Teachers at Catholic schools in Cincinnati will be asked to sign a contract detailing which behaviors outside work are grounds for dismissal, according to a contract obtained by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Among those behaviors are divorce, contraception, and homosexuality.
The new contract forbids personnel "from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the school or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals."
It also says teachers, whom the diocese considers to be ministers, from publicly supporting practices at odds with Catholic teaching.
According to the Enquirer, more than 2,200 teachers will be affected by the new contract.
A spokesman for the archdiocese of Cincinnati said the guidelines aren't new but spell out more clearly for teachers which behaviors and public expressions are grounds for dismissal.
"There aren't any new expectations of our teachers in the 2014-2015 contract. The revised wording is just more explicit in that it lists examples of behaviors that are unacceptable as contrary to church teaching," Dan Andriacco told the Enquirer. "We think that's fairer to the teachers and a help to them.
"We've always regarded our schools as a ministry. That's why we open the doors in the morning. Not all of our students are Catholic and not all of our teachers are Catholic, but all of our schools are Catholic. And we found out from listening sessions around the Archdiocese two years ago — when we developed our Vision for Catholic Schools — that Catholic identity is very important to our Catholic school families," he said.
"We regard all of our teachers — not just religion teachers — as ministerial employees, even if they are not Catholic," he said. "Our contract for many years has reflected that by including a moral conduct clause. Last year we made that clause more explicit by mentioning the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and this year we've added examples of unacceptable behaviors."
The new contract holds that teachers "agree to exemplify Catholic principles and to refrain from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the School or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals."
Behaviors include "improper use of social media/communication, public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination, public membership in organizations whose mission and message are incompatible with Catholic doctrine or morals, and/or flagrant deceit or dishonesty."
A recent spate of dismissals of educators from Catholic schools for going against church teaching has attracted national headlines, with cases in Ohio, California, Pennsylvania, and Washington state, among others.
MICHAEL O'LOUGHLIN is The Advocate's religion writer. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.