Friday, March 15, 2013

Updates on freedom of conscience in Diocese of Santa Rosa

Below are two recent updates on Santa Rosa Bishop Vasa's attempted imposition of loyalty oaths on teachers and catechists similar to that he imposed earlier when Bishop of Diocese of Baker in Oregon.

California Catholics buy ad supporting teachers asked to sign addendum

Monica Clark
National Catholic Reporter
March 15, 2013

Concerned about the morale of Catholic school teachers in the Santa Rosa, Calif., diocese who are being asked to sign an orthodoxy addendum to their teaching contracts, a small group of parishioners has purchased a full-page ad in their local paper supporting a person's right to follow his or her conscience.

"We want to show our support for teachers, whether they sign the addendum or not," said Cynthia Vrooman, a former adult education director in the diocese who is coordinating the effort.

"Our teachers are devastated" by the requirement, she said. "They feel they are being singled out to prove their orthodoxy."

Bishop Robert Vasa wrote the addendum to the letter of intent teachers were to sign by Friday indicating they would renew their contacts for the 2013-2014 school year.

In signing the addendum, a teacher agrees to be "a ministerial agent of the bishop" and to reject "modern errors" that "gravely offend human dignity," including "but not limited to" contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. It requires 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."

The ad, which will appear in the Sunday edition of Santa Rosa's The Press Democrat, features text from the Second Vatican Council's "Declaration on Religious Freedom." The headline reads, " ... a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully," followed by selections from the document supporting the primacy of conscience. The names of almost 200 supporters are listed. Many contributed the $4,000 needed to design and purchase the ad. One of the signatories is a retired priest in the Oakland diocese.

In addition to affirming the teachers, Vrooman said the group wants to let the broader civic community know Catholics "do honor the primacy of conscience." She also said there was concern about the confusion the addendum might cause among non-Catholics with children in Catholic schools.

"We want them to know their children won't be forced to adhere to Catholic doctrine," she said.

Bishop exempts Ukiah teachers from morality vow

Martin Espinoza
Press Democrat
March 14, 2013

Bishop Robert Vasa has exempted nearly a dozen teachers at Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic School in Ukiah from signing a controversial morality clause that he is requiring of about 200 educators employed by the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese.

As news of a reprieve for 11 full-time St. Mary's faculty members reached Sonoma County, parents of students at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa said they planned to request a similar exemption for teachers at that school.

Vasa, reached by phone Thursday afternoon, refused to comment about the "temporary pastoral accommodation" at St. Mary's.

"It's a private matter between me and the pastor and I won't discuss it," he said.

In a letter signed by the school principal, Mary Leittem-Thomas, and Rev. Alvin Villaruel, the local pastor, parents were informed that Vasa had made an exception for St. Mary's teachers and they would not have to sign the clause, which is an addendum to the teachers' contract for the 2013-2014 school year.

The letter states that, "Father Alvin met with Bishop Vasa on Monday and the bishop offered a Temporary Pastoral Accommodation which allows teachers to remove the addendum from their contract . . . we are grateful to Father Alvin for taking our concerns to the bishop."

A St. Mary's teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the move as a one-year reprieve Thursday and said that she and other faculty members have met with Villaruel and shared with him their strong objections to the language in the addendum.

"Teachers shouldn't be put in a position where they have to sign something that they may not believe in," the teacher said.

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