.- Bishop Robert F. Vasa of Santa Rosa, Calif., has said that he will allow several months for education and instruction before moving forward with a Catholic identity policy for diocesan school teachers.
“The Pastors and I agree that a longer implementation period is in order,” Bishop Vasa said in a March 19 letter to the diocese.
“It is now clear to me that there are a number of significant misunderstandings about what the Church teaches, as well as why, and this presents an opportunity to teach.”
The bishop had previously introduced a contract addendum, entitled “Bearing Witness,” which all educators within the diocese were to sign, acknowledging that they are “ministerial agent[s]” and are “called by God to a life of holiness.” The statement of faith encourages teachers to keep God in their “thoughts, words and deeds.”
It further requires that teachers reject the “modern errors” that “gravely offend human dignity,” including contraception, abortion, same-sex “marriage” and euthanasia. Teachers would be expected to attend Mass regularly and not to “teach, advocate, model or in any way encourage beliefs or behaviors contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Originally, teachers would have been required to sign the additional pledge on all contracts for the 2013-2014 school year, a change that would have affected 11 schools and nearly 200 teachers.
Reports indicated that some parents and teachers resisted the requirement, arguing that it was too harsh.
“I'm a Catholic, but to have the bishop do this is not the type of Catholicism my faith teaches me,” said parent Lori Edgar to PressDemocrat, a Santa Rosa news outlet.
Bishop Vasa responded to the various critiques by explaining that he “had failed to properly communicate” with principals and pastors in the diocese before issuing the requirement, and will now delay the pledge of faith until the spring of 2015, at which time it will be implemented in some form.
PressDemocrat reported that the Bishop’s decision to delay the implementation of the policy was a sign of the bishop had “relented” and that he was softening his position.
In his letter to the diocese, however, the bishop stood by his decision, calling the additional time an opportunity to instruct teachers on the requirements of the faith.
Bishop Vasa said that “this desire to strengthen our Catholic schools is just too important not to do well” and that the additional months of preparation and instruction will help this project.
“We agree that we need to engage our Teachers and give them the necessary faith instruction which they need to more fully understand and appreciate the teachings of the Church, including those issues about which there is such sharp contrast between the mores of society and the clear and consistent teachings of the Church.”
“This,” Bishop Vasa said, “is too important a goal to try to accomplish in one year by way of a couple of meetings and a mandate.”