A controversial new requirement for San Francisco Catholic teachers will be reviewed by a panel of theology teachers, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told teachers this week. The final version of the update to teacher handbooks will include expanded language—but not, Cordileone says, a retraction of what has already been slated for inclusion.
In early February, the archdiocese revealed that an update to teacher handbooks in local Catholic schools would require teachers to refrain from promoting “gravely evil” activities like homosexuality, birth control use, and in vitro fertilization.
After a strong negative reaction from teachers to the initial announcement in early February, including a candlelight vigil, an online petition against the changes, and a statement of opposition from eight state lawmakers, Cordileone announced the formation of the panel in a meeting with The San Francisco Chronicle and a letter to teachers.
The panel will consist of theology teachers from the four affected high schools and will recommend a new draft of the handbook update to Cordileone that, according to the archbishop’s letter, “expands on [the] statements and adjusts the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider readership.”
Cordileone recognized that some of the current language is “not nuanced for students or even parents,” singling out the distinction between evil acts and the not-evil people who perform them as an issue that could use some clarification. (It will likely be a huge relief to LGBT students to learn that their identities don’t make them evil; it’s only the actions they may take because of their identities that are evil.)
This may be only a small victory for those who oppose the changes, as the archbishop has emphasized that none of the existing language in the handbook would be retracted. A statement from the archdiocese clarified, “The Archbishop has not repealed anything ... Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.”
The one exception is a reference to teachers as “ministers,” which union officials argue is a phrase that could remove legal protections from teachers. Cordileone has said that he will use the word “ministry” instead and is looking into alternative phrasings that “guarantee that the teachers in the Catholic archdiocesan high schools promote the Catholic mission of the institutions” while still protecting teachers’ rights.
Cordileone also addressed a major concern for opponents of the changes, telling The Chronicle that teachers in same-sex marriages would not necessarily lose their jobs, and that such cases would be handled on an individual basis: “We don’t want to kick any people out on the street.”
Image: San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone meets with the editorial board of The San Francisco Chronicle. Image via YouTube.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.