Education

Head of Catholic-Schools Association Intercedes in Indiana Contract Dispute

By Millicent Lawton — February 12, 1992 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

An ongoing contract dispute between Catholic school teachers and their bishop in an Indiana diocese has entered the national spotlight with the outspoken involvement of the president of the National Association of Catholic School Teachers.

In a move he says is unprecedented, John J. Reilly last month wrote a seven-page “open letter” on behalf of the lay teachers in the Fort Wayne South-Bend diocese to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and circulated it to the nation’s nearly 400 bishops.

Mr. Reilly’s letter decries the “deplorable situation” in the Indiana diocese and says the conduct of its bishop, John M. D’Arcy, “stands in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Church.”

The lay high-school teachers in the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese are in their third year without a contract, and Bishop D’Arcy has rejected an attempt by the lay Catholic elementary-school teachers to organize under the high-school teachers’ union.

Several obstacles, including better pay for veteran teachers, stand in the way of resolving the contract negotiations, said Michael Thompsen, president of the union, Community Alliance for Teachers in Catholic High Schools.

The diocese, for example, has asked that the teachers agree never to take the diocese to court over grievances, according to Mr. Thompson, while the teachers have requested access to a neutral third party for recourse beyond the diocesan level.

In addition, Mr. Thompson said, the diocese’s contract proposal would put teachers of religion through a grievance process separate from that of other teachers, with Bishop D’Arcy having final say over the teacher’s fate.

“Any bishop has the duty to [see] that religion is taught properly in the diocese,” Mr. Thompson said, “and we have no quarrel with that.”

However, Mr. Thompson said, if a religion teacher has a grievance related to an issue other than compliance with church teachings, the teacher should be able to go through the standard grievance process.

Scott Hall, a lawyer active in the diocesan negotiations, said he could not comment.

Outside Bishops’ Jurisdiction

The bishop’s conference, Mr. Reilly wrote in his open letter, must address the “injustices” in the Fort Wayne South-Bend diocese, and, more broadly, “must establish clear and unequivocal labor-relations policies.”

“These, hopefully, will prevent any further abuses of the rights of Church employees,” he wrote.

However, in his response to the January open letter-as well as in Iris reply last October to an earlier entreaty from Mr. Reilly--the council’s president, Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, said he could not act because local matters lie outside the conference’s jurisdiction.

“Church Law simply does not permit an episcopal conference to become engaged in a local dispute,” Archbishop Pilarczyk wrote.

But the archbishop added that he would pass on Mr. Reilly’s “general policy concerns” to the education and social-policy committees of the bishops’ public-policy arm, the United States Catholic Conference.

Those committees have yet to take action on Mr. Reilly’s concerns, Chris W. Baumann, a spokesman for the bishops, said last week.

Mr. Reilly said he found Bishop D’Arcy’s position and Archbishop Pilarczyk’s failure to intervene to be inconsistent with past statements by the archbishop, policies adopted by the Catholic bishops, and the social-justice teachings of the church.

“It blows my mind that a group of Americans can meet in a collective body, cast votes... and then go back to their dioceses as individual bishops and completely ignore what they decided as a collective body,” he said.

“The bishops have a moral obligation to stand up and condemn even their fellow bishops when they ignore [their own policy decisions],” Mr. Reilly said.

A 1977 report by the Catholic conference, which Mr. Baumann said still represents that body’s policy, supports collective bargaining by teachers.

“Catholic social teaching strongly supports the rights of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers,” the report states. “The free exercise of these rights pertains to Catholic school teachers and other school employees,” it continues.

Fort Wayne as ‘Example’

The national teachers’ union took the local dispute to the bishops’ group, Mr. Reilly said, after Bishop D’Arcy last August rejected the elementary-school teachers’ bid for union representation.

Coupled with the diocese’s ongoing impasse with the high-school teachers and longtime concerns about such difficulties in organizing and negotiating, Mr. Reilly said, it seemed to “be good to us to use Fort Wayne as an example to hopefully trigger some action from the Catholic Bishops Conference.”

While Mr. Reilly said he recognized that the bishops conference has no formal jurisdiction over Bishop D’Arcy, he hoped pressure from other bishops might have an impact.

“I’m sure that if Bishop D’Arcy’s brothers sat down with him over a cup of coffee or a cocktail they might” influence him, he said.

Mr. Thompson said so far the national union’s intervention has not had an effect on the contract dispute.

But he said it was “a positive” that Archbishop Pilarczyk said he would refer Mr. Reilly’s concerns to the Catholic conference committees.

Bishop D’Arcy was not available late last week to comment on Mr. Reilly’s open letter.

However, in a brief statement issued by Christine Benahoom, a diocesan spokesman, Bishop D’Arcy said, "[T]he diocese is continuing its negotiations with [the union] and, at the same time, is continuing its review of the diocesan relationship” with it.

Ms. Bonahoom said she did not know when the contract issues might be decided, nor could she clarify the meaning of a “review of the diocesan relationship.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 12, 1992 edition of Education Week as Head of Catholic-Schools Association Intercedes in Indiana Contract Dispute

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)