Last month I learned that the Diocese of Cleveland wants its Catholic elementary school teachers and faculty to sign a morality pledge that would restrict them from expressing public support “…of positions contrary to Roman Catholic teaching.” Among the laundry list of “no-no’s” are in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, surrogate parenthood, and “so-called homosexual or same-sex marriage or unions”. But that was Cleveland so I rolled my eyes and moved on, and did the same when the pledge popped up in Cincinnati as well.
Not long afterwards the morality pledge came up in conversation but the person with whom I was talking wasn’t referring to Catholic schools in the Midwest, he was talking about schools in Oakland just a few miles from my home in San Francisco. My jaw dropped. No way! Not in the Bay Area; that just wouldn’t fly with the progressive members of the schools or Church. Sure enough, there has been a fairly vocal backlash so far.
Why would this be a big deal to an avowed Atheist who is married to an agnostic? As gay men we should of course be offended but it goes far deeper than that; our daughter goes to a Catholic elementary school in San Francisco and her younger sister will be joining her in a couple of years. It was unreal to think this kind of archconservative dogma would be pushed so close to the progressive Catholic school we’ve come to know for the past three school years. Our school teaches what I call the “crunchy granola hippy” side of Jesus, the guy who taught love, acceptance, and no judgment. Heck, they even teach the kids to be conscientious stewards of the environment. Can’t get more San Francisco Values than all of that.
The faculty, staff, and other families have been not just tolerant of our family but fully accepting; we are unquestioned members of the tight community that is fostered. Another thing that helps to reconcile my discomfort with the larger institution of the Catholic Church and my child attending a Catholic school is that the student body has a slight majority of non-Catholics. It’s not like we’re the only ones the Archdiocese of San Francisco would have to answer to should they consider floating the morality pledge. Have to admit though that I’m kind of curious to see what would happen if they tried. With San Francisco's conservative Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone now in charge, it’s not like the possibility isn’t there.
The dark cloud of Cordileone aside, we’re fortunate to have found a progressive bubble of a Catholic school in the progressive bubble that is San Francisco. Between the positive experience we’ve had, and some of the changes being implemented at the top by Pope Francis, it gives me a smidge of hope that the prospect of change from with-in is possible even for the behemoth that is the Catholic Church.