Culture Ethics

San Francisco archbishop rejects lawmakers’ criticism on morality clauses

San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone speaks at the 2013 March for Marriage event in Washington, D.C.
San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone speaks at the 2013 March for Marriage event in Washington, D.C.

Creative Commons image by The American Life League

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone speaks at the 2013 March for Marriage event in Washington, D.C.

(RNS) San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has rejected criticism from state lawmakers over the use of morality clauses for Catholic schoolteachers, asking whether they would “hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those you stand for?”

The archdiocese sparked protests earlier this month when it unveiled morality clauses for four Catholic high school handbooks as well as for teacher labor contracts.

The handbooks single out church teaching against homosexual relations, same-sex marriage, abortion, artificial birth control and “reproductive technology,” women’s ordination, pornography, masturbation and human cloning, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

The language says that “administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or no faith are expected to arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny” church doctrine and practice on those topics.

Five members of the state Assembly and three state senators sent Cordileone a letter urging him to remove the clauses, which they said were discriminatory and divisive.

On Thursday (Feb. 19), Cordileone responded with a letter saying he is only asking for the same right they have in hiring.

“Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those you stand for, and who shows disrespect for you and the Democratic Party in general?” Cordileone asked the lawmakers, according to The Associated Press.

The controversy is the latest in a series of periodic disputes around the country in which church or school employees have been fired because, for example, they get married in a same-sex wedding or become pregnant while unmarried or are found to have used fertility treatments barred by the church.

Issues surrounding sex and gender have been especially sensitive in San Francisco. The area has a large LGBT community and is a bastion of liberal politics, and Cordileone is the chief spokesman against gay marriage for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition, a San Francisco priest, the Rev. Joseph Illo, made headlines last month when it emerged that he is barring altar girls at his parish, Star of the Sea, because he said the practice discourages boys from becoming priests and can give girls the idea that they should be ordained.

Illo, who does not shy away from conservative positions, was in the news again this month for giving students at the local Catholic grade school pamphlets asking them about whether they had masturbated or had advised anyone to have an abortion, or had one themselves. The students were preparing for confession.

Illo apologized after parents complained, saying it was an “oversight” and he should have given the pamphlets to the parents, not children.

But the Rev. Jim McDermott, a columnist for America magazine, a national Jesuit weekly, said that hardly settled the issue. “(W)hy in God’s name is any place still presenting an examination of conscience in these terms?” McDermott asked.

“Truly, is it any less appalling to think that a parish might give adults this list of questions? Not because there aren’t sins in there … but because of the sick, warped vision of church and confession that it offers.”


About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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  • The archbishop is absolutely right in criticizing state lawmakers that try to compromise the Catholic Faith within its own house. It escapes me why anyone would opt to work in a Catholic school and not think that Catholic beliefs are not to be understood and followed. This is why Catholic schools exist…… counter the irreligious nature of our society.

  • You were expecting Abp. Cordileone to tell these officious nuisances something other than to mind their own business?

    “(W)hy in God’s name is any place still presenting an examination of conscience in these terms?”

    Why wouldn’t they? It’s perfectly reasonable. Keep Fr. McDermott way from confessionals.

  • As far as the employees are concerned, the school exists to give them a job. As far as the parents are concerned, the school exists to give them an alternative to the public schools and their hired hands better know their place.

  • It isn’t as if Cordileone hasn’t interfered in government, Art Deco. The federal judge who revoked the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote had in his possession an email likely written by Cordileone and signed by Catholic bishops to Mormon leaders in which they both agreed to violate California campaign finance laws to throw the H8te Vote by making secret, illegal cash and in-kind contributions to the H8te Vote. The email serves as proof positive they knew they were breaking the law; the email itself is an act of criminal collusion. Here is documentation about that email:

    The email was included in the evidence the US Supreme Court reviewed before that Court affirmed the revocation of the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote. Clearly, the criminal acts committed by Mormons and other anti-gays failed. It is believed Justice Scalia is holding this document to prevent the State of California and the IRS from using it to prosecute the miscreants.

  • Cordileone hasn’t given careful thought to his latest attack on LGBT Americans. Once upon a time, a Catholic education was superior to public schools, but Cordileione has announced he isn’t interested in the talent and experience of teachers or hiring the best available teachers, he’s demonstrated he’s only interested in whether the staff will support his anti-gay political agenda. Parents aren’t going to give him those big bucks in tuition when many of San Francisco’s public schools are performing better than his archdiocesan schools already. We can see from the reactions of the students Cordileone has failed to sell his homophobia to them. Parents are also going to look with pride at their children standing up for what’s right. Cordileone might not have any of those schools come fall.

  • “(W)hy in God’s name is any place still presenting an examination of conscience in these terms?” McDermott asked.

    Because that is what “God’s Name” means – a list of ridiculous rules and regulations for human beings to follow according to God’s written Word.

    The Jesuits want to be so decent and humanitarian they might as well just admit they have no belief in these terrible texts. If Jesus loves everybody and welcomes everybody then what the hell is Jesus for? These claims are groundless.

    As for religion, it is dying from the inside out.
    And this story explains why.

    Religion is shown for what it is, a divisive club run by clueless, authoritarian dictators who claim to know better than the membership how to behave.

