SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The Catholic Archdiocese in San Francisco is backing away from a plan to designate teachers as ministers, but has not announced plans to withdraw another controversial proposal for high school teachers to adhere to a morality clause in their contracts.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday afternoon that the archdiocese would “peel back” the guidelines Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone proposed for teachers, outlining expectations that staffers would reject adultery, masturbation, homosexuality and other behavior the diocese calls “gravely evil.”
The proposal generated an outcry from teacher groups, human rights organizations, lawmakers, and others concerned that staffers could be disciplined or fired for behavior that occurs in private.
Cordileone told the San Francisco Chronicle he didn’t anticipate the backlash over the plan to add detailed statements on sexual morality to faculty and staff handbooks at four Catholic high schools in the city. He spoke at a meeting with the paper’s editorial board on Tuesday.
“I was surprised at the degree of consternation over this,” Cordileone told the Chronicle.
The archbishop told the newspaper he was forming a committee of theology teachers to review the guidelines and “adjust the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider leadership.” He added the language is merely a reiteration of existing Catholic morality doctrines concerning behavior.
The language was included as part of the faculty handbook intended for teachers at the four schools, but Cordileone told the Chronicle that he has no intention of invading the private lives of the teachers.
Tuesday night, the archdiocese released a statement in response to the Chronicle article. “The Archbishop has not repealed anything,” the archdiocese said. “The committee is to expand some areas of the material to be included in the faculty handbook, and clarify other areas by adding material. Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.”
The paper reported Cordileone is dropping an effort to designate the teachers as ministers, which would have eliminated them from government-mandated employee protections by placing them solely under church control.
Following word of the proposed teacher morality clauses, Bay Area lawmakers sent a letter to Cordileone urging him to withdraw the plan they called “divisive,” saying the clauses “conflict with settled areas of law and foment a discriminatory environment,” which sends “an alarming message of intolerance to youth.”
On Monday, Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) urged an assembly committee to investigate working conditions at the high schools administered by the San Francisco archdiocese.