Bishop Calls on Teachers to Toe the Line on Gay Marriage, Contraception

In a recent addendum to a teachers' contract, Archdiocese Bishop Robert Vasa reminds faculty that it's their duty to live and teach according to the tenets of the Catholic Church


A contract addendum asking teachers at St. Vincent de Paul High School to adhere to strict Catholic views in the classroom, as well as participate in catechetical training during after-school hours, has upset some teachers.

The change affects about 200 faculty at SVHS, Cardinal Newman and nine other schools run by the Archdiocese of Santa Rosa.

To many, the move is the latest example of Bishop Robert Vasa’s strict interpretation of Catholicism since taking the helm of the archdiocese in 2011.

(Last year, Vasa said that all politicians who support abortion are unfit for public office, a marked departure from previous North Bay bishops who have tended to strike a more moderate tone.)

Vasa says the teachers' contract addendum is not intended to instill greater religious views in the classroom, but to make sure educators are familiar with Catholic Church teachings, and support and practice them to the best of their ability.

“I'm not presuming that the campus is liberal or conservative,” Vasa told the Press Democrat. “I am simply fulfilling my duty and responsibility to make sure that the Catholic faith, as it is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is clearly and consistently taught in the Catholic institutions of the Diocese.”

According to the Press Democrat, the addendum is called “Bearing Witness” and asks teachers to acknowledge that it’s their “duty…to believe, teach/administer and live in accord with what the Catholic Church holds and professes.”

The document then goes on to point out that “modern errors” such as contraception, abortion, homosexual ‘marriage’ and euthanasia are not consistent with the clear teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Teachers are called to “life of holiness” and reminded that they have been entrusted with the “formation of souls.”

The verbiage that strongly insinuates teachers live in accordance with Catholic dogma is what's ruffling some feathers, with some teachers saying the addendum infringes on their private views. But others say it’s a formality that's to be expected at a religious school.

“It’s essentially a document that says ‘I agree not to teach contrary to this,’” a teacher at St. Vincent High School, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Patch. “As an employee of a Catholic Church, I agree to not contradict the church (in the classroom)...I don’t think anyone is happy about it, but they’re not about to speak out. This is a personal project of this bishop and not a reflection of even the most devout Catholics at the school." 

To read more about the recent changes, check out Press Democrat’s article here

Do you think the addendum infringes on teachers' rights? Do you think it limits the types of conversations that can take place at the schools run by the Diocese? Share your views in the comments below.

