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Archdiocese to change contract

By Marissa Stipek
On April 8, 2014

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has created a new contract for what they are calling their "teacher-ministers" for the 2014-15 school year.

Aside from outlining work schedules, sick days and salaries, the contract focuses heavily on teacher and staff codes of conduct.

The contract states, "The Teacher-Minister also agrees to exemplify Catholic principles and to refrain from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on, or cause scandal to the School or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals."

The contract goes on to list examples of unacceptable actions such as improper use of social media, sexual activity out of wedlock, support or use of abortion, support or use of surrogate mothers, artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization and support of or participation in a homosexual lifestyle.

Violation of any part of this contract is grounds for termination.

While the changes may seem harsh, Communications Director for the Archdiocese Dan Andriacco said the contract aims to reinforce the archdiocese's fundamental beliefs.

"What the new contract is doing is making more explicit the expectations we have had all along," Andriacco said.

He said no specific recent events spurred the revisal of the contract, but it is something many people worked together to create while drawing from past experiences.

He said the spelled-out guidelines are a favor to the teachers.

"In the past, we had cases where [teachers] publicly violated expectations without knowing it," Andriacco said.

The new contract makes it easier for teachers to know specifically when they might be violating a rule, which will prevent them from doing so, according to Andriacco. In this way, he said. it can help protect their jobs.

However, some are questioning whether teachers' human rights are being protected.

A "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) document issued by the diocese to its schools' principals clearly dictates how the archdiocese defines the phrase, "in support of," particularly when it pertains to matters of gay rights.

The answer states the main concern is specifically public support. For example, while a teacher may not utilize social media to actively promote a homosexual lifestyle, they may attend the wedding of a family member or friend who is homosexual and would not be penalized if photos from the event were to appear on social media.

Another example references female teachers who take contraceptives. The FAQ document states, "unless the female minister voluntarily shares that she is using contraception, it would be impossible to take any kind of employment action."

Andriacco said other dioceses have been making clarifications as well.

"Some have done it before," Andriacco said. "Some of the wording had come from their contracts."

Superintendent of Catholic Schools and Director of the Department of Educational Services for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Jim Rigg, wrote an opinion piece for the Cincinnati Enquirer in response to the public's shock at the new contract.

In the piece, he said Catholic schoolteachers have always been asked to uphold the church's principles.

However, he also wrote, "As Christians, we are called to love and serve all people."

The contract is not intended to be discriminatory in the way many people have interpreted it, Rigg wrote.

Despite intentions, many people may find the new contract offensive.

"There's no question that some teachers won't like it," Andriacco said. "We are a very decentralized organization. Each local school is its own hiring agent, so it's up to the principal to present this to the teachers."

As of now, it is unknown whether any schools have officially presented the document to their teachers.

Miami University sophomore Sarah Topogna, alumna of St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, said while she was in high school, she was not aware these rules existed.

"We didn't have anything that specific that I'm aware of," Topagna said. "We had gay teachers, Jewish teachers, and teachers who married other teachers at my school. I didn't think it was a big deal, because if they aren't imposing alternative beliefs then they have every right to teach there."

Topogna said she believes every person should be free to choose what they want to believe in.

"Didn't even the pope recently say 'Who am I to judge?' in reference to gay marriage?" Topogna said. "I think that's a great way to think about it."

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