Thursday, April 24, 2014

Catholic teacher contracts: Archbishop Schnurr is right. Support him!

News item. A bunch of people have signed petitions that says the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is wrong in its recent revision of teacher contracts, spelling out much more exactly what sort of conduct, or dissent, will get those teachers fired. A crowd of sixty or so gathers downtown for a protest. The Cincinnati Enquirer had an article here. I saw it here.

Lots of tears and anguish about how unfair and unprecedented this is. One commenter on the Enquirer site, whose profile indicates she's around 40, claims she's been Catholic her "whole life" and had no idea the Catholic Church ever taught that sex between people of the same sex is gravely sinful.

Short answer? They're wrong. The Archdiocese is right. And the Archbishop deserves your support on this one.

I'm truly sorry this comes as such a shock to the lady whose comments I referred to. There's no question that in recent years, the task of teaching and explaining the Catholic Faith has been neglected, very badly in many places. That's why, for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was put together in the time of Pope John Paul II. That said, it may be she ought to ask several questions. Of her parents, and the priests and teachers she learned from: Did you teach me this? If not, why not?

But sympathy with the "no one told me!" cry only goes so far. Anyone who is an adult, who says, "you didn't tell me!" needs to look in the mirror when you say that. Exactly whose soul is it?

And if she -- or anyone listening in -- actually is in doubt about whether this is Catholic teaching, and has always been!, may I suggest you begin with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and simply begin reading. You can see where the footnotes take you, regarding the ancient sources of what the Church teaches.

Here's why these folks are wrong.

The Catholic Church is engaged in a mission. What is that mission? To teach and live the Catholic Faith, as she believes has come from Jesus Christ himself, through his Apostles. This Faith includes beliefs about God, about humanity, about how we ought to live, how we ought to treat each other, and what God asks of us in this life, and how we find our way to happiness in eternity.

If you are employed by the Church -- or you volunteer for the Church -- or you are "merely" a member of the Church -- you are part of this mission.

Very simple. No one exempt.

Have you ever been to a baptism of an infant in a Catholic Church? Recall what happens: the parents and godparents are asked to renew the vows of their own baptism; and it's made very plain that they are doing so in proxy for the child, and also, that they are to ensure the child will, one day, be ready to do the same. Unless you sleep through the baptism, there is no missing this. Catholics start talking about professing your faith as an infant.

Now, I can understand how someone who clears the snow from the parking lot, or who empties the trash cans in the classrooms after school, might say, I'm not here to help the Church's "mission" -- I'm here to do a job. And the truth is, not too many people are asking whether the person who shovels snow or takes out the trash agrees with Catholic morality or doctrine.

But who doesn't get that anyone who works with children becomes, to some degree, a role model and representative of the institution? And with teachers--teachers!--this should be blindingly obvious.

Wait, you say; we're not talking about just religion teachers, but all the teachers! What does mathematics or phys ed have to do with morality or dogma?

Oops, you made a false step there, without realizing it. If you are not a Catholic, it may be that, in your worldview, mathematics and history and phys ed don't have anything to do with morality and theology. And if that's what you believe, that's fine. But here's the thing: that's not what Catholic means.

One of the many things being Catholic means, is that all this (and more) fits together. The God of moral law is the God of natural law and laws of physics and natural selection and all the rest. And really, do I have to spell out how morality and sports intersect? How language and history and social sciences can be significantly different when viewed through the lens of faith?

Some people like to point out that these expectations are placed not only on Catholics, but even non-Catholics! How shocking!

It's not shocking. If you teach in a Catholic school, you're part of the mission of that school. Some jobs don't need to be held by Catholics; but every job needs to be held by someone who shares the mission of the organization.

Even secular institutions -- schools, non-profits, government agencies, and businesses will expect their employees to share in the "mission" of the organization. That's common sense. But when we talk about a religious body, there is a unique situation. This is an organization that believes it's communicating eternal truth, with the great consequences possible.

Now, I want to acknowledge another response many will make. Many of our Catholics are saying, right now, that they wrestle with some of these parts of Catholic teaching. They aren't on board with some of these things, so this hard line is awfully uncomfortable.

It's one thing to say -- as many do -- that they are "wrestling" with the expectations of the Church. When you come to Holy Mass, I don't ask for a show of hands about whether anyone has doubts, or questions, or has so far not found this or that teaching persuasive. Nor do I ask whether, at the moment, you are as faithful in observance as our Faith asks all of us to be. There's plenty of room in the Church for people to wonder, to question and to fall short. We're not a society of the perfecti.

