Q. What led you to make changes in the annual teacher's contract?
A: This is not the case. We have absolutely no interest in monitoring or prosecuting personal private lives. We have no "lists" of prohibited behavior. There is no categorizing of individuals or groups. I have heard it said that we are targeting teachers who might be gay. This is manifestly untrue. The Catholic Church treats all people, regardless of sexual orientation, as children of God. Sexual orientation does not lessen the dignity, worth or rights of any person. Pope Francis said, "Who am I to judge?" I say the same. But we do teach, model and uphold the values and commandments of Christ and his Church. So does Pope Francis. This is the Church's mission. This is the mission of a Catholic school. By signing a contract to teach in one of our Catholic schools, a teacher is voluntarily joining us in our mission.
Q: Other dioceses seem to be addressing a similar issue much more proscriptively.
A: The Diocese of Oakland is not. I trust the intelligence of our teachers and administrators that they understand that conduct outside the classroom, in rare instances, can possibly negatively affect their integrity as a role model inside the classroom. If it is true of sports stars and team owners, it is true of a Catholic school teacher.
Q: I understand that almost 20 percent of your teachers are non-Catholic. What is their role?
A: Some of our best teachers are non-Catholic. They have the same role as Catholic teachers, nothing more, nothing less: To teach and model the values and ethical standards of Christ and the Catholic Church. Many non-Catholic parents send their children to Catholic schools, often at great sacrifice. These parents value the moral and ethical education, as well as the academic excellence and rigor that their children receive. Education is something the Catholic Church does very well. We have done so for many years. This is something we gladly share with all who enroll in our schools — regardless of their religion.
Q: How will the terms of the contract be enforced?
A: The same way they always are: within the management relationship between the school administration and the teachers. And as always, any serious personnel issues related to our schools and our teacher contracts should be referred for guidance to the diocese and our human resources director.
Q: Would you summarize your thoughts for us?
A: I welcome that opportunity: The small change that I have made in our diocesan school contracts has created a good deal of discussion and some real pain. I apologize if the wording that was used in making this change was misinterpreted. To be ultimately clear, I am not beginning a witch-hunt of any kind. My desire is simply to make explicit in the contract the importance of being a public witness to the values and practices that are an integral part of the Catholic faith. I am not interested in examining a teacher's private life. But the public manifestation of a practice or a belief contrary to Catholic morals or beliefs, e.g. through Facebook, Twitter, etc. has consequences on a teacher's ability to fulfill their ministry as a role model in a Catholic school. As always, any serious personnel issues related to our schools and our teacher contracts should be referred to the diocese and our human resources director.
To return us to the spiritual, another thought from Pope Francis to guide us: "…each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are. All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives." — Evangelii Gaudium 121
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