CLEVELAND, OH, May 13, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has updated its morality clause for teachers at all diocesan elementary schools, requiring them to obey and promote Catholic teaching on controversial social issues such as abortion, contraception, IVF, and same-sex “marriage.”
The document forbids teachers from displaying “public support of positions contrary to Roman Catholic teaching (including, but not limited to, publicly supporting abortions, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, surrogate parenthood, direct sterilization or so-called homosexual or same-sex marriage or unions).”
It also bars teachers from engaging in extramarital sex, homosexual activity, cohabitation outside of marriage, drug use, use of pornography, and sending “improper, immoral or scandalous” texts or emails.
In a letter to pastors explaining the changes, Bishop Richard Lennon said the updated language was necessary because of a growing number of wrongful termination lawsuits in Ohio and elsewhere by teachers who publicly spurned Church teaching and were fired. He said that the language did not add any restrictions that weren’t already implied by the previous contract, but the diocese felt the need to clarify its expectations in light of growing dissent among laypeople on issues like same-sex “marriage.”
“The Catholic Morals clause has long been a feature in our contracts with teachers and administrators,” Bishop Lennon wrote. “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.”
“Circumstances, including several lawsuits, in our state and throughout the country indicate that there is a very real need to better communicate with our teachers and administrators about the ministerial nature of their work and about the specific expectations that come with being a part of such an important ministry,” the bishop added.
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The updated contracts apply to teachers at diocesan grade schools only. Teachers at the diocese’s five public high schools are unionized under the National Association of Catholic School Teachers, which means any changes to their contracts will have to be negotiated through the union.
Rita Schwartz, head of the national union, told Cleveland.com she hadn’t yet reviewed the Cleveland contract, but dismissed similar contracts offered by other dioceses recently as “six pages of thou shalt not” and a “witch hunt.”
Local union head Michael DeSantis told Cleveland.com that he was concerned the ban on public support of same-sex “marriage” could lead to teachers being fired for attending the gay “weddings” of friends or family. He also said he was worried that the wording of the contract, which refers to teachers as “teacher-ministers,” could prevent them from unionizing in the future, as ministers cannot form unions.
Both Schwartz and DeSantis said that if local teachers disagree with the wording of the new contract and want to fight it, the union will stand behind them.
Diocesan spokesman Robert Tayek told WKSU that teachers who refuse to sign the newly-worded contracts will not be allowed to return to their jobs next year. However, he said he believed the vast majority of teachers would sign the contracts willingly.
Cleveland’s decision to update its morality clause came on the heels of a similar decision by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which announced its own stricter guidelines earlier this year.
While Cincinnati’s tightening of the rules was met with protests, petitions and a publicity campaign by activists opposing the change, Archdiocesan Schools Superintendent Jim Rigg told the Associated Press that about two-thirds of teachers have already signed and returned the new contracts. Only a few of those who remain say they intend to refuse.