“In some ways, a Catholic school education, rooted in Gospel values and the example of Jesus, are even more important today than they once were,” he continued.
Nuzzi’s task force is set up to secure three key goals. These include a review and study of Church documents about Catholic teaching and tradition, especially the formation of conscience, free will, and human social and sexual development. The task force will assess, analyze and summarize the convictions, beliefs and opinions of archdiocesan stakeholders about the ministerial covenant and its use in employment decisions.
They will make a recommendation based on “an informed and thoughtful approach” to renewal of the ministerial covenant in a way that respects both of the previous goals and “embraces the fullness of church teaching while honoring and appreciating the sense of the faithful,” the Seattle archdiocese said.
The archdiocese did not respond to CNA’s questions about the meaning of “the sense of the faithful,” or what would happen if public opinion conflicted with Church teaching.
“The Ministerial Covenant ensures that our 73 Catholic schools reflect our Catholic faith. How it is applied across our Catholic schools is of great interest not only to me, but to all our principals, teachers, parents and students,” Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said in a June 16 statement from the Seattle archdiocese.
He voiced gratitude for Nuzzi’s leadership in “this important body of work.”
“He is a well-known leader in Catholic school administration and has a wealth of experience as well as a great passion for the faith and Catholic schools,” Etienne said.
Nuzzi will review nominees for task force membership. Nominees include principals, pastors, parents of children in Catholic schools, Catholic school teachers and members of the archdiocese’s Office for Catholic Schools. The nominees will be announced in July.
“The ministerial covenant is signed by all employees of the Archdiocese of Seattle. It hasn’t been updated in several years, so this taskforce will review its language and how it is applied at Catholic schools across the archdiocese,” Nuzzi told CNA. “What is important about the title ‘ministerial covenant’ is that every Catholic school in the country, including all in the Archdiocese of Seattle, considers teachers to be ministers of the Gospel and witnesses to the faith.”
Ministerial language is not intended to “clericalize” lay teachers or obscure the lay state, he said.
“Lay leaders not only help run our Catholic schools, they help run our entire archdiocese,” Nuzzi said. “This taskforce is focused on Catholic teaching and the Catholic faith – not on clericalization. In calling our teachers ministers, we are saying they are public, contractually committed, inspired examples, worthy of emulation, not clerics.”
The task force will meet 12 times from August 2020 to June 2021. Members are asked to maintain confidentiality about all deliberations.
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In a statement from the archdiocese, Nuzzi described Catholic schools as a “vital part” of the Church’s mission. He said he was “enthusiastic” about the task force and “its potential to help shape a brighter future for youth, children, and families.”
The Seattle archdiocese covers the territory of western Washington State. Almost 580,000 Catholics are registered with a parish and make up over 15% of the area’s population.
The people of Washington state tend to be more secular than other Americans. Those without religious affiliation make up the largest group, about 32%, if small sections of atheists and agnostics are grouped with 22% who self-identify as “nothing-in-particular.” However, 61% self-identify as Christian. Evangelical Christians make up about 25% of Washingtonians, 17% identify as Catholic, and 13% as mainline Protestant, the Pew Research Center reported in 2019.
The task force was announced in February after the Seattle archdiocese saw a controversy in which the facts are disputed. Two teachers at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington either resigned voluntarily in order to contract same-sex civil marriages with different partners, or were forced out of their positions.
Michael Prato, president of Kennedy Catholic, said in a February statement that the two teachers approached him in November 2019 to share their desire to civilly marry their same-sex partners.
The teachers had voluntarily signed a covenant agreement to “live and model the Catholic faith in accord with Church teaching,” Prato said. In light of the agreement they signed, both chose to resign, he said. The school worked out a transition plan and financial package for the teachers.