By Bill Berkowitz | 11 February 2015
During the one and only debate between Republican candidate Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter in the presidential campaign of 1980, Carter went off on Reagan about his record on Medicare. With one superbly delivered line – “There you go again” – Reagan disarmed and deflated Carter, and pretty much won the debate; all the while forever etching a phrase into the political lexicon.
Instead of Reagan’s “There you go again,” one couldn’t help but think “There they go again,” while reading reports that the conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, is demanding that his archdiocese’s Catholic High School teachers adhere to Catholic doctrine in their professional and private lives. Across the Bay, Bishop Michael Barber, who plowed similar ground last year — to great consternation amongst faculty, staff and parents — issued a new contract with a little bit of kinder, gentler language.
Cordileone’s twenty-first century culture war crusade comes in the form of the archdiocese’s new handbook — aimed at faculty and staff at four Catholic high schools: Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra High School in San Mateo – which, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Heather Knight reported, declares that “sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, the viewing of pornography and masturbation are ‘gravely evil.'”
“The document,” Knight pointed out, “notes that while not all staff at the schools are Catholic, they are ‘required to stand as effective and visible professional participants and proponents of truly Catholic education.’ Those who are not Catholic ‘must refrain’ from participating in organizations that ‘advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the church.'”
While those organizations are specifically listed, you can bet that Planned Parenthood might be close to the top of the list.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jill Tucker, the release of the handbook “created a firestorm of criticism,” as it “contains” a long “section calling for staff members – in their professional and private lives – to honor church teachings.” Tucker reported that the Cordileone’s handbook “specifically cited opposition to abortion, contraception, homosexuality, artificial insemination, cloning and same-sex marriage, not to mention masturbation, fornication, and pornography.”
Cordileone’s handbook is preoccupied with sex. With tongue firmly planted inside cheek, I ask: Does the document call for disciplining faculty and staff who are not supporters of the Catholic Church’s social teachings on economics and support for the poor? What about Pope Francis’ position on Climate Change?
While Cordileone insisted that violation of the principles laid out in the handbook would not necessarily result in the firing of faculty or staff, he did acknowledge that any cases that surfaced would be handled on an individual basis. “Not every potential violation of the [contract] by a teacher’s conduct will result in termination of employment, Cordileone said. “Instead, if such a situation arises, we would address it on a case-by-case basis as appropriate.”
How the archdiocese will find out “if such a situation arises” is not delineated. Will the archdiocese encourage some faculty and staff members to spy on others? Will it monitor/investigate Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, tweets on Twitter? Will someone be taking pictures at pro-choice or pro-same-sex marriage demonstrations?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Bay Bridge, Oakland’s Bishop Michael Barber released details of a new contract for faculty and staff, which, given the kerfuffle over last year’s contract, appears to be kinder and gentler. According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli, “The new contract … is intended to be less harsh than last year’s, which for the first time included a controversial requirement that teachers conform to church doctrine in their ‘personal’ life.”
Last year’s contract stated: “In both the employee’s personal and professional life, the employee is expected to model and promote behavior in conformity with the teaching of the Roman Catholic faith in matters of faith and morals, and to do nothing that tends to bring discredit to the school or to the Diocese of Oakland.”
Now, Barber has declared in a letter to employees that he hopes the new contract “allayed anxiety caused by last year’s contract language and affirmed our shared understanding of the role and responsibility of a Catholic educator.”
With conservative Catholics, San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone has culture war cred. Last year, he was a featured speaker – the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carolyn Lockhead called him “the star attraction” — at the second annual Washington, D.C. , March for Marriage co-sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and The Washington Times, one of the nation’s most conservative daily newspapers.
Upon hearing about the archbishop’s controversial handbook, parents, students and LGBT activists launched a petition urging him to rethink his culture war crusade. Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, a spokesperson for the Human Right Campaign, an organization focused on civil and human rights for the LGBT community said: “The new ‘moral clauses’ … stand in stark relief to the message of inclusion being promoted by Pope Francis. In imposing what amounts to an anti-LGBT purity test, the archbishop is closing the door on dedicated professionals, many of them faithful Catholics, gay and straight, whose moral codes do not embrace discrimination.”
Politically, it appears that archbishop Cordileone is preparing for the long game. At a time when Pope Francis seems determined to grow the Catholic Church by placing less emphasis on culture war issues, Cordileone is determined to steer the Church’s boat in an entirely different direction. And while he’s not running a full-throated inquisition, the archbishop recognizes that the pope is an older man who will not be pope forever. The archbishop appears to be preparing his domain for the re-emergence of another much more conservative pope.
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