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Advise and dissent: Teachers' contracts
Right to identity
The objections to the diocese's moral clause for Catholic school teachers, as presented in the Contra Costa Times, are nonsense.
Every institution, organization and government has a right to its own identity.
There are objective truths to support Catholic positions, unlike the confused and inconsistent positions of those who criticize the Church.
Democrats, UC-Berkeley, Gov. Brown, the Oakland Police Department, the military, Jews, Muslims and the Oakland A's need not place in leadership positions those who disagree with their mission. For anyone to claim that they must — in order to "celebrate diversity" — is at best confused. Rather, this is the antithesis of democracy, and by its very nature destroys true diversity.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and those who support her hold a bigoted double-standard: one standard for Catholics and none for everyone else.
Perhaps Skinner should actually read what Pope Francis himself says, instead of reading what his opponents wished he had said.
Ronald G. Connolly
Keep the faith
As both an O'Dowd graduate and a Catholic, I would like to voice my support for Bishop Barber. It is extremely difficult in this very secular world to keep the faith but keep it we must. Granted, that does not always make one very popular, particularly to the very vocal minority.
It is the duty and role of our Catholic schools to not only educate our youth but assist parents by also teaching and, whenever possible, setting an example of Catholic life. When I attended O'Dowd it was a Catholic high school first and foremost and a college prep school secondarily ... the vast majority of students were indeed Catholic (I want to say 90 percent?) and our faith was an integral part of our days and weeks. When my daughter attended O'Dowd 10 years ago, I was disappointed to realize that the emphasis had indeed been reversed.
I was heartened when I read about Bishop Barber's stand concerning teachers in Catholic education in our diocese. From O'Dowd's recent email blast, however, it would appear that he may be considering some "adjustments," but I am hoping not too much as teachers in Catholic schools absolutely must reflect and dare I say, even promote, the moral codes of our Church.
If those teachings are in conflict with their own personal beliefs, they are free to teach elsewhere ... in the same way that each church in this country (whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic) is free to require adherence to its principles as a condition of employment.
I strongly agree our Catholic education system should effectively promulgate a Catholic identity and reflect Catholic values. But the front page articles about teacher qualifications (Voice, May 19) were surprising, even shocking, in their implications. Having all teachers adhere to the church doctrine explicitly requires adherence to the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: creed, sacraments morality and prayer. Creed means that only people who belong to a trinitarian Christianity are eligible; Sacramentality further limits the choice. Morality requires adherence to Catholic social teaching and Catholic conscience formation. Prayer is the least limiting. Where are these people?
Implementation requires a significant revolution in our Catholic schools. If this uniformity of teacher religious qualification is really the desire of the California episcopate, it will take a long time and a significant investment. As a former member of a Catholic high school board of regents, I have some insight into the effort it would take to re-strategize each school, develop curricula and acquire the qualified teachers. The smaller pool of qualified educators would alone create chaos. And we would sacrifice diversity for uniformity. This seems like a strange direction for promulgating Catholic identity within Catholic education in the 21st century.
It is gratifying to read in your question-and-answer article that Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, clearly outlined the purposes of the changes he made in the teachers' contract. There was much angst generated over perceived threats to privacy in one's personal life based on an unfortunate interpretation of the contract's new provisions.
Now as a matter of record and clarification, our bishop has explicitly stated that the Diocese of Oakland is not interested in monitoring or prosecuting matters involving our teachers' personal private lives.
However the public witness to values that are contrary to the teaching of the Church is subject to scrutiny and adverse action. In other words what goes outside the classroom or school is off limits except for those actions or statements in the public square that are inconsistent with Catholic morals or beliefs.
In the future I recommend that our bishop involve those affected by changes before implementation. Such collaboration will greatly reduce the risk of misunderstanding and adverse publicity.
Gregory W. Govan
Why the controversy?
I pray our bishop will take one personal story into consideration as a way of understanding why the teachers' contract has become so controversial. At great risk, I am admitting in public that almost 20 years ago, I lied in order to become a U.S. citizen. Against all moral conviction, I promised that if needed, I would pick up a gun to defend my new country.
A week ago, not knowing of the teachers' contract controversy, I shared a different story with someone at the chancery and I was shocked to learn that, in this person's opinion, I am not living within a "sacramental marriage." Yes, it is true, I studied with the Dominican sisters, and the Jesuits educated my husband — we never agree on anything — but is our marriage not sacramental?
Now hearing about concerns over the teachers' contract, I wonder who will be defining Catholic standards. When I lied about fighting for my country, I knew exactly what was being asked of me. But who can define what God is asking of every teacher?
My husband and I married in the church 42 years ago, our three children were baptized, our daughter was married in the church, and our grandchildren are baptized. I thought I was doing OK by Catholic standards, but now I wonder.
The Voice (May 19) provided a welcome article on the recent contract changes for parochial school teachers in the Diocese of Oakland. However, the article and the Bishop's Q and A left me with two serious questions unanswered.
First, the Bishop stated that "We have absolutely no interest in monitoring or prosecuting personal private lives." Yet, for non-Catholic faculty the contract poses a serious matter of primacy of conscience in that it requires "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 …" A non-Catholic teacher whose personal life, although ethical and moral as judged by his/her own faith tradition but not in conformity with Roman Catholic doctrine could not sign such a contract in good faith.
Second, the use of the term teacher-minister raises a serious legal question not answered in the articles. While every baptized Christian is called to a ministry according to the Gospel, persons designated as "ministers" define a special class of employees, which in the legal doctrine of the United States is subject to a "ministerial exception" in employment law which excludes ministers from protection under federal anti-discrimination and workplace labor laws. The contract is ambiguous in what the use of the term "minister" is intended to be.
