Archbishop Cordileone: Whitewashing the Tombs

Recently, San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone added a Faith Statement to the teacher’s handbook for Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. Here is the complete statement: Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church [PDF file]

Initially, the archbishop also planned to classify all teachers at Catholic high schools as “ministers” so that they could be fired for violating the teaching of the Catholic Church in any public way. To the same end, the archdiocese planned to add a morality clause to teacher’s contracts. News reports now indicate that the archbishop has dropped this plan. However, the faith statement still stands in the faculty guide.

It is of course absurd for the archbishop to claim that all teachers are ministers when he knowingly hires persons “of any faith or of no faith” as teachers. So you hire non-Catholics, non-Christians, and even atheists, but you consider them all to be ministers of the faith? This attempt was merely a disingenuous labeling of persons in clearly non-ministerial positions in order to be able to take away their legal recourse should they be fired.

I’ve read the entire Faith Statement, and I find it to be an accurate description of the beliefs and morals taught by the Catholic Church. All Catholics are in fact required to adhere to the contents of that Faith Statement, since it is merely a concise summary of Catholic teaching on faith and morals. The Statement consists mainly of quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on grave matters of morality as well as some matters of faith (e.g. the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist). But aside from its sound presentation of Catholic teaching, there is a serious problem in the Statement and in its application.

The Statement acknowledges that many Catholics do not believe or practice what the Church teaches:

“some may be Catholics who are struggling to achieve fidelity to some of the teachings of the Church”

“Those of us who consider themselves to be Catholics but who are not in a state of full assent to the teachings of the Church”

“Recognizing as we do that no person can give perfect witness to these truths, Catholic educational professionals are nevertheless called to strive for ever greater assent and fidelity. Attesting that they believe these things and aware of their own sinfulness and shortcomings, they are called to strive in their beliefs as well as their manner of living to conform themselves to this statement of mission and beliefs.”

These Catholics who do not assent to Church teaching and who do not conform their lives to Church teaching are nevertheless accepted by the archdiocese as teachers. Furthermore, the archdiocese accepts non-Catholic believers, non-Christian believers, and unbelievers as teachers:

“some of our administrators, faculty or staff may not be Catholics” … “administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or of no faith”

So you can be a teacher in a high school of the archdiocese, even if you are a Catholic who does not believe or follow Church teaching, or someone of a different faith, or someone with no faith at all. Well, I suppose a Catholic school can choose to hire faculty from a wide array of different backgrounds. We live in a pluralistic society, and it would be difficult or impossible to hire only believing and practicing Catholics to staff all Catholic schools. And the Faith Statement does laudably encourage Catholics “to conform their hearts, minds and consciences, as well as their public and private behavior, ever more closely to the truths taught by the Catholic Church.”

The problem arises in the double standard that the Statement sets concerning public and private behavior.

“Therefore, administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or of no faith, are expected to arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny these truths. To that end, further, we all must refrain from public support of any cause or issue that is explicitly or implicitly contrary to that which the Catholic Church holds to be true, both those truths known from revelation and those from the natural law.”

The archdiocese will hire and pay teaches regardless of their beliefs and regardless of the grave sins in their lives. But if those grave sins become visible or public, the archdiocese objects and may fire that individual. The archbishop is essentially proposing a system condemned by Christ in the Gospels:

{23:25} Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you clean what is outside the cup and the dish, but on the inside you are full of avarice and impurity.
{23:26} You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the dish, and then what is outside becomes clean.
{23:27} Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed sepulchers, which outwardly appear brilliant to men, yet truly, inside, they are filled with the bones of the dead and with all filth.
{23:28} So also, you certainly appear to men outwardly to be just. But inwardly you are filled with hypocrisy and iniquity.

Archbishop Cordileone has literally put in writing, as a requirement to be hired by the Church to teach in a Catholic high school, this condemned double standard concerning the exterior and the interior, the public and the private.

