Controversy regarding Catholic school morality clause

Caleigh Stephens

The San Francisco Archdiocese announced the addition of a morality clause to next year’s teacher handbook early this February that includes the expectation that teachers in Catholic schools live their lives according to Catholic values.

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The addition to the handbook affects four high schools in the Marin and San Francisco area: Marin Catholic, Junipero Serra, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep and Archbishop Riordan High School.

According to a letter sent out by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Feb. 4, the section mainly applies to issues such as religious discipline and sexual morals.

The new part of the handbook calls for teachers to “conform their hearts, minds and consciences, as well as their public and private behavior, ever more closely to the truths taught by the Catholic Church.”

Opposition to homosexuality, abortion, and contraception is a prominent topic of the handbook, which cites all three as against moral law.

The new section also asks teachers to “accept the Church’s teaching that all extra-marital sexual relationships are gravely evil and that these include adultery, masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations.”

A petition protesting the addition to the handbook has been placed on the religious social justice website Groundswell and has 6,380 signatures out of the needed 7,000, as of Feb. 24.

“I don’t know why teachers are told they should have the Catholic viewpoint when it doesn’t have relevance to the topic that they’re teaching,” said Elise Minami, a sophomore at Marin Catholic. “For example, the math department, they aren’t supposed to be going in depth on morals, because that’s not their job.”

Redwood junior Sofia Cassidy, who attended local Catholic school St. Anselm from kindergarten to eighth grade, said that teachers should respectful of differing views and lead students to their own opinions, even if they differ from Catholic ones.

“What [teachers] can do now is teach the history of Catholicism and teach each student to take their own interpretation of what Christ would want,” Cassidy said.

However, she also noted that Catholic school teachers have a responsibility to teach Catholic values as teachers at a religious school.

“Catholic school teachers are teaching their students to be followers of Christ and being good role models for their students.” said Cassidy.

According to the archbishop, a push toward non-Catholic morals in society has created the need for this section in his letter to teachers.

“This reality [a lack of Catholic beliefs] stems in great part from the tremendous pressure that the contemporary culture places on everyone to conform to a certain agenda at variance with, and often aggressively so, our Christian understanding of the human person and God’s purpose in creation,” wrote Cordileone in his letter to teachers.