Welcome to the Cut the Clause movement! As many of you may know, there’s been some recent debate in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after Archbishop Alter High School was forced to refuse a contract renewal offer to a teacher of 23 years. This was due to the fact that an anonymous third party revealed the teacher to be in a same-sex marriage, and the Archdioces of Cincinnati has what we’ll be referring to as a “Catholic Doctrine Conduct Clause” which states:
“Teacher-Minister agrees to […] refrain from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the School or be in contradiction to Catholic social doctrine or morals [including] … cohabitation outside marriage; sexual activity out of wedlock; same-sex sexual activity; use of abortion; use of a surrogate mother; use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination. […]”
We here with Cut the Clause feel that not only is this clause discriminatory and realistically unenforceable except in cases of prejudice, it goes against everything the Catholic Church says it stands for, like love, acceptance, forgiveness, and equal treatment of all of God’s creation.
Our goals are simple: we’d like the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to remove this clause from their contract. Forever. We’d also like to invite the Archdiocese to begin an open, thoughtful, and thorough dialogue with the many who are alienated by the current contract language, and those who support their fight for equality as not only educators, but members of the greater Catholic Church.
So, we respectfully ask the Archdiocese to develop an Inclusion Initiative: a comprehensive, transparent and good-faith plan for welcoming these individuals as educators in its schools and as members of the Catholic Church community at large. We believe doing so would help the Archdiocese and Church become a more welcoming, inclusive environment for all people, as Christ intended.
Finally, let us be clear: We do not support any threats, acts of violence, or harassment of any kind in resolving this matter — no matter how much we may disagree with the decisions and policies. Any such behavior (including toward diocesan personnel and school administrators charged with upholding this misguided and prejudiced contractual language) is at odds with our movement, which is about ensuring a more equitable, diverse, and open Church and diocesan school system for current and future generations.
We’ve sent a letter to Archbishop Schnurr in response to his May 1 letter, asking him the same things we’ve explained here. For full transparency, you can view a copy of this letter Here.
In its entirety, the Catholic Doctrine Conduct Clause says:
“Teacher-Minister agrees to comply with all policies, handbooks, rules and regulations of the School and of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Teacher-Minister also agrees to exemplify Catholic principles in a manner consistent with Teacher-Minister’s relationship with the Catholic Church 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 social doctrine or morals. While the School does not mean to suggest that Teacher-Minister is involved in such conduct or lifestyle, by way of example, such conduct or lifestyle that is in contradiction to Catholic social doctrine or morals includes, but is not limited to: cohabitation outside marriage; sexual activity out of wedlock; same-sex sexual activity; use of abortion; use of a surrogate mother; use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination; advocacy (defined as presenting or promoting as acceptable) for conduct, lifestyle, positions, policies, programs, causes or movements in contradiction to Catholic social doctrine or morals; and/or flagrant deceit or dishonesty. Teacher-Minister further agrees to teach and act consistently in accordance with the mission statement of the School and to strive to aid in the formation of students by personal witness so far as conscience allows to the stated philosophy and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (these can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church HERE, which is incorporated herein by reference).”
The contract, in its entirety, can be found Here.
The clause was first added in 2014 after two separate incidents within the Archdiocese. In 2010, the Archdiocese fired an unmarried teacher who became pregnant by artificial insemination. In 2013, a federal court ruled in her favor, and she was paid $171,000 for her improper firing. Also in 2013, an assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School was terminated for expressing support of marriage equality in his public blog.
We’re sure many of you are wondering if this clause is even legal and aren’t sure where you would even begin your research. Lucky for you, we’ve gone ahead and done it for you! By going to our Resources Page, you’ll find links to all the sources we used, but we’ll go ahead and give you a brief overview of the various laws and cases involved to get you started.
From a legal standpoint, a quick glance would seem to show the diocese has standing to dismiss instructors using this Catholic Doctrine conduct clause, as in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
This exception permits churches and other religious groups to freely choose and dismiss its leaders without government interference (even when that action would be otherwise viewed as illegal), however, the Hosanna-Tabor ruling does not appear applicable to each and every instructor in the diocese’s schools.
