Friday, March 22, 2013

California bishop temporarily withdraws belief requirement for school contracts

[Perhaps a new spirit of collegiality in Santa Rosa?]

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
March 22, 2013

In a letter Tuesday to pastors, Catholic school principals and "especially teachers," Santa Rosa, Calif., Bishop Robert Vasa has temporarily withdrawn his requirement that they sign an addendum to their 2013-2014 contracts that would have required they agree they are "a ministerial agent of the bishop" and reject "modern errors" that "gravely offend human dignity," including contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

In the letter, Vasa:
Wrote that his "most serious oversight ... was my failure to engage and consult the pastors of the diocese and especially those who are the local shepherds of our Catholic schools";
Said his "degree of vigilance" in assuring "the greatest hope of finding the truths of Jesus in our Catholic schools" for students "can look like a lack of trust"; and
Acknowledged "that I over looked proper engagement of the principals" and "erroneously chose a path of informing rather than mutual discernment."

Broad grass-roots reaction from parents, teachers, students and pastors had developed in the diocese following disclosure of the addendum, which had been inserted into the contracts as what Vasa and Catholic school superintendent John Collins described as an amplification and clarification of the standard faith and morals clause.

Teachers had been given a March 15 deadline to sign a letter of intent to renew their coming school-year contract and accept the language of the addendum, titled "Bearing Witness."

In the two-page letter, Vasa said he still plans to implement "in some form" the "goals which we established for this year's teacher contract" in the spring of 2015.

Between then and now, Vasa wrote, "in conjunction with other theological educators, I will work to prepare presentations on matters of faith and morals" with principals and teachers as the "primary audience," though "hopefully parents also will find a way to participate."

A story Friday in Santa Rosa's Press Democrat newspaper reported that Vasa's letter was issued following a meeting with 10 Catholic school principals. He also apparently met with various pastors.

In the story by Jeremy Hay, Cardinal Newman High School (Santa Rosa) parent Lori Edgar says, "We are extremely grateful to Bishop Vasa" for suspending the addendum that, she said, had not reflected her own Catholic faith.

The roughly 400-word addendum would have required all teachers and administrators -- Catholic and non-Catholic -- to "agree that it is my duty, to the best of my ability, to believe, teach/administer and live in accord with what the Catholic Church holds and professes."

About 25 percent of the 200 teachers in 11 schools under Santa Rosa diocesan administration are not Catholic. The schools enroll about 3,100 students.

For previous stories on this issue see here and update

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