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California Lawmakers: Archbishop’s Rules for Catholic School Teachers Are ‘Discriminatory’

Eight California state lawmakers are urging San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to withdraw clauses in his handbook for archdiocesan high school teachers that require them to espouse Catholic teachings on sexual morality.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the five members of the state Assembly and three state senators sent a letter to Cordileone in which they argued that his requirements for employment—at four of the high schools he oversees—“conflict with settled areas of law and foment a discriminatory environment in the communities we serve.”

In the newly released addition to the handbook for high school teachers, employees of the archdiocese are asked to “affirm and believe” that “adultery, masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations” are “gravely evil.” The handbook also indicates that employees must espouse the Church’s teachings against abortion, contraception, and artificial-reproductive technology.

Similarly, the handbook states the “fundamental demands of justice require that the civil law preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

The archbishop is also seeking to redefine the role of teachers as “ministers” in the collective bargaining agreement that is currently under negotiation with the teachers union, an effort that could prevent discrimination lawsuits against the archdiocese should dismissals occur.

“The narrow exception for ‘ministers’ in federal anti-discrimination law was never intended to be a tool for discrimination,” the lawmakers reportedly say in their letter. “This sends an alarming message of intolerance to youth educated at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Junipero Serra in San Mateo and Marin Catholic in Kentfield.”

The handbook additions reflect Cordileone’s new focus on Catholic identity in the 14 high schools under his jurisdiction. As National Catholic Register reported at the end of January, the archbishop said he is preparing for a formal assessment of the Catholic identity of these schools, with a goal toward strengthening the teaching of Catholic faith and culture.

“We hear stories of children going through 12 years of Catholic education and then they leave the Church,” Cordileone told the Register. “Somehow, we are not instilling a sense of Catholic identity in many of our students.”

“They should be the leaders of the Church,” he said, “but if we don’t give them good reasons to be Catholic, they won’t play that role.”

Cordileone was the focus of protests by students and parents several days after the release of his new initiatives. Protesters organized a candlelight prayer vigil Ash Wednesday evening and called the archbishop’s new requirements for Catholic high school employees “divisive.” According to the Times, they added that sexual morality is being overemphasized by Cordileone at the expense of other teachings.

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D), one of the signers of the letter, said, “Injustice must be confronted, no matter the source. Our society is based on the principle that we are all created equally. Any novel legal maneuvers to impose injustice must be stopped.”

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