Morality Clauses Causing Tension in the Bay Area

Staff Editorial 

On a day that marks the beginning of the 40 days of Lent season, some San Francisco residents, including students, parents, and faculty members of four Bay Area schools controlled by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, spent part of their Ash Wednesday in protest outside of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in response to a morals clause introduced by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. 

The introduced clause states that faculty at the schools cannot challenge certain teachings held by the Catholic Church, which include its official stance on homosexuality, contraception, and embryonic cell research. In addition, Cordileone intends to designate faculty as part of the “ministry,” which means that they will not be protected by federal anti-discrimination laws.

News of this event has inspired discussion within the Foghorn staff. We disagree with the implementation of the morals clause, which took effect mid-February, along with the Catholic Church’s official stance on many of the teachings in question. Furthermore, we also disagree with designating faculty as part of the “ministry,” which takes effect in September. But, we also acknowledge that the schools overseen by the Archdiocese of San Francisco are private institutions, thus we recognize that these changes are valid.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion does not necessarily apply within religious institutions, which in this case, allows the Catholic Church to implement their faith into the curriculum of their schools, even if it means having teachers promote views that are not necessarily their own.

Cordileone has also been a long opponent of same-sex marriage, helping to place Proposition 8 on the California voting ballot in 2008, and is the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage — so why are students, parents, and some San Francisco residents shocked that Cordileone would introduce a morals clause that adheres to the official doctrine of the Catholic Church?

Most of the concern comes from faculty who are worried they will lose their jobs come September, and students and parents who fear they will lose their teachers, but in an interview with a representative from the New York Times last month, Cordileone said, “We’re not on a witch hunt; we’re not looking to terminate teachers.” In the same interview, he added that the reasons for the morals clause include ensuring that the public lives of teachers “don’t do anything to compromise the mission of [the] schools,” as well as reminding youth that they face “intense pressure today to conform to certain standards that are contrary to what [Catholics] believe.”

At the end of the day, everyone has the right to be upset and to take action via protest — but students, parents, and faculty members need to realize that they are involved with a private, Catholic institution, and an alternative exists: send your children to or seek employment at an educational institution that better coincides with your personal beliefs.


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