Cleveland diocese expands morals clause to high school teachers: bans sterilization, cohabitation, gay ‘marriage’

'The example set by teachers and administrators ... is considered by the Church to be even more important than what they say,' says the bishop.
Fri Apr 10, 2015 - 3:03 pm EST
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Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon

CLEVELAND, OH, April 10, 2015 ( -- The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has added a morality clause reinforcing Church principles for teachers at its five high schools. The updated language is the same as what was added to teacher contracts in the diocese’s elementary schools last year, and covers Catholic teaching on heated issues such as abortion, transgenderism, and homosexual “marriage.”

“Actions and speech that are contrary to Catholic teaching shall be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination,” the contract language states, according to

Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon told faculty at the schools in a letter the effectiveness of a Catholic school does not depend only on the quality of religious curriculum, rather, a Catholic school succeeds in its mission only if every aspect of the school is inspired and guided by the Gospel.

“The Church has long recognized the uniquely important and true ministry of teachers and administrators in fulfilling this mission,” he said.

“Furthermore, the example set by teachers and administrators through their actions and their lives is considered by the Church to be even more important than what they say.”

In addition to participation in or public support for abortion, transgender issues, and homosexual “marriage,” the contract also specifies that euthanasia, surrogate parenthood, direct sterilization, sexual relations outside of marriage, and cohabiting outside of wedlock are prohibited.

Membership in anti-Catholic organizations is also forbidden, as is indecent or lewd behavior, such as illicit drug use or pornography consumption. The contract requires faculty to refrain from using electronics and social media to transmit lewd or indecent messages, and also from behavior or attitudes which could tempt others to commit acts considered by the Church to be evil or immoral.

Bishop Lennon defined as well for teachers and administrators why their role is as a minister and role model of the faith, saying, “The Roman Catholic Church views the primary purpose of a Catholic school as a means of building up the Kingdom of God through the holistic and authentically Catholic formation of each student and that such development can only truly be fostered in a wholly Catholic environment.”

Referring to faculty as ministers means the diocese has more authority over behavior than secular employers, which don’t have the federally recognized religious exemption in hiring according to their mission.

The president of the teachers’ union said there was debate over the language among the union’s executive committee, but that explanations from the diocese, and the fact it was the same language as was added last year were enough to address concerns.

"We always knew that we were expected to demonstrate the values of the Catholic teachings," Mike Desantis said. "[Now] they're basically defining what was in the old contract."

Bishop Lennon said last year the updated language was necessary because of the increase in wrongful termination lawsuits in Ohio and elsewhere by teachers who publicly rejected Church teaching and were subsequently fired. No new restrictions were added with the new language, the diocese simply felt compelled to clarify expectations given the growing dissent among laypeople on issues like homosexual “marriage.”

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“The Catholic Morals clause has long been a feature in our contracts with teachers and administrators,” the bishop said last year.  “However, the current secular culture presents a view of life and humanity that is increasingly at odds with our Catholic faith and as a result, there is often confusion about what it means to live an authentically Catholic Life.”

A specific concern expressed with last year’s addition of the morality clause to elementary school contracts was defining public support for homosexual “marriage” in the example of being invited to the ceremony of a homosexual relative.

"You are able to give support to family members," the diocese said at the time. "If you have a child or sibling that has decided to live the gay lifestyle you can still be supportive of that individual, but you cannot come out and be supportive of that lifestyle in public."

While the announcement of stronger Catholic guidelines for diocesan schools did not draw opposition in Cleveland, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s decision to establish reinforced standards earlier last year was met with protests, petitions and a PR campaign in opposition. The archdiocese changed wording in its morality clause last month to further clarify public behavior expectations for faculty.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has been the subject of ongoing concerted attacks since announcing in February that high schools in the archdiocese would have more concrete language from the Catholic Church’s catechism in faculty contracts and staff handbooks. 

  catholic, morality clause, richard lennon

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