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City Visions: Can Bay Area Catholics and Archbishop Cordileone Find Common Ground?


March 16, 2015 - David Onek explores the tensions within San Francisco's Catholic Community around the "Affirm and Believe" statements added to teacher contracts.

Why has this assertion of known Catholic doctrine sparked so much protest?  Supporters say these so-called "moral clauses" are the Church's legal right;  opponents argue they are at odds with San Francisco values and threaten individual liberties.  Can the Church and its community find common ground?

Producer:  Wendy Holcombe


Ted deSaulnier - Union Representative, CFT Local 2240 and Religion Teacher at Archbishop Riordan High School;  Former Religion Department Chair at Marin Catholic and Cheverus High School.

Vincent Pizzuto, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco.

Rev. Anthony Giampietro, Ph.D. - Philosopher with a primary focus on natural law and marriage; Interim Director of Development, Archdiocese of San Francisco.  

Sally Vance-Trembath, Ph.D. - Catholic theologian;  Adjunct Professor in the Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University.


#TeachAcceptance Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/SupportSFteachers

Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church

Letter from 8 Bay Area Lawmakers to Archbishop Cordileone

Letter from Archbishop Cordileone to Teachers

Excerpts from the show:

Vincent Pizzuto: "As is typical of collective bargaining agreements, every three years or so the unions renegotiate their contracts...that negotiation is happening right now...and Archbishop Cordileone has decided that wants to add so-called "morality clauses," which are a series of "Affirm and Belief" statements, that really draw primarily from the Catechism of the Catholic Church certain issues that he feels need clarification."

"[Cordileone] cites various teachings, a lot of them to do with issues of sexuality..., which he is trying to use to heighten awareness of for the four high schools, particularly the teacher, to represent either publicly or officially within the classroom."

"Whenever he is asked that question [of whether or not someone could be fired for doing something in their personal life against the moral clauses], he is saying those issues should be addressed - or would be addressed - on a case-by-case basis.  He is trying to quell the fears that many teachers rightfully have around the issues he is trying to highlight.  Yes, someone potentially could be fired.  What Archbishop Cordileone has attempted to say is, following all the reaction he had to these...introductions, is to try to assure the people within the various schools that he is not seeking to fire anyone."


Father Anthony Gianpietro:  "A couple of things that would be helpful to clear up right off the bat.  There's a distinction between the collective bargaining agreement and the faculty handbook...The occasion of the renegotiation has been the opportunity for the Archbishop to update the faculty handbook and make it more explicit what's there.  So in that that sense there's nothing new, right?  And it is almost entirely material from the Catholic Catechism, which people have generally already agreed to abide by.  It's important that we're not talking about signing an oath of fidelity.  One of the acknowledging statements is that we recognize that there are some non-Catholics there who don't believe what the Church believes, some Catholics who don't believe what the Church believes and that there is space for them within the institution." 

"In addition to that, there is something that I think has been missed.  Every institution...has to be concerned with what's happening both on the field and off the field...so the NFL is concerned about behavior off the field and how it reflects on the institution of the NFL.  My alma mater, Wesleyan University, gets concerned about different student groups and how they represent the university or don't.  There is a little targeting of these [4 Catholic] schools, which are clearly under the Archbishop.  He has total control of the faculty handbook to determine the mission.  It's highly unusual for even union negotiators to be discussing things like the mission of an institution."

"What has come out in the news is not the Church facing the world.  It's not Pope Francis talking to the world.  This was precisely part of the faculty handbook.  If we were trying to turn to the world to explain why these makes sense, this is not how it would be done...So this was not set up to be an evangelization moment.  The topic at hand is whether the Church has a right - in America - to have an institution and to hire people to teach in that institution that represent the Catholic view."

Ted deSaulnier:  "There's been no attempt by the Archbishop to reach out to us pastorally, as union leaders and teachers.  There's been no attempt to introduce this Affirm and Believe section as a mediation, as an attempt to bring us closer to the Church and to Christ."

"I have heard Father Piderit say on many occasions that the Church has the same rights as any other organization in the country...I haven't been able to find one employee handbook that has a statement about masturbation, fornication, contraception..."

"Last summer in Washington, D.C., the Archbishop [Cordileone] marched with people who are recognized hate groups.  He wants the protection of the secular state to do that, but then he claims that if I were to do that I would have to stay within the margins, make sure that I wasn't seen..."

"Are we going to get back to the days when we threatened people to make them believe, or are we going to be open to science, and reason, and the Spirit?"


Sally Vance-Trembath:  "What I am hearing are very shrunken notions of "teaching," very shrunken notions of critical reflections...Every human has value not because it is nice, but because they were created by the creator of the cosmos...The role of the Church is to teach toward the Gospel of Christ."