Justice in the Church
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Learn about new teacher contracts in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Hawaii and Oakland and take action!

Justice for Church workers:  Information about new teacher contracts in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Hawaii and Oakland

Catholics who oppose the restrictive new teacher contracts in Catholic schools in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Hawaii and Oakland are speaking up.   They are concerned that the rights of teachers in their Catholic schools are being eroded and that the bishops who are 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 paid for billboards asking, “Would Pope Francis Sign the New Teacher Contracts?”   Regina Brett, a Catholic who writes for the Cleveland Plain Dealer called the contracts “unchristian.”  In Oakland, students, teachers and parents have put pressure on their bishop to enter into dialogue and modify the contracts.

While the contracts vary in scope and content, they share problematic aspects.

For instance, while the Hawaii contracts forego a contractual redefinition of “teacher,” the Cincinnati and Cleveland contracts redefine “teachers” as “teacher-ministers.”  The Oakland contract incorporates the new minister language under the list of duties.  According to some experts, 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.  

Hawaii, Cincinnati and Cleveland 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 surrounding matters of sexuality.  Thus far, the Cleveland diocese retains the longest list of the three and includes prohibited behaviors not found in the other contracts. Many Catholics believe the efforts of these bishops do not reflect the pastoral tone and teaching of Pope Francis and actively promote an atmosphere of fear and distrust.  

The contracts contain other ambiguities that leave teachers vulnerable.  For example, the term, “public support of” is used repeatedly in the Cincinnati and Cleveland contracts, yet the term is not defined by example or otherwise within the contracts.  While the Cincinnati archdiocese issued a document "Q & A” #2  that attempted to offer some parameters for term usage, the contract itself explicitly states that it "supersedes all prior contracts, understanding, negotiations and discussions, written or oral . . . “

FutureChurch has worked for the rights and responsibilities of Roman Catholics for more than twenty-three years.  Educating and advocating for justice for Church workers is an important aspect of our work.  On May 28, 2014 we issued a statement calling on bishops in Hawaii, Cincinnati and Cleveland to open dialogue with teachers, parents and other vital stakeholders in their Catholic schools about the purpose, scope and content of the new teacher contracts.

In Oakland, Catholics and their bishop are making progress.  Parents, teachers and students organized protests and created online petitions.  Some decided to withhold financial support until dialogue was opened and the controversy was resolved.  Since then, Bishop Michael Barber has held meetings with teachers and administrators and says he is reconsidering the controversial morality clause.  To learn more go to: futurechurch.org or write debrose@futurechurch.org.


1.  Write to your local bishop expressing your concern about the new teacher contracts.

2.  Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper

3.  Organize a group to meet with your bishop to discuss the contract language 


2011 Statement on Labor Organizing by Ohio Catholic Conference of Bishops

All people have the right to  economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent  working conditions, as well as to organize and join unions or other  associations. A Catholic Framework for Economic Life (1996, USCCB).

All these rights, together with the need for the workers  themselves to secure them, give rise to yet another right: the right of  association, that is to form associations for the purpose of defending the  vital interests of those employed in the various professions. These  associations are called labor or trade unions. Laborem Exercens (Pope John Paul II)

Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII




Would Pope Francis Sign