In fact, the language of the Hosanna-Tabor decision only encompasses educators and teachers in religious schools who have formal religious training and are charged with instructing students about religious matters.
As anyone can see from reading the clause itself, it is all too easy to target the LGBTQ+ community. For background on any legislation or court decisions protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, please refer to Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized marriage equality, and a 2015 decision by The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that declares Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, since it qualifies as a form of sex discrimination.
For more information on other legislation that works to protect groups that have been historically discriminated against, please see House Resolution 5 (H.R. 5), more commonly known as the Equality Act. Not yet law, this bill has passed the House and made it to the Senate, where it seems dead in the water. We’ve listed contact information below if any of you want to contact your senators about passing this incredibly important legislation that protects women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community, among others.
Scriptural & Papal Guidance
Legality aside, the issue at question for the Church seems to be whether or not their teacher-ministers exemplify every Catholic teaching in their lifestyles, choices, and daily behaviors. In effect, are they “sinners”? Based on that conclusion, we have a few questions. To find answers to a theological question like that, we turned to scripture and the Pope. Here’s what we asked, and here’s what we found.
Can an archbishop, archdiocesan council, school board, superintendent, or principal judge the actions of employees in their personal lives as sinful? And do they have the right to terminate a person on the basis of sin?
In Luke 6:41-46, Christ asks, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”
And in John 8:3-11, the Pharisees bring before Jesus a woman who has committed adultery and ask him if they should do as Moses once taught, and stone her. Jesus responds, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” to which each departed one by one, starting with the church elders. Jesus then turned to the accused and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”
Finally, we do not believe marital status or sexual identity has any bearing on an educator’s ability to instruct students or model Catholic moral or social teaching.
Given their emphasis on public witnessing as a crucial part of Catholic education, we ask the archdiocese to consider what lessons it is bestowing with its public witness at this moment. Are they teaching the love, acceptance, and forgiveness Christ taught? Or are they teaching students to cast out those who are considered “other” — to disassociate with anyone who could be considered a “sinner” by the Church, rather than practicing not only forgiveness, but also love and understanding? Most importantly: Are they acting as Christ would, or as the Pharisees, scribes, and elders would?
Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. … A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:37, 45)
Even in cases where it disagrees with certain lifestyles, such as same-sex marriage, the Catechism is clear: “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter.”
In 2016, the Pope said, “I will repeat what the catechism of the Church says, that they [homosexuals] should not be discriminated against, that they should be respected, accompanied pastorally.” As well as, “I think that the Church not only should apologise… to a gay person whom it offended but it must also apologise to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, to children who have been exploited by [being forced to] work. It must apologise for having blessed so many weapons.”
How can the Archdiocese pastorally accompany members of the LGBTQ+ community and other disenfranchised groups if we make them unwelcome in our schools, churches, and hearts?
What comes next?
Alter High School recently updated its motto to “It’s Where You Belong” — an accurate description of the way many of the alumni who created Cut the Clause felt during their time at Alter. In light of recent events and this Catholic Doctrine Conduct Clause however, many of us find that the motto rings a little false. We strive to ensure Alter and other archdiocesan schools are welcoming harbors for all in search of Christ and his teachings of love, compassion, kindness, humility, and forgiveness.
In addition to signing this petition, we also encourage all those in the broader Catholic, Christian, and other religious and non-religious communities who oppose the archdiocese’s actions (specifically its decision to include a discriminatory “Catholic principles” clause in its teacher-minister contracts) to write, call, or email the archdiocese and ask it to make this positive, substantial change to its policies. We’ve included their contact info below.
Perhaps, someday, we with Cut the Clause will again be proud to call Archbishop Alter High School our alma mater or to say we are a part of the larger Alter community. Until that day, we will stand, we will fight, and we will pray for equal treatment for all in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Roman Catholic church.