Karl S. Pister
As part of my teaching duties, I feel I have to set a good example by living as a Christian should. However, if I had been told that I had to sign a commitment paper to Catholic principles or lose my job, I would feel that Big Brother was taking over.
I am somewhat reassured by Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ's, statement that he is not interested in examining people's private lives.
It's my hope that all teachers will be judged on the quality of their teaching and not be judged by the contract they may not be able to sign.
Carole A. Main
Thanks to diocese
Please accept my deepest appreciation to you and the people in the Diocese of Oakland for your generous contribution and heartfelt concern for the people of the Philippines. The people of the Philippines are overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity, prayers and messages from U.S. Catholics. Your willingness to support them at the onset of this disaster and during the rebuilding process has touched the hearts of many families throughout the country. Your support continues to allow Catholic Relief Services to bring help and hope to those devastated by natural disasters.
This letter serves as a formal acknowledgement of your recent donation to Catholic Relief Services for the gift of $89,000 for Typhoon Haiyan from the diocese.
On behalf of CRS staff and those who will be touched by your gift, I thank you for leading the faithful in the Diocese of Oakland to live their faith in solidarity with the poor and marginalized people overseas.
May God bless you for your prayers and continued generosity.
Carolyn Y. Woo, president and CEO
Catholic Relief Services, Baltimore
[Editor's note: This follows a letter of thanks (Forum, May 19) from CRS for the diocese's earlier contribution of $359,000.]
What I said
Sadly, I find it necessary to reiterate the intention of my last submission (Forum, April 7).
While the self-appointed judge Tom Hockel thinks it necessary to explain his position in "plain language," he failed to understand the real point. Thankfully, Pope Francis has come to my rescue by speaking out about some of the "life issues" on my "laundry list:"
He said, "Safeguard Creation, because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us!
"Never forget this! Creation is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude."
In addition, Pope Francis tied ongoing environmental concerns and the economic crisis by noting instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor.
While I think Tom Hockel and I would agree that Creation includes the unborn, it also includes everything and everyone on this planet, giving new life to my "hackneyed" argument that abortion isn't the only life issue.
Joseph A. Maraccini
Watch kids' books
Watch the books your kids read!
What an eye-opening experience I had with my pre-teen.
I came home to see my sweet 12-year-old devouring a school book for her classroom book club.
What a pleasant surprise I thought. She is reading a book not watching television or plugged into a computer. Then I took a closer second look at the book, "City of Bones." Hmmm … the cover looked a bit racy. So I did a quick search of the book using Common Sense Media.
I learned this book introduces all sorts of objectionable stuff (i.e.) heavy sexual innuendo, drug use cloaked as "herbal medicine," swearing, plus sexual identity confusion both homosexual and bisexual love. Wow for a 12-year-old — and this was right off the shelves of her sixth grade teacher's classroom bookshelf.
Upon asking the teacher "why would you have this trashy stuff in your class?" I was told this dystopian fiction (dark futuristic fantasy) is quite popular now among pre-teens and although she doesn›t recommend it, she can't censor or ban it.
Oh how subtle evil works. Through an innocent, school-sponsored book club, the images and ideas enter our kids› minds.
Parents like me who are traveling 100 mph should consider checking Common Sense Media www.commonsensemedia.org for reviews on exactly what their kids are reading. Good reads and recommendations are published there too. I vowed to start checking all media, especially books — and I just can't go to sleep at the wheel and let my 12-year-old loose in the library, bookstores or even classroom library shelves anymore.
In his powerful pro-life article (Forum, May 19), Tony Magliano tells us that: "societies use inconsistent politically-correct, subjective reasoning, instead of a consistent morally-correct, objective reasoning which protects every single human being." It must, therefore have been this "flawed" reasoning that President Obama was using when he eviscerated "the protection of marriage act" and cast traditional Christian marriage onto the trash heap of history.
Because it is an absolutely logical fact that union of one man and one woman that we now call a marriage and which produced the human race and is the pillar that sustains it today, occurred at the beginning of the human race and not in 2014. The legalization of the union of two same sex couples in order to promote a loving relationship cannot, by any stretch of the imagination be called a marriage and of course, must be something completely new and different. The rights and privileges of a marriage should not therefore be bestowed on this couple but should be used, as originally intended, to adapt the new unborn babies to a heterosexual civilized society.
Frederick A. Arend
Reflect on love
With Father's Day so near, I recalled a most beautiful picture — a father cradling his baby boy, gazing into his eyes, while his son looked back in wonder and joy. The thought came to me — that is how God loves each one of us. He longs for a personal relationship.
In answer to the question about what one does during a whole hour of Eucharistic Adoration, the response came back, "I look at Him. He looks at me." Love truly is a many-splendored thing. And we recall that Jesus taught us, "The greatest of these is love."
I believe it's so important, then, to reflect as often as possible on what love is. Jesus also told us, "He who loves Me keeps my commands." Love includes obedience. Love includes the truth. We know the Church is "The Bride of Christ." How can we say we love Christ if we don›t love His Church?
To acknowledge authority that comes from God, and to bow to it, is one of the most difficult things for us human beings to do. But it is essential. As one of our great saints pointed out, the three most important virtues are humility, humility and humility.
Many in the Church bring up "conscience" and believe they can disregard any teaching they disagree with. I would respond by urging them to come to know the treasure that is the Catholic faith. Study that "Sure Guide," the Catechism. The "Family Catechism" is a beautiful resource —www.familycatechism.com. You can sign up to receive daily emails at www.familyland.org/CatechismQuestionADay/CatQaDay_signup.html. Here's a sample: "May we be always open to the grace of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to fulfill God's plan for our lives — to lead ourselves and as many as possible to His most beautiful and eternal Light and Love!"
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