The vast majority of Catholics in that diocese, and — as is common knowledge among Catholics — in every diocese in the U.S., do not believe and practice what the Church requires. Many do not attend Mass regularly. The vast majority never go to Confession. The vast majority have multiple beliefs or failures to believe in contradiction to definitive Church teaching. The vast majority of Catholics in the U.S. and in the archdiocese of San Francisco fall far short of Archbishop Cordileone’s Faith Statement.

But the archdiocese does not merely require Catholic teachers to adhere to the Faith Statement publicly, but all teachers. The archdiocese has knowingly hired a group of teachers whom it is well aware do not believe or practice the Catholic Faith. And yet it requires them to publicly appear as if they believe and practice that Faith. You can commit any sins whatsoever in your private life, and Archbishop Cordileone will happily hire you. But subsequent to being hired, you will be told to whitewash your public life, so that your sins — which the archbishop is well aware of — do not become public.

This problem does not extend solely to Catholic high schools. It is found throughout the archdiocese of San Francisco. Most volunteer and paid employees of the archdiocese do not meet the standard set by the Faith Statement in their private lives. Most Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics do not meet that standard. They do not believe and practice the Catholic Faith. They do not avoid objective mortal sin. And they do not go to Confession.

I’m not referring to Catholics who commit some grave sin and then promptly repent and confess. I’m referring to Catholics who do not believe what the Church definitively teaches on numerous subjects, who regularly commit objective mortal sin, and who never repent or confess. Most Catholics today are in a state of material heresy for rejecting Church teaching. Most Catholics commit many objective mortal sins without repentance or confession. And yet they continue to be given Communion by the Church and continue to be hired for volunteer and paid positions in the Church.

How do I know this? It is a problem found throughout the United States, in every diocese. I go to Confession frequently. There is seldom a line. Often, the priest sits in the confessional with reading material, because so few persons go to Confession. And I am not speaking about any particular diocese. I have lived in many parishes and dioceses in my life. It is the same everywhere. Please take a look at my previous post: Diocese Survey finds heresy and apostasy about a diocese in New Jersey.

Archbishop Cordileone portrays his Catholic teachers who do not believe or practice the Catholic Faith as “struggling to achieve fidelity”. But if they were truly struggling, they would go to Confession. Very few Catholics go to confession at all. And the Archbishop does not require them to do so. A Catholic can teach, give out Communion, read Scripture during Mass, and be employed by the diocese while in a state of material heresy and while committing objective mortal sins without repentance and confession. And all the diocese requires is that they not publicly disclose these grave sins. The diocese has set up a formal system of whitewashed sepulchers.

It is hypocrisy for Archbishop Cordileone to require public adherence to Church teaching and yet not require private adherence. It is hypocrisy for the Archbishop to require Catholic teachers in high schools to adhere to the Faith Statement, but not require volunteer and paid employees of the diocese and its parishes to do the same (privately and publicly). It is hypocrisy for the Archbishop to permit Communion to be given to persons (and by persons) who in their private lives do not adhere to Catholic belief and practice, and yet fire any teacher for that same failure, if it becomes public.

What should the archbishop do? He should either hire only Catholics who actually believe and practice the Faith, privately and publicly. Or he should choose a pluralistic staff but drop the requirement that they publicly pretend to be faithful Catholics when they are not. The teaching of the schools on faith and morals could still adhere to Catholic teaching. Simply choose more carefully those teachers who directly teach on faith or morals.

In any case, the archbishop should hire only Catholics who actually believe and practice the Faith, privately and publicly, for all positions, volunteer and paid, in the diocese and its parishes. It should not be the case, but frequently is the case, that persons giving Communion, reading the Scriptures at Mass, and fulfilling other functions during Mass do not believe and practice the Catholic Faith in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The archbishop should also prohibit from reception of Communion all Catholics who do not believe and practice the Catholic Faith in accord with the CCC. And he should require Catholics to go to Confession, with once a month being the recommendation, and once every 3 to 4 months being the bare minimum.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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