Catholic teachers warned about ‘gravely evil’ sex acts

New employment language proposed by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco warning Catholic high school faculty and staff that homosexual relations, sex, masturbation and pornography outside of marriage are “gravely evil” has led to an outcry by the LGBT community and its supporters.

In a letter sent this week to teachers in the Archdiocesan Catholic High Schools, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone wrote that the schools must strive to be truly Catholic institutions.

In an effort to reach that goal, the Archdiocese of San Francisco is adding statements of Catholic teaching on sexual morality and religious practice into the faculty and staff handbooks of the four archdiocesan high schools and proposing new contract language to “clarify” the church’s view.

The new handbook language warns that:

“… all extra-marital sexual relationships are gravely evil and that these include adultery, masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations.”

In addition, it outlines church positions on controversial subjects including the ordination of women and notes that faculty must:

“… refrain from public support of any cause or issue that is explicitly or implicitly contrary to that which the Catholic Church holds to be true.”

The handbook additions, which would take effect in the 2015-16 school year, will apply to Archbishop Riordan High School and Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco, as well as Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield and Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo.

According to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, there are about 315 teachers at the four schools who belong to the teacher’s union, which is currently negotiating a new contract, expected to take effect on Aug. 1. Cordileone stated in his letter to faculty and staff that the purpose of these changes is to clarify that Catholic schools “exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Cordileone writes that the new document clarifies Catholic issues in Catholic schools with the intention:

“… not to target for dismissal from our schools any teachers, singly or collectively.”

He said the staff will not have to sign anything regarding their adherence to the new additions to the handbook.

Cordileone said that while the “Catholic high schools try to hire people who do believe what the Church teaches,” there are “good teachers who belong to other Christian faiths or to no faith at all,” and that these clarifications are meant to instruct them in their behavior and teachings.

Archdiocesan Catholic schools Superintendent Maureen Huntington said in a statement released today that:

“Because we live in a very secular society, the truth as revealed by God gets overshadowed by popular ideology. … In order to remain faithful to God’s revelations and the church’s teachings, additions and clarifying statements have been developed for our teachers and staff members articulating specific fundamental truths, which are not understood or accepted within our secular society.”

But Cordileone’s announcement has created an outcry in the LGBTQ community and among its supporters, who believe the archbishop’s message breeds discrimination and fear. Among the organizations that disapprove of the archdiocese’s clarifications is the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

The foundation is the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organizations. The HRC is appealing to the San Francisco Archdiocese to remove “harsh” and “anti-LGBT” language from its new teachers’ contract and handbook.

The HRC states that this language imposes restrictions on teachers and staff, even after their workday is through. Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, director of Latina/o and Catholic Initiatives for HRC Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program, said in a statement released today that by:

“imposing what amounts to an anti-LGBT purity test, the archbishop is closing the door on dedicated professionals, many of them faithful Catholics, gay and straight, whose moral codes do not embrace discrimination.”

The HRC called on Cordileone to remove the description of homosexual relationships as “gravely evil,” a phrase they called discriminatory, from the new teachers’ contract. According to the HRC, the archbishop is expected to announce the new contract language during a homily on Friday.

Additionally, the HRC is urging individuals to sign a petition in opposition to the archdiocese’s anti-LGBT edicts, at http://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/discrimination-and-fear-don-t-belong-in-our-schools.

As of about 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, almost all of the requested 2,000 signatures had been collected for the online petition.

Tim Lennon, the San Francisco Bay Area Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement today in response to the announcements that SNAP would:

“… love to see Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone put this kind of energy and effort into telling staff to share everything they know or suspect about clergy sex crimes and cover ups with law enforcement.”

Lennon said he believes most Catholic parents care more about the physical safety of their kids than about the private behavior of teachers. In June, Cordileone was a speaker along with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum at March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., organized by the National Organization for Marriage.

The archbishop spoke at the rally against same-sex marriage, despite an open letter signed by Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other state, city and faith and community leaders, asking him to cancel his appearance.