Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bishop of Santa Rosa makes teachers sign document affirming Church teachings on life, marriage

by Kirsten Andersen

SANTA ROSA, CA, March 1 2013, ( – Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa is requiring all 200 of his diocese’s Catholic schoolteachers to sign an affirmation of faith agreeing that “modern errors” such as contraception, abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and euthanasia are “matters that gravely offend human dignity.”

By having teachers sign the document, Bishop Vasa hopes to encourage them to grow in the faith and become “model[s] of Catholic living” for the students in their charge.

The agreement requires them to obey the Ten Commandments, attend Mass each Sunday, and follow the will of God and the Church.

“People are being invited to grow in an understanding and appreciation and embrace of the Catholic faith,” said John Collins, superintendent of the diocesan schools.

But some teachers are complaining that the document represents an unwanted intrusion into their personal lives away from school.

“Personally, it's probably something that I can't sign,” an anonymous teacher at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He expressed anger that “they want me to live their morals, when it’s my personal life what I do outside of work."

Bishop Vasa said that was exactly the point of the document.

He asked how a person “can teach what the Catholic Church teaches with zeal and enthusiasm while holding, as they say, ‘in the privacy of their heart,’” views that are anti-Catholic.

Vasa said the document had less to do with politics and more to do with orthodoxy. “I'm not presuming that the campus is liberal or conservative,” the bishop said. “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.”

The document, being offered as an addendum to the current contract, is called “Bearing Witness.”

It states that teachers are called to a “life of holiness” and that “this call is the more compelling for me since I have been entrusted, in my vocation as a teacher/administrator in a Catholic school, with the formation of souls.”\

The document points out that a teacher is “a ministerial agent of the Bishop who is the chief ‘teacher’ of the Diocese.”

Teachers must “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 affirmation also states, “I am especially cognizant of the fact that modern errors -- including but not limited to matters that gravely offend human dignity and the common good such as contraception, abortion, homosexual ‘marriage’ and euthanasia -- while broadly accepted in society, are not consistent with the clear teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The anonymous Cardinal Newman teacher said that section was what he found most objectionable, particularly the part about homosexuality.

“I know this sounds like a cliche,” he said, “but some of my very best friends are gay married couples. We have kids here whose parents are gay partners.”

Vasa said he would be “saddened” if teachers chose to leave their jobs to avoid signing the affirmation of faith, but that it was more important to him that people be honest about their beliefs. “I would commend them for their integrity,” he said.

Vasa put started a similar initiative among lay ministers when he was the bishop of eastern Oregon in 2004. Back then, he asked laypeople who wished to be in ministry to sign an affirmation of faith that called contraception, premarital sex, masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexuality “gravely evil.”

Teachers in the Santa Rosa diocese have until March 15 to decide whether to sign the affirmation of faith. If they refuse, their contracts for next year will not be renewed.

Cardinal Newman Principal Graham Rutherford said he thinks most teachers will sign the document. He said that if the teachers have any concerns or complaints, he hasn’t heard them.

“I don't think that they want to lay out their private thoughts to me or you,” said Rutherford.

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  1. Excellent initiative!

  2. Bravo Bishop Vasa. Orthodoxy seeking Catholics will soon flock to this diocese. A great light will shine out of Santa Rosa. I have seen it happen at St. Peter Chanel, Hawaiian Gardens, CA, with Fr. Broom and his holy cohorts preaching truth. My prayers go out to you Bishop Vasa