OAKLAND, Calif. — The Roman Catholic Dioceses in Oakland and Cincinnati have come under fire for new morality clauses that require teachers to conform to church teachings in their private lives.
Some parents, teachers and students worry teachers could be fired for being gay or engaging in behavior the church frowns on, such as having sex outside marriage, or for supporting gay family members.
The morals clause (aka "morality clause") rears its pious head from time to time in the news, but it's been with us for a long time, especially in faith-based establishments. Some people wouldn't be employed if not signing the (sometimes) cryptic contract that melds private life with profession.
It wasn't until the 1920's that the morals clause hit its stride --- because of a Hollywood scandal.
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was an early Hollywood star of immense magnitude (pun intended) who garnered an almost obscene salary for his antics after the First World War. Was was the first real Hollywood "Star" and lived a lavish lifestyle that included parties and women. At the height of his fame (indeed, after signing Hollywood's first million-dollar contract), he gave what was to be his last party in San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel. It resulted in 3 days of debauchery, the death of a young starlet, Virginia Rapp, three successive murder trials (the first two resulted in hung juries) and the end of Arbuckle's career. It also resulted in the self-censorship of the Hollywood movie studios - and the morals clause in the contract of every actor tethered to a studio.
Arbuckle's scandal was followed by Babe Ruth's drinking and womanizing, so in 1923, morals clauses for sports athletes went into effect. *
The problem with morality clauses today is not that morality has been outdated, but that it has been dispersed through walks of life and "lifestyles": what seemed totally immoral in Fatty Arbuckle's day is more an accepted part of the human condition. But there are factions in the U.S. (namely, the Christian Right) who frown upon the human condition. They look upon it as a curse, somewhat like Original Sin.
The "Sinners" Take It To Francis
WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign [HRC] on Tuesday delivered a letter to the Vatican on behalf of nine teachers who have lost their jobs at Catholics schools for either being LGBT, or supporting an LGBT family member.
The letter, delivered to the Nuncio, or diplomatic representative of the Holy See, requests a meeting with Pope Francis “so that you may hear our personal stories firsthand and see the impact the Church’s actions have had on us all.”
The move comes as Catholic dioceses in Cincinnati and Oakland have implemented new teaching contracts which contain morality clauses that require teachers to conform to church teachings in their private lives or face dismissal.And Cleveland Makes Three
So far, only three Catholic archdiocese have been cited for having morality clauses affecting teachers (Cleveland has enacted one as well), but the focus on the vulnerability of gay teachers will undoubtedly uncover similar clauses in other schools around the country, especially faith-based schools linked to Fundamentalist churches. Linda Harvey of Mission America will obviously crow with delight.**
‘Our families are hurting [the HRC letter reads] We feel scorned by our church, which we have dedicated our lives to … We know God has not abandoned us. Our friends, loved ones, and many others in our community have not abandoned us. But we feel the hierarchy of our Church is denying us the pastoral care and love they are called to do.What Francis will do is a matter of conjecture: the who-am-I-to-judge pope may handle the morals clause problem with a kick back to the dioceses themselves since he adjures bishops to deal directly with their communities, or he may tell them that more important matters are at hand.
Another dilemma for Francis.
*Ruth's drinking had always been a problem, but with the 1921-24 contract, Colonel Jake Ruppert (owner of the Yankees) hoped to curtail Ruth's sex life. Ruth responded: "I'll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They're too much fun."
** Noted as the country's "most homophobic woman", Harvey has often counseled parents not to allow their children to be taught by gay teachers or attended to by gay doctors.