NY Times Roiled by 'Morals Clause' in a Handful of San Francisco Catholic Schools

When the liberals go to the South to collide with the dominant culture, The New York Times finds it refreshing that it’s changing from being an “insular, ultraconservative bosom of the Confederacy.”

But when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco collides with the dominant culture of that ultraliberal city, it’s a dangerous development.  Spread across the top of the National page of the Times on Friday was a protest. “Morals Clause in Catholic Schools Roils Bay Area,” read the headline. “Restrictions Aimed at Teachers Anger Many In a Home for Gay Rights.”

The center of the story was a small protest of about 300 students and other lefties. The policy affects only about 300 teachers in four schools. It's national news because the Times is offended by it.

It wasn't upsetting, merely amusing to the Times when San Francisco debated a ban on growing public nudity. Reporter Malia Wollan calmly explained in 2011 that “Nowhere is brazen public nudity more evident than at the Folsom Street Fair, which is billed as the largest leather and fetish event in the world. The gathering attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year, many of them wearing black leather chaps and nothing else.” Yawn.

When the ban passed narrowly in 2012, Wollan explained, “This is a city that prides itself on its inclusivity and diversity and, in that vein, the ordinance does allow for some exceptions. Preschoolers can still go bare, women can still go topless and public nudity will continue to be allowed at events permitted by the city, including the annual gay pride parade and the Folsom Street Fair, a street party billed as the largest leather and fetish event in the world.”

(The most infamous Folsom Street Fair controversy came in 2007, when Miller Beer allowed its Lite logo on the Fair’s scabrous recreation of The Last Supper, complete with sex toys, like a big red fist. The Times never noticed.)

On Friday, Times reporter Carol Pogash channeled the liberal outrage over Catholic teachers having to represent Catholic teaching in Catholic schools. The story began:

It is the issue that is stirring San Francisco: The archbishop has specified that teachers at four Bay Area Catholic high schools cannot publicly challenge the church’s teachings that homosexual acts are “contrary to natural law,” that contraception is “intrinsically evil” and that embryonic stem cell research is “a crime.” He also wants to designate teachers as part of the “ministry,” which could, under a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, strip them of protection under federal anti-discrimination laws.

In this city that helped give birth to the gay rights movement, the backlash has been fierce. A top concern is that gay teachers could be fired.

“Our community is in pain; our teachers are scared,” said Jessica Hyman, a senior at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, one of the four schools in the archbishop’s jurisdiction. She spoke at a candlelight protest that drew more than 300 people outside St. Mary’s Cathedral here last week.

No one who's protesting is a "liberal" or worth describing in any way more ideological than just being for "gay rights." Eventually, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was allowed to defend and explain the policy, complete with "witch hunt" imagery:

“We’re not on a witch hunt; we’re not looking to terminate teachers,” Archbishop Cordileone said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. [I'd bet 20 bucks the Times interviewer put those words in play.]

He said he knew that not all teachers at the schools were Catholic, and he affirmed that a teacher’s private life would remain private. He said his concern was that teachers, in their public lives, “don’t do anything to compromise the mission of our schools.”

Archbishop Cordileone has long been a leading opponent of same-sex marriage. In 2008, he was instrumental in placing Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, on the California ballot. He is also chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. Given his views on gay rights, some San Franciscans expressed surprise in 2012 when he was named archbishop here.

He said he was introducing the new language because “young people are under intense pressure today to conform to certain standards that are contrary to what we believe.” He said he had focused on “hot-button issues” to clear up “the confusion.”

Pogash admitted the archbishop has backers among the faithful: “A petition by Catholicvote.org, a Chicago-based advocacy group, has 14,000 signatures. (A separate petition, organized by Bay Area students and parents who oppose his actions, has 7,000 signatures.)” But mostly, the Times offered a platform to the outraged leftists:

[I]n San Francisco, in addition to the petitions and protests, eight state legislators from the Bay Area have asked the archbishop to withdraw the clause as discriminatory. Two of them called for an investigation, accusing the archbishop of using religion “as a Trojan horse to deprive our fellow citizens of their basic civil rights.”

The San Francisco Chronicle has editorialized against Archbishop Cordileone’s actions, and a columnist characterized him as “charming, humorous and engaging” and “also dead wrong.”

While the clause is based on church doctrine, some teachers and students think Archbishop Cordileone wants gay teachers to go back into the closet.

“We pray for the archbishop that his heart is changed,” said Gus O’Sullivan, an openly gay senior at Sacred Heart who spoke at the candlelight protest.

Mr. Vezzali, the union official, who is also chairman of the English department at Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco, said that union members were “worried about teachers who are gay and who are not able to live publicly.”

“We want to support our gay students,” Mr. Vezzali added. “We understand we are there to carry out the church’s mission.”

Mr. Vezzali said the archbishop was “a very wise man” and added, “We feel our schools are places where we’re supposed to share the gospel of Jesus and love, no matter what.

The Times doesn't seem to understand that this is exactly what the Archbishop is trying to do -- share what the Bible teaches, even when the liberal newspapers in San Francisco and New York hate it. Pogash went to academics to explain it:

Archbishop Cordileone’s language “is very, very hurtful,” but “he is representing exactly the Roman Catholic sexual doctrine,” said Lisa Fullam, associate professor of moral theology at Santa Clara University.

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