Monday, September 1, 2014

"Edict still on hold for Catholic schools". Bishop Vasa, truly loving Santa Rosa students.


Like the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese itself, the teachers of St. Vincent de Paul High School seem to be backing away from a controversial contract clause suggested by Bishop Robert Vasa in 2013. 

That spring, Bishop Vasa proposed a “morals addendum” for Catholic school teacher contracts, which would have required educators to sign a document stating that they personally accept Catholic doctrine in order to keep their jobs. 

Teachers at St. Vincent de Paul High School who spoke to the Argus-Courier last year said they felt the new contract would force teachers to adopt traditional Catholic beliefs as their own.

The addendum would have required teachers to believe, among other things, that contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia are “modern errors” that “gravely offend human dignity.” (VOCAL highlighted text)

With many local teachers opposed to the addendum, there was a sense of relief when Bishop Vasa decided to postpone the edict until the spring of 2015, giving teachers time to find work elsewhere if they didn’t agree with its terms.

With a prolonged timeline and a shifted focus on religious education programs, it seems that the “morals addendum” is out of sight and out of mind for the time being.

Brian O’Neel, communications director for the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese, said he did not know when the edict would next be discussed with teachers. 

“There is no intention to not do this,” O’Neel said. “It will happen at some point, it’s just not going to happen this academic year. We don’t have a definite timeline.” 

O’Neel said last year’s effort to enact the addendum was surrounded with confusion over what Bishop Vasa was asking of teachers. Vasa spoke to teachers from Santa Rosa, in an effort to explain why Catholic teachings cannot “be left up to a person’s own discretion.” 

“(Bishop Vasa) quickly understood that he had to do a little preparatory work first, so that is still where we stand,” O’Neel said. “He is continuing to speak with educators and administrators so that the groundwork is laid.” 

In the meantime, other diocese across the country, such as the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Oakland, are adopting similar contract language for teachers. As of May, the revised contracts out of Cincinnati forbid practices such as extramarital sex, a gay “lifestyle” and abortions. 

That same month, it was reported that several teachers quit their jobs at Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School because of contract language dictating that in their personal lives they must “promote behavior in conformity with the teaching of the Roman Catholic faith in matters of faith and morals.” 

O’Neel speculated that the implementation of the new contracts elsewhere may be due to other bishops across the country recognizing “where culture and society are heading.” 

“They understand that steps need to be taken in order to safeguard the integrity of how the faith is presented and passed on in our parochial schools,” he said. 

O’Neel said the Santa Rosa diocese is focusing on religious education, and currently has a joint effort with the St. Vincent parish to offer educational programs. 

(Contact Allison Jarrell at allison.jarrell@argus

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