Bishop exempts Ukiah teachers from morality vow

Bishop Robert Vasa has exempted nearly a dozen teachers at Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic School in Ukiah from signing a controversial morality clause that he is requiring of about 200 educators employed by the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese.

As news of a reprieve for 11 full-time St. Mary's faculty members reached Sonoma County, parents of students at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa said they planned to request a similar exemption for teachers at that school.

Vasa, reached by phone Thursday afternoon, refused to comment about the "temporary pastoral accommodation" at St. Mary's.

"It's a private matter between me and the pastor and I won't discuss it," he said.

In a letter signed by the school principal, Mary Leittem-Thomas, and Rev. Alvin Villaruel, the local pastor, parents were informed that Vasa had made an exception for St. Mary's teachers and they would not have to sign the clause, which is an addendum to the teachers' contract for the 2013-2014 school year.

The letter states that, "Father Alvin met with Bishop Vasa on Monday and the bishop offered a Temporary Pastoral Accommodation which allows teachers to remove the addendum from their contract . . . we are grateful to Father Alvin for taking our concerns to the bishop."

A St. Mary's teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the move as a one-year reprieve Thursday and said that she and other faculty members have met with Villaruel and shared with him their strong objections to the language in the addendum.

"Teachers shouldn't be put in a position where they have to sign something that they may not believe in," the teacher said.

The addendum calls on educators employed by the diocese to reject "modern errors" such as contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia as "matters that gravely offend human dignity."

It also requires teachers to abide by the Ten Commandments, go to church every Sunday and heed God's words in thought, deed and intentions. The addendum is an effort by Vasa to clearly delineate specifically what it means for teachers to be a "model of Catholic living" and to adhere to Catholic teaching.

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