US archdiocese sets strict new demands on teachers
Contract prohibits gay lifestyles, abortion, IVF and unmarried cohabiting
Teachers in Cincinnati Archdiocese schools could lose their jobs if they violate a new employment contract that clamps down on their personal lives beyond school walls.
The new contract obtained by The Enquirer has doubled in size and is strikingly different from previous Archdiocese teacher employment agreements.
For the first time, it details prohibited practices such as gay "lifestyles," out-of-wedlock relationships, abortions and fertility methods that go against Catholic teachings.
The contract for the 2014-15 school year explicitly orders teachers to refrain "from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the school or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals." It goes so far as to ban public support of the practices.
Principals in the 94 Archdiocese-supervised schools in Southwest and Central Ohio began receiving the new employment agreements Thursday. More than 2,200 Greater Cincinnati parochial teachers will be affected by the new contract, the Archdiocese estimates.
High-profile teacher lawsuits and controversies at Greater Cincinnati area Catholic schools in recent years have, at least in part, led to the larger, more detailed contract, Archdiocese officials said.
Under the new contract, teachers are expressly prohibited from: "improper use of social media/communication, public support of or publicly living together outside of marriage; public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock; public support of/or homosexual lifestyle; public support of/or use of abortion; public support of/or use of a surrogate mother; public support or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination."
Tom Miele, president of the pastoral council for the St. Monica-St. George Catholic Church in Clifton Heights, questioned the restrictions on personal behavior and freedom of expression.
"It seems awfully intrusive and it all seems unfair," said the Covedale resident and father of three graduates from Archdiocesen schools.
"Some of the things they put on that list are not a reflection of what has happened in our society. It's more about protecting their schools from a lawsuit," said Miele. "You have to believe it is all about the Archdiocese's reactions to (legal) cases."
The contractual language is a first because it brings more specificity to the individual teacher employment agreement and what practices will cost teachers their jobs.
And it further focuses on the Archdiocese's established philosophies and the importance of adhering to Catholic teachings, Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said.
"There aren't any new expectations of our teachers in the 2014-2015 contract. The revised wording is just more explicit in that it lists examples of behaviors that are unacceptable as contrary to church teaching," Andriacco said. "We think that's fairer to the teachers and a help to them.
"We've always regarded our schools as a ministry. That's why we open the doors in the morning. Not all of our students are Catholic and not all of our teachers are Catholic, but all of our schools are Catholic. And we found out from listening sessions around the Archdiocese two years ago – when we developed our Vision for Catholic Schools – that Catholic identity is very important to our Catholic school families," Andriacco said.
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