Richard Hague planned to teach in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati schools for 50 years, but the literature and writing teacher at Purcell Marian is retiring early after 45 years because he thinks church authority has crossed a line.
Hague is leaving his students because he refuses to sign the new teacher contract.
The contract, a source of controversy since it debuted in March, contains an explicit moral clause outlining eight areas of Catholic doctrine that teachers must not engage in or publicly support, including homosexual lifestyle, sex outside of marriage and abortion.
Hague wrote in a letter to Superintendent Jim Rigg that he has had gay colleagues and students in his academic career and considers it his personal ministry to care for them.
“That I now must, if I want to continue to teach at Purcell Marian, abjure my loyalty and support for them, make that past disappear, that I must now reject that earlier, self-chosen ministry … is literally sickening to me,” Hague said in his letter.
Supporters of Hague and other teachers leaving the schools will protest on Thursday in front of the Archdiocese offices downtown.
Hague said his letter has taken on “a life of its own,” but he does not think the rally will change anything at the Archdiocesan level.
The contract came after litigation in June 2013 that ruled against the Archdiocese and its former morality clause, suggesting the explicit nature of the new contract is to protect the Archdiocese in future cases.
The court awarded former teacher Carla Dias more than $170,000 after she was fired for using artificial insemination, saying that the Archdiocese violated federal pregnancy anti-discrimination laws.
The 2013-14 teacher contracts changed the role of teachers to teacher-ministers, giving the Archdiocese more authority to fire them under ministerial exemption.
The Supreme Court upheld religious institutions’ ability to use ministerial exemption in a 2011 court case, giving churches the power to select their own ministers.
Mike Moroski, former assistant principal of Purcell Marian, was fired by the Archdiocese in February 2013, also for violating the morality clause in the old contract after he shared his support for same-sex marriage in a post on his personal blog, mikemoroski.com.
A lifelong Catholic, Moroski taught at Moeller for 10 years and spent a year and a half as assistant principal at Purcell Marian. He ran for City Council in November 2013 and now serves as Director of Community Programs for Lower Price Hill Community School.
Last week he wrote an open letter to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and Rigg questioning their unwillingness to enter into negotiations over the new contract. Teachers in the Archdiocese are not unionized.
“If your contract is so righteous and it’s the best thing out there and it’s going to maintain top talent, then why are you so afraid of sitting down at the table with these teachers?” Moroski wrote.
Moroski says he will be attending Thursday’s rally and that he’s finished rationalizing actions of the Archbishop.
Communications Director for the Archdiocese Dan Andriacco said the new contract doesn’t place any new restrictions on teachers because the contract has always included a morality clause.
He says the morality clause in the new contract, while not exhaustive, will clear up misunderstanding that the old contract left open.
“We’ve had several cases when teachers didn’t understand the teaching in certain areas,” Andriacco says. “The revised contract language lists eight specific areas — areas that are countercultural where we have had problems.”
One area in particular that has caused public outcry is “public support of homosexual lifestyle.”
Andriacco says public support is viewed as “definite, intentional public announcement.” A faculty member choosing to attend the wedding of a same-sex couple would not be grounds for firing, he says.
Andriacco is somewhat surprised at the backlash but does not think many teachers will decline to sign.
According to Andriacco, only one teacher out of 60 at Alter High School in Dayton declined to sign the contract, and everyone except the retiring teachers at Moeller signed it.
“If we lose a few because of this that’s very unfortunate, but we respect their right of conscience and we respect the fact if they don’t think they can live up to it they won’t sign it,” he says. “If we lose a few good teachers, we can replace them with other good teachers.”
Moroski argues the students will suffer in the long run as enrollment in the Archdiocese’s schools continues to decline.
He thinks the contract will push talented new teachers away and says it hurts the morale for existing ones.
“A lot of teachers are being put in a position between their families and taking a stand, but also between what a lot of them have chosen as their life’s work and very much viewed as a religious calling,” Moroski says. “They are putting themselves in a position to give up what they love just as much as their families.”
Moroski isn’t asking the church to recognize gay marriage; he just wants a return to the old contract.
“The conversation is loud among the people filling the pews,” Moroski says. “If they think in 2014 they can mandate employees who are not Catholic to behave as Catholics when they are off the clock or behind closed doors or in their bedrooms, then they are flat delusional, because that is not a sustainable model.” ©