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Bishop Michael Barber of the Oakland Diocese recently sent a letter to teachers at Catholic schools focusing on the responsibility towards students through their “moral and spiritual example.”  His comments follow some criticism of the diocese’s revised teachers contract, which was announced earlier this year and calls “attention to the reality that teachers are role models for students.”

Bishop Barber’s letter dated June 27 “put in writing the words he had used” at meetings with teachers from two Catholic high schools, according to The Catholic Voice.

Citing Bishop Barber’s letter, The Catholic Voice reported:

“Why am I concerned about this? Because 'scandal has the potential to malform the conscience and character of young people.' As Pope Francis says: 'The moral formation of students transpires more through the example set by teachers and administrators than by the students' abstract knowledge of the moral doctrines of the church.' As he also says in 'The Joy of the Gospel,' 'We need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher's way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness.'”

The bishop reiterated the importance of the role of teachers. “Our schools exist for the moral, spiritual and academic formation of our students,” he wrote. “We exist to teach Catholic moral and spiritual values. Together with parents, you are the primary educators of our students through your moral and spiritual example. That is what makes a Catholic school different from the public or charter school down the street. That is why we hired you. That is why I consider you not just teachers, but my esteemed colleagues in the Church's ministry of education.”

The conversation on “Catholic Identity and Mission” and “The role and responsibility of a Catholic educator” will continue this year, the bishop said.

The majority of the diocese’s 1,400 elementary and secondary teachers have signed the new contract, with the exception of “several” who refused, according to The National Catholic Reporter.

Over the past two years, a number of Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have announced updated contracts for teachers in order to better reflect expectations in light of the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.  In addition to the Diocese of Oakland, other dioceses to announce such changes include CincinnatiHonolulu, and Santa Rosa.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

Reprinted with permission from the Cardinal Newman Society.