Dear Enquirer: Butt Out
A shorter version of the following letter from St. Agnes parishioner Tim McHugh was published in the Cincinnati Enquirer March 27th as “Butt Out of Archdiocese’s Business.” Reproduced with permission.
I found the March 22 Enquirer editorial, “Contract still more Big Brother, less Pope Francis,” alarming and bombastic for many reasons. First, what business is it of The Enquirer whether Catholic schools require that their employees not actively oppose Catholic teaching?
Teachers ministering and shaping the future of our children certainly ought to be held to a high standard. There would be outrage if the media started questioning the right of Jewish, Muslim, Mormon or other schools or institutions to require that their teachers or leaders not oppose the fundamentals of their faith. Perhaps that’s the price Catholic schools pay for being so successful that parents of different faiths choose to enroll their children to take advantage of the great education. But the whole point is that it is supposed to be a Catholic education, not something else. What concern is that of The Enquirer and why is it worth of a full-page front of the section slam?
The very headline is misleading. How can a contract be more like Pope Francis? This is a legal employment contract, which unfortunately in this day and age is required to prevent lawsuits. It’s not a press release, marketing material, sermon or mission statement. To compare such an administrative necessity to the wonderful message of Pope Francis is disingenuous and ignores the same local message coming from Catholic charities, schools, ministries, and outreach to the poor and sick.
The Enquirer claims the contract “forces teachers to dance a ridiculously fine line when discussing things such as gay rights and gay marriage in class, outside school and in private.” On the contrary, teachers who adhere to church teaching when discussing any “controversial” topic won’t go wrong. That’s what parents sending kids to Catholic schools expect.
It is wrong for The Enquirer to frame the contract as “a choice forced upon them by an archdiocese more intent on holding the line in a culture war than preserving human dignity and understanding.” Preserving human dignity and understanding are fundamental ideals for Catholic schools. The Enquirer and popular media are not the sole arbiter of these ideals. Please see the First Amendment of the Constitution.
It is ridiculous for The Enquirer to claim, “Students also face real consequences as they see their role models gagged, and their identities squelched as immoral.” No one is asking a teacher to be perfect. We are all sinners. The contract does not require teachers to be saints. The contract does not target one’s identity, but rather one’s behavior. After all, it was Catholic philosopher Saint Augustine who wrote in 424 what has come to be known as “love the sinner but hate the sin.” It is fair that Catholic schools expect their teachers not appear on the next reality TV show filmed in Cincinnati.
The Enquirer states “The Catholic Church is an inherently conservative organization.” Although this is a mischaracterization of a church that also opposes the death penalty; supports immigration reform and health care for all; advocates for social and economic justice; and ministers in prisons; The Enquirer shifts its focus from an employment contract to attacking the actual Church teachings. It becomes clear that The Enquirer is not finding fault with the contract supporting church teachings as much as it is attacking the church teachings themselves. This being the case, where does it stop? “Moral questions” on various topics are sure to arise in the future as the influence of secular society encroaches on the personal sanctity of faith. Certainly the church is entitled to the same protection from such attack on its core principles under the First Amendment as is The Enquirer.
The Enquirer also highlights the Diocese of Oakland teacher contract as an example of a “dramatically toned-down clause that did much to reassure teachers that the archdiocese wouldn’t spy with the intent to fire.” The only difference between the two clauses printed in the paper was that the Cincinnati clause listed examples of what it deems immoral. The Enquirer may feel better not to see a list of immoral behavior included, but you can be certain a teacher in Oakland can be fired for the same reasons as one in Cincinnati. Also, I am at a loss as to where in the Cincinnati contract any intent to “spy on teachers,” is implied or asserted. The bottom line is there is nothing wrong with Catholic schools asking their teachers to help strengthen and grow the Catholic faith rather than actively oppose it.
Fort Mitchell resident Timothy McHugh graduated from Cardinal Pacelli School (Mt. Lookout/Cincinnati) and St. Xavier High School (Cincinnat). He works in finance and is currently a member of St. Agnes Parish in Ft. Wright (KY).
Photo courtesy Archbishop McNicholas High School.
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