But the controversial provisions of these contracts have to do with public actions -- statements and behaviors -- that contradict the Catholic Faith. No one is being called to account for uncertainties or reservations. If the principal -- or pastor! -- at Saint Cunagunda Parish isn't on board with the Church's teaching against torture, or abortion, no one knows...until they make it public. Then that's a problem.

And, at some point, this ought to be a matter of personal integrity. If I don't believe in the Real Presence, or in the indissolubility of marriage, or in the Apostolic Succession, and so forth...the Archbishop may never know. But I'll know. At what point do I take the initiative and say, "I can't do this any longer?"

(And just an aside. There are those who say, why aren't the clergy held to the same standard. We are. We swear an oath -- on the Gospels -- to uphold the Catholic Faith in its entirety.)

There's something else to mention here: the history of recent situations in which teachers, employees and volunteers of Church organizations claim to be surprised by what the Church expected of them -- just like the astonished commenter I mentioned above.

With some of these situations, involving teachers, and others given great responsibility, I'm skeptical of their claims that they were really "surprised" to learn the Church teaches thus-and-so...let's give them the benefit of the doubt. All right, you claim the whole thing was too murky and ambiguous? So what do you do?

You spell things out much more plainly, explicitly, and in detail. You do it in writing. You ask people to sign it. Crystal-clear.

Now, in all this, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, and those who work with him at the Archdiocese, deserve great credit. I'm sure he, and they, knew this would result in complaints, unhappiness and protests. There will be those who use pressure tactics -- like petitions and marches and so forth -- to get the Archdiocese to back down, to give a little.

I am here to say I am 100% with the Archbishop on this. Thank you, Excellency. Please let me know what I can do to help you.


ndspinelli said...

I taught @ a Catholic School and @ a public schools and understood the rules were different. Pretty basic.

Cina said...

Well said Father! I hope and pray that those who are against this really read the Catechism and not make assumptions about Church teaching, misquoting Pope Francis, etc.

truthfinder2 said...

Exactly, Father! thank you! - Rosemary A.

Bob said...

Years ago, I was in seminary with Archbishop Alexander Sample, who is now the Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon. Recently, he reaffirmed the Church's teaching that the Sacrament of Matrimony is between a man and a woman. He's likely going to be persecuted for this, and possibly from within his own flock.

I support my former schoolmate, and I support our own Ordinary, Archbishop Schnurr. I think it is ridiculous beyond all telling that people are protesting him. Please - I mean no disrespect, and if I sound pharisaical, please take me to task. I am a poor sinner, same as the rest of us.

Sometimes - much of the time - it takes sitting down with people and giving a refresher about this Faith we profess. A friend of mine, a recent convert to the Catholic Church (whose faith is an inspiration to me, and who loves the Lord in a way that would knock the wind out of you!) went through a parish RCIA program, not a big newsflash. Once I asked him if the catechists in RCIA ever spoke of the 4 Ends of the Mass. My friend said they did not.

Need I say more about this topic?

Adoration - Thanksgiving - Reparation - Petition. I have friends who are Protestant Christians, who GET THAT! I was once a "catechist" in my parish's RCIA program. I can tell you, I had no business doing so; I didn't have me act together, and I made a damn fool of myself, and I'm a cradle Catholic. Saying anyone can be a catechist, or spiritual director, is like saying anyone can be a brain surgeon. Believe me, you don't want me operating on your brain, either, trust me!

I digress a bit. It happens when one is on an Albuterol scrip.

What slays me is the people who act as if the teaching of the Church is, a.) something they've never heard of before, b.) something they thought Vatican II abolished, or, c.) something that the Church has no right to impose on one.

People will point to the "primacy of the person's conscience" in doing moral theology. Uh...isn't there a little thing called, uh...A PROPERLY FORMED CONSCIENCE?! How about a conscience formed in communion with the Mind of Christ and the guidance of Mother Church?

"Nah - we don't believe that anymore - we've moved beyond that."

Then we are in BIG trouble, and we've moved in the WRONG direction.

"Well, nobody is going to tell me what to do!"

Uh, and what Church are we a part of?

Jennifer said...

I left the Catholic Church for the Mormons during my childhood. My parents invited the missionaries in.
Within the last months I have purchased a copy of the Baltimore Catechism. Whatever I didn't learn in Catholic school, I'm learning now. And it is my responsibility...

Deacon David Oatney said...

We need bishops who stand zealously for orthodoxy in education and in all things.