Frank Bruni’s op-ed in Saturday’s New York Times deals with the employment contract the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is asking (Bruni uses the word “forcing”) its teachers to sign. The issue has drawn considerable attention at the national level as other Catholic Dioceses around the country are looking at reworking their Church/school model.
The tone in Bruni’s article doesn’t leave one with much hope that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati could produce a teacher contract that would meet with his approval, unless of course it was an “anything goes” contract.
He laments that previously the teachers in Cincinnati’s Catholic schools had been “forced to accept a vague morals clause telling them that they shouldn’t contradict Catholic doctrine,” something which was only two pages long, according to Richard Hague, a teacher in a Catholic High School in Cincinnati. Now the contract is six pages long and spells out in greater detail that which was previously considered “vague.” Even Mr. Bruni uses phrases such as, “specifically rules out” and “expressly forbids” to describe the language in the new contract.
But apparently Bruni is as unhappy with the precision of the new contract as he was with the vagueness of the previous one.
Mr. Bruni does correctly identify as least part of the reason for the change in the contract’s wording: “…Catholic officials in Cincinnati are trying to insure themselves against lawsuits…”
Yep! Is that wrong? Should the Catholic Archdioceses continue with vague contracts which leave them vulnerable to lawsuits?
And then there is the reach back to one of Pope Francis’ infamous quotes. Instead of the well worn, “Who am I to Judge?” Bruni alluded to the less often quoted:
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently (America Magazine).
Mr. Bruni incorrectly references Francis saying, “And these specifics [in the teacher's contract] contradict what Pope Francis said last year about the church’s undue attention to a handful of divisive social issues.”
By only referring to another NY Times article, and not looking up the exact quote (and its context), Bruni misses the whole point of what Pope Francis was talking about and applies it incorrectly to the situation in Cincinnati. He says the specifics of the contract “contradict” Pope Francis. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Pope’s next breath he said,
The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
So, Pope Francis supports the “clear” teaching of the Church, which is represented in the contract the Archdiocese is offering to its teachers. And while it may not be necessary to “talk about these issues all the time” it is necessary, thinking strictly in terms of legal protection, when contracting with people who may identify themselves as “a recovering Catholic” and “not Catholic anymore.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Bruni didn’t quote anyone who actually liked being Catholic and supported the contract.
Finally, if teachers and Mr. Bruni are wondering if putting something on Facebook or attending a rally would get them fired, since those things are not specifically mentioned in the contract, they could go back to the same America Magazine interview and read Pope Francis’ words:
The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.
That is why the contract specifically mentions abortion and leaves out Facebook posts. Those interested, could also refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and find the same thing the pope said, expressed as follows:
In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or hierarchy of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith (CCC 90).
There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful, as Mr. Burger said in Bruni’s article, and some of those things may have to do with Pope Francis but a greater reason for hope lies in the eternal truths that Francis, as the current successor of the Apostle Peter, continues to point to.