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US: Catholic teachers in Oakland quit over new contract clause

Gay teachers could be among those targeted, critics fear

Diocese of Oakland Bishop Michael Barber denies that the new clause, which he authored, is aimed at teachers who may be gay, citing Pope Francis’s much-publicized rhetorical question, “Who am I to judge?” made in response to a question about gay people. Credit: oakdiocese.org

A number of teachers in schools under the Diocese of Oakland, California, have quit over the introduction of a new contract clause that would require them to follow Catholic teaching, not only in their professional, but also in their private lives.  

According to Inside Bay Area News, at least five teachers — from Bishop O’Dowd High School and St Joseph Notre Dame High School — have walked off the job because of the new language, while some parents are also reportedly withholding donations to schools.

The new contract states, “In both the employee’s personal and professional life, the employee is expected to model and promote behavior in conformity with the teaching of the Roman Catholic faith in matters of faith and morals, and to do nothing that tends to bring discredit to the school or to the Diocese of Oakland.”

Some who oppose the new language suggest that it could be invoked against teachers who are gay, have sex outside of marriage, or use birth control.

Parents and teachers are planning a May 3o protest, one of which will be held at the diocesan offices.

According to the report, Bishop O’Dowd history teacher Kathleen Purcell says that when she received her contract, she signed it but drew lines through the part about private behaviour. She says her contract was rejected, but she won’t rethink her decision. Meanwhile, Annette Tumulo, a gay parent of an O’Dowd student, says she’s mulling the possibility of withdrawing her child from the school, saying the language will harm the school’s environment.

Diocese of Oakland Bishop Michael Barber denies that the new clause, which he authored, is aimed at teachers who may be gay, citing Pope Francis’s much-publicized rhetorical question, “Who am I to judge?” made in response to a question about gay people.

Tumulo responds that if Barber adheres to that view, then the new contract language should be excised.