Justice in the Church
Catholic Teacher Contracts

Catholics Speak Out Against Restrictive Teacher Contracts

Catholics who oppose the restrictive new teacher contracts in Catholic schools in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Honolulu and Oakland are speaking up. They are concerned that the rights of teachers in their Catholic schools are being eroded and that the bishops issuing these contracts are out of step with the pastoral tone and teaching of Pope Francis.

In Cincinnati, Catholics working with the Voice of the Faithful used billboards to ask, “Would Pope Francis Sign the New Catholic Teacher Contract?” Regina Brett, a Catholic who writes for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, called the contracts “unchristian" and a group of Cleveland Catholics marched in the July 4th parade protesting the contracts and calling for support for Catholic teachers.

The Cincinnati and Cleveland contracts redefine “teachers” as “teacher-ministers.” While the Honolulu contracts forgo a contractual redefinition of “teacher,” the Oakland contract incorporates the new minister language under the list of duties. According to experts in the field, such redefinitions could undermine teachers’ ability to contest perceived employer mistreatment in a civil court or unionize to bargain for better wages and working conditions.

The Cincinnati, Cleveland and Honolulu contracts contain lists of explicitly prohibited behaviors assigning high stakes consequences, up to and including termination, to a very narrow body of Catholic doctrine and teaching on sexual morality. Since the contracts also include language that prohibits “public support” of these listed behaviors without defining the term, many Catholics wonder how these contracts will be enforced and how that enforcement will impact the school environment.

Bob Kloos, a Cleveland Catholic, expressed his concern over the contracts this way. Billboard - Cincinnati Catholics - Teacher contracts“Parents are the first of teachers…Of course, they want authentic Catholic teaching, but they and their kids live in a world that is witnessing evolving cultures and values. We ALL have to find words that describe our understanding of what is loving and inclusive and supportive. That will look more like the reign of God than the tenor and the content of the contracts.”

Catholics have the power to transform the Church toward justice. On May 28th we issued a statement calling on bishops in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Honolulu to open dialogue with teachers, parents and other stakeholders in their Catholic schools regarding the purpose, scope and content of the new teacher contracts.

This kind of dialogue is occurring in Oakland where students, teachers and parents met with their bishop asking him to modify the contracts. It is a request he has agreed to undertake. Go to futurechurch.org to learn more.

FutureChurch Statement on the Teacher Contracts

FutureChurch Comparison of Teacher Contracts


Cincinnati Contract

Cleveland Contract

Columbus Contract

Oakland Contract

Honolulu Contract



Cincinnati Catholic, parent and attorney, Tim Garry made efforts to address some of the deficiencies in the contracts.  Find examples of his observations and efforts to reach out to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati below:

1.  Six pages of questions and answers called “2014-2015 Teacher-Minister Contract “Q & A” were provided to the Schools and their teachers by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Q & A DOCUMENTS  Although these questions and answers provide some clues as to how the Archdiocese might interpret the Contract, they are not part of the contract, so they cannot be relied upon as part of the contract.  Specifically, page 3, ¶ 10 of the Contract itself, says:

      “This contract represents the entire contract between Teacher-Minister and the School. The contract supersedes all prior contracts, understandings, negotiations and discussions, written or oral, and may only be modified by a separate written document signed by the Teacher-Minister, the Principal-Minister, and the Pastor, Parochial Administrator or President.”

2.  The Consequence of Being Characterized as “Teacher-Minister.” 

In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al. (decided January 22, 2012), the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously held that the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar suits on behalf of ministers against their churches, claiming termination in violation of employment discrimination laws.  In that case, a teacher in a Lutheran school in Michigan who was a “Minister of Religion, Commissioned,” as contrasted from a “Lay” teacher, was found not to be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, after the church invoked the “ministerial exception.”  The Supreme Court did not adopt a rigid formula for deciding when an employee qualifies as a minister.  Although agreeing to be called a “Teacher-Minister” probably would not resolve the question of whether Catholic School teachers meet the “ministerial exception,” it is one factor which a court could consider.   The current School Contract for Certificated Employees (’13-’14) requires that a teacher shall: “understand and fulfill his/her duties as a Ministerial employee of the School/Educational Office…” paragraph 1.f. (page 1).

3.  How these contracts contradict the pastoral leadership of Pope Francis

Pope Francis has said: “The first reform must be the attitude.  The ministers of God must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost.   The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.  The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind.  But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.”America “A Big Heart Open to God, September 30, 2013, page 8).

“…I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.  By saying this, I said what the catechism says.  Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”  Ibid.

“Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.  Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.  In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.  It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.  The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently…We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cars, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.  The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant.  It is from this proposition that the moral consequences flow.” 

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people.  We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.  And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful.  It must be.” (page 7)

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.  The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.  And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, we must heal their wounds.” (page 7)

4.  Why Archbishop Schnurr should communicate with concerned Catholics about the contracts

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 688 pages of text, includes the following:

2229 (page 538): “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions.  This right is fundamental.  As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.”

CC 896 (page 237): “The Good Shepherd ought to be the model and “form” of the bishop’s pastoral office…He should not refuse to listen to his subjects whose welfare he promotes as of his very own children…The faithful…should be closely attached to the bishop as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father.”

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