Jan February 28, 2013 at 07:48 PM
It is certainly not out of line for Bishop Vasa to request that teachers in a Catholic school not depart from Catholic doctrine. Those who teach in a parochial school should respect those teachings, or find a job in a public school. Don't agree? If you're not Catholic, you don't get an opinion. It's a private school and an issue of the Church.
SP February 28, 2013 at 07:53 PM
The more I learn about Vasa, the more I wonder about his own judgement and what papers he himself might be willing to sign. Espeically as it relates to the safety of our kids. It turns out, he refused to be part of the "child safety" program to assist in reporting of SEXUAL MISCONDUCT. He was cited for not participating in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010. He changed his mind and decided to participate with the training and audit recently. So, this can be used as evidence that he has the ability to see the err of his ways and stand down from his ridiculous mandates. Let's hope he does it again in this instance. See attached for details: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20120804/ARTICLES/120809772 He probably is doing his level best, but it simply isn't good enough. These schools provide a great education, let's not let one man's archaic ideologies ruin those legacies.
SP February 28, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Unfortunately, this letter ("addendum") was given to the teachers was provided to the staff over a month ago.
Nat February 28, 2013 at 08:19 PM
You're scary.
SP February 28, 2013 at 08:37 PM
@Jan, I think that if you are a religion teacher at a Catholic school it is reasonable to "mandate" that you don't deviate from the Catholic doctrine. I will give you that one. But what about PE, drama, English, Calculus? Churches are very unique in this area of the law. They escape the moral/common sense test that the rest of the world has to adhere to in this regard. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg was athiest and made his entire Facebook staff sign papers saying they should not go to church in there free time or they can "go look for a job," or a Safeway employee being told to not shop at Whole Foods based on differences in company cultural beliefs, or a Democrat congressperson being told to never vote in favor of a Republican bill because of ideologies. And, why then, the big stink about the Boy Scouts and gay leaders? Don't like it, don't join. We don't like it because it isn't right Jan. We don't like it because those ways of thinking are not in line with the times. We don't like it because most of us believe that they can represent a "brand" (the Catholic Church) while at work and still have a private life that is positive and of value and it is their own - we enjoy those freedoms here in the United States Jan. I believe that you know that and you're oversimplifying things for sake of argument. But, if you truly believe that Vasa is right then I will respect your opinion and politely disagree...it sure would be neat if Vasa could do the same.
Carolyn Andrews February 28, 2013 at 08:40 PM
When I was a child I went to Catholic school. We learned to love our neighbors and treat them with kindness and respect. I am not sure what to call this new religion of hatred calling itself Christianity that is sweeping through all denominations.
Marie February 28, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Nat, you missed the point. The issues Bishop Vasa mentions are issues of Faith and Morals. That is, a person cannot beleive the opposite and be in union with the Catholic Church. It is not a pick and choose religion. So, for Bishop Vasa to ask teaching who will be forming young minds, to make a clear pfofession of Catholic beliefs is not medieval but actually very current and up to date.
Donna Morris February 28, 2013 at 10:34 PM
How is Bishop Vasa's request that Catholic school teachers believe in and teach the doctrines of the Church hatred? Really, Carolyn?
Nat February 28, 2013 at 10:38 PM
I don't think I missed the point Marie. Maybe I'm thinking beyond step 1. Yes, you are right in the fact that he is asking teachers who will be forming young minds to adhere to OLD beliefs - medieval beliefs - that gay people are bad; that abortion is bad; that contraception is bad. Is this current and up to date for you?
Carolyn Andrews February 28, 2013 at 10:55 PM
Lately, when such pronouncements are made they seem to come with a lot of anger, threats, and self righteousness. People seem to be more interested in what they are against rather than what they are for. Instead of chiding instructors to teach children about love and charity, we are reminding them to teach disdain of gays or those with whom we disagree.
Donna Morris March 01, 2013 at 12:54 AM
I have not heard the "pronouncements" you speak of Carolyn. Perhaps you can site one of these for me? No one is "chiding" instructors to teach children about love--I'm sure you meant another word? And Bishop Vasa is not instructing teachers to teach disdain of gays. The Catholic Church has always preached respect for gays, as it does for all people. What you seem to miss, Carolyn, is that the Catholic Church has major doctrines that they believe in, and one would expect that if you're a teacher in a Catholic school you would uphold those doctrine. I hope you agree. I believe this is a nonstory....
Colin March 01, 2013 at 01:05 AM
The Catholic Church hierarchy can demand that teachers pledge to be against gay marriage, contraception, etc. And those of us considering sending our kids to a Catholic school, or considering converting to the faith, can choose to go elsewhere. Unfortunately for the Church, there are quite a few of us who believe in equality for all, and who would prefer to not send our daughters/sons to a school where teachers have sugned such a pledge.
SP March 01, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Donna, The story is that, again, Bishop Vasa and his interpretation of the doctrine are out of sync with modern day. "Respect" for gays and calling their belief a modern error along with contraception is just ridiculous. Vasa's record speaks for itself....unfortunately.
SP March 01, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Well said Colin. They likely just lost $85,000 from our family for two kids. Oh, and Donna, the over 1,000 "recommendations" of the article in the Press Democrat....kinda makes it a story my friend.
Colin March 01, 2013 at 02:12 AM
Well said.
Nat March 01, 2013 at 02:16 AM
The sad thing is Catholicism is going backwards - not forwards with demands such as the Bishop.
