Confused California congressmen condemn Cordileone

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 19, 2015

Okay, I admit to a fondness for alliteration. But it is just as well. The California lawmakers are not actually congressmen. Five are members of the “assembly” (an A word) and three are “state senators” (an SS word). Moreover, they did not condemn San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in so many words. They simply accused him of using morality clauses in the handbook for the Diocesan schools to violate the civil rights of faculty.

Archbishop Cordileone wants to make sure teachers do not engage in or give public support for abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception, in vitro fertilization, and other sexual sins. Cordileone would also like to designate all teachers as “ministers” in the next collective bargaining agreement. In addition to the protests from legislators, who see this designation as a means of abusing the rights of California citizens, the usual candlelight vigils are taking place in opposition to the Archbishop’s “divisive” effort to emphasize sexual issues at the expense of other Catholic teachings.

Of course, we can agree that this is “divisive”, because many parents of children in Catholic schools do not accept Catholic teaching. But “divisive” (let us note) is not a four-letter word. In any case, the complaints are all bunk. To whit:

  1. Federal law has created a ministerial exception by placing ministers in a special category so that they can be fired if their beliefs and behavior violate the faith and morals of the churches they represent. This means that by far the best way to prevent unwarranted interference in the effort to educate according to Catholic principles is to invoke the ministerial exception. The designation may be artificial, and it may not work in this case, but it arises as a defense against governmental meddling in religion and denial of the natural law.
  2. If disgruntled parents can find other Catholic teachings that are likely to be undermined by teachers in Catholic schools without adequate ways to protect the schools’ Catholic mission, then by all means they should urge Cordileone to add them to the list. Otherwise, they should stop playing word games. Does insistence on oft-violated moral teachings somehow undermine those Catholic teachings that are widely accepted? Or perhaps some people want to consider themselves Catholic simply for agreeing with whatever the dominant culture says is good.
  3. And don’t get me started on the legislators. Should a Federal politician keep his job if he denies the validity of the Constitution of the United States? Should a university administrator keep his job if he encourages students to break that university’s rules? What about air traffic controllers who argue that flight plans and radar are irrelevant to air safety? How does it violate civil rights to have job-related requirements for drawing a pay check? It seems that only those who take positions of religious trust should be free to undermine that trust without loss of employment.

One rapidly tires of the those who pass off cultural prejudices as clear thought. And as for divisiveness, well, unity in evil is not a public good.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: shrink - Feb. 19, 2015 5:59 PM ET USA

    Cordileone is a brave man, but I suspect that his efforts will be in vain. I think the politicians are not confused, and know well what they are doing and can exert enormous public and back-channel pressure that may force Cordileone to back down. But more to the point, are most catholic parochial schools worth saving? Most of them are staffed by people who are dedicated but who are very poorly catechized. The intellectual and spiritual climate in most parochial schools is very tepid at best.