorts of scenarios where people would be subject to discipline if we knew what they were doing,” Andriacco said. “But until we know what they’re doing, they’re not subject to discipline.”

“If a teacher is committing adultery with another teacher of the same or a different sex, it doesn’t become a problem until we know about it,” Andriacco told LifeSiteNews.

“I’m not saying it’s fine if we don’t know about it,” Andriacco clarified. “I’m just saying, if we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything about it – and frankly, it doesn’t rise to the level of scandal if we don’t know about it.” While “it’s still wrong” even if a sin is performed in private, “it only becomes scandalous when it’s public. Besides which, we don’t know about it unless it’s public.”

“I’m sure that, being fallible human beings, in every school we have teachers who, like all of us, go to Confession because they violate God’s moral law in lots of ways every day,” he said. “Our hope is that they wouldn’t, but we know as fallible human beings that they do.”

Andriacco said that the question of whether teachers are causing scandal with his or her actions is particularly important, because they are being set before children as role models of the faith.

“When you’re teaching children and [they] become aware that you’re engaging in this sort of behavior, it’s a source of scandal,” he said.

But Hichborn said the real concern is not whether Catholic teachers sin either publicly or privately, but whether they hold views that are antithetical to the teachings of the Church.

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“There's a great difference between allowing a Catholic sinner to teach children and permitting someone philosophically attached to grave moral evils to teach," Hichborn said. "Haven't chancery offices learned this lesson from the pederasty scandal of the last 15 years?"

According to Andriacco, one major problem the archdiocese has run into in enforcing its morality clause is that some teachers, especially non-Catholic ones, are poorly informed about the church's teachings.

For instance, one woman was fired after the archdiocese learned that she had undergone artificial insemination in order to become pregnant – a grave sin, according to the Roman Catholic Church.

“She claimed that she didn’t know that was against the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Andriacco said.

With that in mind, the archdiocese “has started a program to make sure that our teachers are better catechized, better informed about what the teachings of the Catholic Church are,” Andriacco said. “We don’t want to just throw them out there and say, ‘You have to follow the teachings of the Church,’ without being clear that they know what those are.”

Andriacco told LifeSiteNews that the archdiocese has contracted with an outside vendor to create the catechetical training program, which will be mandatory for teachers and is likely to begin next year.

But Hichborn said he worries such a program will ultimately be ineffective, because it still allows for teachers who disagree with the teachings of the faith to stay in Catholic classrooms, just as long as they keep their dissent off the radar.

“The problem with a training program is that it applies a topical ointment to a much deeper and serious wound,” Hichborn said. “If hearts and minds are not being brought into conformity with Catholic teaching, then you still wind up with the problem is philosophical dissenters instructing children in matters which they may disbelieve."

“The simple solution is to exclusively hire Catholics who follow the teachings of the church," Hichborn said. "While a catechetical training program is a good start, perhaps the next step should be for teachers in Catholic schools to take the Oath of Fidelity, instituted by Pope St. John Paul II in 1989.”

In the meantime, Andriacco said Archbishop Dennis Schnurr sees the newly revised teacher contract itself as an important catechetical tool, as it spurs deep questions and discussion between teachers and Church officials.

When the contract was first updated with the current language last year, prompting outrage and petitions from homosexual activist groups, “the archbishop felt that all of this has a very good catechetical purpose,” Andriacco said.

“The point of the contract is in part to catechize,” he said. “This should be a very strong reminder to them of what the church’s teaching is.”

“Our goal here is not to set up conditions under which we can discipline people up to firing them,” Andriacco said. “We want to set up conditions under which we have good teachers that are good moral examples for our children.” 

  archdiocese of cincinnati, catholic schools