    Where do they get this authority? From a BIBLE written 2000 years by men who were so IGNORANT they did not know where the sun went at night!

    How many times must it be shown that these taboos were built on man- made nonsense?

  • The federal judge who revoked the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote

    That is the public referendum which re-affirmed conventional matrimonial law. Some time, some place, you may learn not to speak in cant.

  • It isn’t as if Cordileone hasn’t interfered in government, Art Deco.

    Strange as it may seem to you, the citizenship of the Catholic Archbishop has not been revoked. Neither has that of his parishioners.

  • Cordileone hasn’t given careful thought to his latest attack on LGBT Americans.

    The “LGBT Americans” in question are employees of the Church’s apostolates. If they do not wish to respect the norms germane to their positions, they can work elsewhere.

  • You mean the legislated violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

  • Neither is he entitled to privileges unavailable to the rest of us. He seems to have the delusion that separation of church and state only is in effect when he needs it.

  • The fact that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has felt he had to take steps to enforce Catholic teaching on sex is evidence that these teachings are largely rejected by the teachers at their schools.

    Catholic teachings on masturbation, contraception and remarriage after divorce have been rejected by both Catholics and non-Catholics.

  • The sexually active LGBT lifestyle has always been sinful, this is nothing new. It is the LGBT group that is attacking anyone who agrees that it is sinful. There are more people than you realize that practice their faith. I wouldn’t worry about archbishop Cordileone’s schools.

  • Another example of why religious organizations should not have a role in our society outside of their church. Schools and hospitals should always fall under governmental prevue and regulations. One fundamental dogma of all religions is that their rules and beliefs trump the laws of the society they live in.

  • Cordileone has no parishioners, Art Deco, he’s an archbishop. He also does not sway the opinions or votes of lay Catholics:

    “Our analysis found that this increasingly diverse Catholic community is strongly supportive of acceptance of and rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Generally speaking, Catholics are at least 5 points more supportive than the general population across a range of issues. For example, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Catholics favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace; 63 percent of Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military; and 60% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.

    On the more contentious issue of same-sex marriage, the evidence is also stacking up for solid Catholic support at both the national and state levels. A Washington Post/ABC News Poll recently found that fully 63 percent of Catholics supported making it legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 53 percent of the general population.”

  • “It is the LGBT group that is attacking”

    Maryg is repeating a standard anti-gay LIE. Why don’t you document just when LGBT Americans cooked up, and then threw, a Hate Vote to deprive anti-gays of THEIR Constitutionally protected right to marry the person that THEY love?

    Spare us these routine, desperate attempts to “project” anti-gays’ own misdeeds onto their intended LGBT victims. Cordileone had a principal role in throwing the H8te Vote.

  • When are anti-gays going to learn to ignore the equal rights of LGBT Americans? It’s up to anti-gays to mind their own business. Each and every American has a RIGHT to CONDEMN the crass political machinations committed by this charlatan Cordileone.

  • Don’t worry about Cordileone’s control of these 4 remaining schools. They will soon close. Parents send their children to Catholic schools in the belief their children will receive a superior education, which once was true. Now that Cordileone says that quality teachers are irrelevant, parents will investigate and find out several San Francisco and Marin County public high schools are rated better than his indoctrination centers.

  • The Archbishop is perfectly correct. Catholicism is SUPPOSED to be counter-cultural and it always has been when the religion was fully practiced.
    St. Paul said it all in his letter to the Romans, chapter one. It’s hard to take for those “inclusive” people who say that Jesus [Yeshua] accepted everyone. Yes, He accepted everyone who REPENTED! “Repent and believe the Gospel [Good News].” “Go and sin no more.” “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It’s better to lose your hand than have your whole body and soul thrown into hell!”
    So much for an “inclusive” Messiah!

  • There is NO constitutionally protected right to gay marriage. None.

    “From the founding of the republic to 2003, every state defined marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, meaning that the 14th Amendment permits, though it does not require, states to define marriage in that way.”

    “A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the states.”

    ““if it is constitutionally irrational to stand by the man-woman definition of marriage, it must be constitutionally irrational to stand by the monogamous definition of marriage. Plaintiffs have no answer to the point.”

    — U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

  • By that reasoning, the world would still be flat. God IS Love, period. Your words demonstrate the exact opposite. As we live, learn, grow and think, we must move past the social ignorance of our forefathers. Those documents also supported slavery and encouraged decades of hate and murder of our brother and sisters for their race, their sexuality, their votes and any other petty injustices that other humans could come up with. The times they are a changing and nothing you do, hate or say will stop the future of a caring and loving society. Yes your bible written by 5000 year old Hebrews did not understand homosexuality, so they wrote about it. Most of the civilized world understands this. You and those like you, hold it up like it should matter. How bout we START with Thou Shalt Not Kill, and work down the list from there?

  • John D,

    “God IS Love, period.”

    Why not say “Love is love, period.”?

    What does God add to it?
    “Kill homosexuals” – God (Leviticus 20:13)

    You can’t convince me that this nonsense is ‘love’.

  • James,

    “Atheists bothering with religion…seems ridiculous…”

    We have no choice. Religion keeps getting shoved in our faces. We are forced to keep replying with “NO!”

    Why don’t you all just leave us alone?