Catholic diocese tightens teacher contracts

Catholic diocese tightens teacher contracts

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The Diocese of Santa Rosa is requiring its schoolteachers — including those who teach at two Catholic schools in Napa — to sign a document affirming that contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia are “modern errors” and are “matters that gravely offend human dignity.”

The addendum to the teachers’ contract was written by Bishop Robert Vasa, who has served as Santa Rosa’s bishop for about two years, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, which first reported the story.

Teachers must sign the full contract by March 15 if they want to continue teaching in the 2013-14 school year.

Connie Howard, principal of St. Apollinaris Catholic School, said “no comment” when asked about the addendum to the teachers’ contract.

Nancy Jordan, principal of St. John the Baptist Catholic School, said she did not have a problem with the addendum, and that it was similar to the current employment agreement.

“Our current contract, signed by all full-time teachers, includes the expectation that ‘the teacher in a Catholic school must not teach, advocate, model or in any way encourage beliefs or behaviors contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church,’” Jordan said.

Jordan said she would have appreciated more of an explanation from the diocese as to why the addendum was necessary.

“We engage in an annual assessment of our Catholic identity, a process overseen by the Diocese of Santa Rosa. In my eight years as principal, we have never encountered lacking in our Catholicity,” Jordan said. “Perhaps, the diocese may want additional assurances, certainly within their right.”

Vasa said by phone that the new contract is “exactly the same” as the current one, only it clarifies the teachings of the Catholic Church. Judging by some employee reactions to the addendum, Vasa said there must have been a misunderstanding as to what those teachings were.

“The sense is, the title of the school is a ‘Catholic school.’ Parents have the right to expect that what is taught in the school is consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Vasa said. “I’m trying to be faithful to that implied promise to parents. I think that’s my duty to them.”

Vasa said that he expects teachers to be honest, and that teachers who oppose the addendum but sign the contract to keep their jobs will have to answer to “Almighty God.”

“I have no control over what people do in the intimacy of their own hearts,” Vasa said.

Jordan said her teachers did not oppose the addendum but would have liked receiving acknowledgment of their ongoing efforts and dedication.

“Catholic school educators receive a fraction of the pay of their public school counterparts. But for them, the opportunity to deliver a solid, academic curriculum while modeling the light of Christ for the children entrusted to their care is inspirational, meaningful and a true witness of vocation,” Jordan said.

“It would have been nice if there was a preface to the addendum and/or dialog with the teachers included in the process that would have recognized our service to the church and diocese in our ministry of education.”

Vasa said the ongoing service of teachers was recognized in his pastoral letter last September, in which he wrote about “evangelization” being the “essential mission of the church.”

Employees at Justin-Siena High School and Kolbe-Trinity in Napa do not sign contracts with the Diocese of Santa Rosa. Justin-Siena is an independent Catholic school sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Kolbe-Trinity, while fully Catholic, is in a different category of Catholic school and not subject to the contract addendum, Principal Brian Muth said.

Both Justin-Siena and Kolbe-Trinity have employee agreements that include respecting and modeling the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa serves about 150,000 Catholics in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties. Demographically it is one of the smallest diocese in California, despite covering a large geographic area.

Vasa, who previously served as bishop of the Diocese of Baker in Oregon, is well known for his orthodox view of Catholic doctrine. While in Oregon, Vasa revoked the Catholic status of a hospital in Bend after determining the hospital was providing direct sterilizations.

Shortly after Vasa was appointed to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Queen of the Valley Medical Center tightened its rules regarding tubal ligations — a permanent form of birth control in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked, tied or cut. Officials at the Queen said that direct sterilization was against the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

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