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SAN FRANCISCO, CA, April 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Hundreds of protesters marched in San Francisco Monday night in opposition to their archbishop’s efforts to preserve Catholic principles in archdiocesan high schools.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has been under attack since his February move to ensure faculty and staff help maintain the schools’ Catholic identity, part of which entails them not publicly violating Church teaching.
The same protest group behind Monday’s demonstration also held a March 16 forum in opposition to the archbishop’s defense of Catholic principles at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit institution, featuring several speakers who publicly dispute Church teaching.
Many Catholics in the March 30 group of San Francisco marchers claim their opposition to the archbishop’s plans squares with Catholic teaching, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The expectation for Catholic teachers and staff to uphold and not publicly violate Church teaching has been long-established. The proposed additions, announced February 3, were simply an effort to clear up any ambiguity.
Archbishop Cordileone stated explicitly then and since that more clarity was needed on Church teaching in today’s climate. The issues driving the pushback against the archbishop center on homosexual “marriage,” abortion, contraceptives, and artificial insemination.
Some of the protesters said the archbishop’s plans go against the spirit and teaching of Jesus.
“At the core of the religion is love, acceptance, respect and dignity,” said one senior student. “Whatever the archbishop is doing is completely contrary to that.”
“I can be a Catholic and a follower of Jesus without accepting what the hierarchy says, but accepting what I think Jesus would have said,” one female Catholic parishioner who entered into a homosexual “marriage” this month told the Chronicle.
The protest consisted of a group calling itself Parents and Teachers: Teach Acceptance. One of its organizers is a retired Catholic school teacher who was among the March 16 forum speakers, and the leader is a teacher from the archdiocese’s cathedral school.
“Who am I to judge?” was among the slogans on the signs donned by protesters, borrowing from popular misapplication of the words of Pope Francis. The messages “Love one another” and “Support our LGBT youth” were also displayed, along with a lattice work cross decorated with flowers.
Jesuit Father Donal Godfrey, campus minister at the University of San Francisco, also employed Pope Francis’ words as he took part in the protest.
“In San Francisco, if you’re going to smell like sheep, you’re going to welcome and accept the LGBT community,” he said.
The protesters left a petition at the Cathedral of St. Mary, with signatures opposing the archbishop’s proposals.
The archbishop has been clear since the February 3 announcement there is no requirement for teachers in the archdiocese to be Catholic, and also on the fact that no one will be targeted by the clarification on Church morals.
“We’re not on a witch hunt,” Archbishop Cordileone told the New York Times weeks after the controversy ensued. “We’re not looking to terminate teachers.”
He clarified again for the Times that he was introducing the new language because “young people are under intense pressure today to conform to certain standards that are contrary to what we believe,” and he had focused on “hot-button issues” to clear up “the confusion.”
On February 17 a group of Democrat state-level politicians wrote a letter to Archbishop Cordileone pressuring him to retract his plans.
The lawmakers told the archbishop his actions conflict with settled law, foment a discriminatory environment, violate employees’ civil rights, send an alarming message of intolerance to youth, infringe upon personal freedoms, and strike a divisive tone.
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Archbishop Cordileone responded judiciously two days later inviting the legislators to the archdiocesan website for more information on the matter, and asking them to respect the archdiocese’s right to employ who it feels best to advance the Church’s mission.
The attack on Archbishop Cordileone was ramped up in early March when unnamed critics hired a high-profile public relations pundit, known for pervasive, high-pressure PR campaigns
In early March the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution claiming Archbishop Cordileone's work to preserve the Church’s moral principles were “contrary to shared San Francisco values of non-discrimination, women’s rights, inclusion, and equality for all humans,” and warned of possible legal action.
That same week a majority of the teachers in the four high schools overseen by the archdiocese sent Archbishop Cordileone a petition accusing him of fostering mistrust and fear.
The archbishop addressed archdiocesan teachers February 6 just after the proposed additions to contract language and handbooks were announced, explaining that the purpose of Catholic schools is to evangelize and sanctify.
“In the end,” Archbishop Cordileone said, “our Catholic schools exist to help young people attain holiness in their lives, that is, to become saints.”