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Catholic school parents, faculty preparing letter to bishop on morality clause

A group of Cardinal Newman High School parents is drafting a letter to Bishop Robert Vasa urging him to extend to the teachers of their children the same exemption from a morality clause that he granted to as many as 11 teachers in Ukiah.

Parents said they are worried the controversy over the requirement that teachers sign an addendum to their contracts or lose their jobs will drive away good teachers and harm recruitment efforts for next year's freshman class.

"I'm a Catholic, but to have the bishop do this is not the type of Catholicism my faith teaches me," said Lori Edgar, the parent of a Cardinal Newman senior and freshman.

Teachers have until April 15 to sign the addendum, which states that "modern errors" such as contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia are "matters that gravely offend human dignity."

The contract addendum has been distributed to the 200 educators at 11 Catholic schools who are formally employed by the bishop. These schools, which include Cardinal Newman and St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma, have about 3,100 students. Four Catholic schools in the diocese, including Justin-Siena High School in Napa, are not under the direct authority of the bishop.

Cardinal Newman faculty also are involved in drafting the letter, which will be put online using software that allows various people to work on the document, Edgar said.

Once completed, the plan is to gather signatures of support from faculty and community members, Edgar said. The goal is to have a meeting with Vasa and convince him to grant them the same one-year reprieve given to 11 teachers at Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic School, a K-8 school with 240 students.

Specifics of that decision were not available Friday. Neither Vasa nor Rev. Alvin Villaruel, the Ukiah pastor, returned calls for comment.

A Tuesday letter to St. Mary's parents disclosed that Villaruel took the faculty's concerns about the addendum to Vasa, who "offered Temporary Pastoral Accommodation" allowing teachers to remove the addendum from their contracts.

It was unclear if all teachers had been granted the exemption, or whether it would be made available only to those requesting it and under what circumstances.


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