UPDATE: Teacher breaks silence over Catholic school contracts

Published: Mar. 17, 2016 at 6:34 PM EDT
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A precursor to teacher contracts within the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese has some employees saying the language is so restrictive they’re willing to lose their job over it.

NewsCenter 16 spoke to one employee who is breaking the silence about what the diocese’s document contains.

“What I do with my private life should be between me and my family,” said Jane Doe, a teacher within the diocese who wished to remain anonymous, “the Church is something that I go to, to look for faith.”

Jane Doe said employees at her school were given the seven-page “Mission of Our Catholic Schools and the Importance of Authentic Witness of School Employees” at a meeting where the contents were read aloud point by point.

While several of the 16-points talk about cultivating a curriculum and environment critical for the success of the mission of Catholic schools, others step into the behavior of employees outside of the classroom.

”Since they are privileged participants in this ministry, there are high expectations placed on the faculty and staff of a Catholic school to witness before the local community to the a fifth of the Church, both in the school and outside of it.”

Two points struck a chord with several employees who wished to remain anonymous, including the diocese’s required stance for employees on gay marriage and in vitro fertilization.

”Respecting and upholding this teaching in their words and behavior, Catholic school educators are not to publicly promote, condone, or support so-called “same-sex marriages”, adultery, or other offenses against the truth and dignity of marriage …”

Jane Doe said she would be very nercous to attend or show support of a friend, family member or even an acquaintance’s gay marriage for fear of termination.

“So telling me who I can and can’t be social with, basically with same sex marriage, even within my family or friends, it’s not right,” Jane Doe added that ‘showing support’ was explained such that employees wouldn’t be allowed to display a photograph of a gay couple that they knew at work, or even attend a gay wedding.

As for artificial fertilization, the Mission states

”Their witness to the truth about human sexuality in the divine plan, intimately connected to the truth about respect for human life, requires that they not publicly promote, condone, support or engage in artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, or surrogate parenthood.”

In 2011, a former teacher at a Fort Wayne Catholic school sued the diocese and went on to win a large settlement after her contract was terminated when they learned she underwent in vitro fertilization. At the time the teacher said she was unaware there was such a stipulation in her employment since the morality clause vaguely referenced adherences to the Catholic teaching.

Jane Doe said she and fellow staff feel this pre-contract document was designed after the settlement went through to avoid further lawsuits.

This is the first time teachers have been given such extensive details about required behavior, according to Jane Doe, many employees find it intrusive and offensive.

“It hurts,” said Jane Doe, “Don’t tell me who I can and can’t do things with, socialize with outside the workplace. We all carry ourselves in a professional manner and as Catholics—everybody sins in the world—no one is perfect out there. I don’t know how you could find one person who could follow that entire doctrine and have enough people to employ in one school, let alone 10, 15 schools.”

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend did not directly comment on why the mission was passed out, however, it did note that the provisions represented longstanding traditions within the faith.

A spokesperson for the Diocese said the three main points presented in meetings with teachers included: a statement from Bishop Rhodes expressing the mission of Catholic schools, a definition of what it means to be an authentic witness, and the importance of the noble vocation of the Catholic school teacher.

“The document is provided as communication of the longstanding expectations of all school employees, not a change,” the spokesperson wrote.

The wording of the diocesan teacher contract has not been changed according to the Diocese, but Jane Doe said it was made clear that when employees go to sign their upcoming contracts they would be agreeing to this mission.

When asked if she would sign it, Jane Doe said “no,” and risk losing her job. Co-workers within the diocese who oppose the specific language of the mission are torn, according to Jane Doe, as to sign or not sign because of their new employment, need for a steady job or rapidly approaching retirement.