Colin March 01, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Sad indeed. While I am not Catholic, I've always admired and respected The Church. The Catholic Mass, I have always believed, is very, very beautiful. And the ways the Church has always compassionately served the poor and needy is a wonderful thing. Following Christ, to me, is not about getting being "right" when it comes to social issues or beliefs. It's about being compassionate, as God is compassionate. It's about following your conscience. It's about radical faith and trust. I believe most Catholics would agree with me. Perhaps the Bishop would not.
Tony Traverso March 01, 2013 at 03:25 AM
It's like this... if you don't enjoy being groped by the TSA, then don't fly in an airplane, if you don't like the rules and regulations of a Catholic school, don't send your kids there, and/or don't work there. I HATE religion more than any other thing in this world, but if you don't like the rules put upon you by organizations, don't fu@king patronize them. It's just that simple. If more people boycotted, and stopped using these ridiculous organizations they would finally go away. But to many people are mindless sheeple and want to bitch about things instead of doing something about it... like not using those services.
Nat March 01, 2013 at 04:20 AM
While you are not Catholic, Colin, you sound like a man of faith and that is what it's all about. That is what I always envisioned my faith, Catholicism, should be, was, is. God would not shun anyone gay, or a family struggling to make ends meet so they used contraception. And I don't think God would shun someone who committed suicide. As one Dad said, whose son did commit suicide, "He was in so much pain, I can't imagine a God who would want him to suffer so much. I have to believe God welcomed him with open arms." That's what I wish my Church, my Catholic church, would preach. The rules were written so long ago in such a different time and world ... it needs to be revised.
The Fool March 01, 2013 at 04:23 AM
The problem with organizations like the Catholic Church, or any denomination, is that they explicitly promote a lifestyle that they themselves cannot or will not live up to. It isn't solely a question of not patronizing them. They indoctrinate. I believe we can hold them to the standard of moral consistency. Obscenely wealthy and as an organization, unwilling to deal with its violence against children, the current pope's resignation is positively medieval. I keep looking to see if anyone will post 95 Tweets on some church door or something. Where are the Liberation Theologists when you need them?
Chris March 01, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Good arguments on both sides of the issue. Much of the debate is about how teachers are impacted. I think future students really pay the price. Catholic High Schools are filling seats with dozens of non-Catholic exchange $tudent$ and athletes. Parents choose these schools over others largely for their excellent academic and college admissions track record. Embracing student contribution to diversity while filtering the contributions of well educated teachers with life experience seems a little self-serving to me. I suspect the requirement to sign this document will discourage excellent applicants, both non-Catholic and Catholic. Mess too much with what has made these high schools successful and even Catholic parents will make other choices. Tuition will rise and facilities will deteriorate as enrollment drops. They're already in tough shape. This seems counter productive for the fewer families that stick it out. It's sad to see the Bishop use the educations of thousands of children as a pawn to advance his own interpretation of church doctrine. There are more suitable venues for that debate.
Nat March 01, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Very good point, Chris! Exactly.
Betty Harrison March 02, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Well, I suppose they have a right to do what they want in a private school, but that does not help the kids who are being hurt by their primitive POV... Petaluma actually has a lot of same sex parents, who are doing a stellar job raising normal kids. The Catholic Diocese is judging and condemning these families, and teaching yet another generation to do the same! Shame on them!
Colin March 04, 2013 at 01:09 AM
I've been lucky enough to teach quite a few kids over the years whose parents are gay/lesbian. I'm sure there are some lousy gay/lesbian parents out there, but I have yet to encounter any. I certainly should be celebrated rather than condemned.
Colin March 04, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Oops. I meant to write, I Feel They should be celebrated...
Abner March 05, 2013 at 01:14 AM
Every one has the right to decide where to work, every community of faith has the right to choose their values, we are in a country where to decide what to do or to be is a right. Christians has the right to say no to homosexuality, is our choose...
Tony Traverso March 05, 2013 at 03:55 AM
And I have the right to call Abner a bigoted moron because he has a problem with gays. He thinks god and baby jesus say it's wrong because he reads from a 2000 year old book written by ancient men. See how freedom works...
Colin March 06, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Yes Abner, and I and many others can choose to avoid your schools and churches. Given that a large majority of residents of Sonoma County, including Catholics, support gay rights and use contraceptives, I'd say it's very dangerous to aggressively exclude people for having the "wrong" views. But that is The Church's choice.
Chris March 13, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Lots of commentary on this from members of Bishop Vasa's former Diocese in Oregon who feel the Addendum to teacher's contracts is just one of several things he may have in store: http://ncronline.org/news/california-bishop-adds-belief-requirements-teacher-contracts#comment-828318413
Kebo March 14, 2013 at 03:18 AM
The reality is that teachers are professionals who know how to teach a subject objectively and impartially. A math teacher is not likely to be talking about moral issues. If the Bishop had confined his contract provisions to religion teachers and what they taught at school, maybe I could understand it. It seems to be okay for gay priests to preach from the pulpit, but not okay for a lay teacher to even think about alternative sexuality. The Bishop is obsessed with the subject probably because the clergy has been so rocked by sexual scandals. But the irony is that they always pick on the nuns or the laity and never themselves. In order to volunteer at a Catholic school you have to be fingerprinted and attend sexual abuse instruction, but we haven't been the problem, just the victims. It is bizzare. But this bishop is determined to make a name for himself as some kind of crusader no matter how many people he drives away. I think he is bucking for some kind of promotion which is probably the only way we will ever get rid of him. Never should this man have been made an administrator.


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