Words to Live By



One of many reasons for our current problems in this country is that many of the schools, both public and religious, are a mess.  Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco is trying to change this.  His efforts are being met with all the venom that the secular and Catholic left are famed for.  He has not buckled.  Here is his letter to the teachers:


Thank you for the work you do to help our young students learn, mature, and grow in the Catholic faith. Know of my gratitude for the energy, expertise and devotion that you bring to this wonderful and most critical enterprise.

This enterprise involves a two-fold endeavor, since, for a Catholic high school to attain excellence, it must be at one and the same time an excellent institution of secondary education and a truly Catholic institution. Changes in our secular society over the last few decades have brought new challenges to this endeavor in both senses, as we now face both increased difficulties in educating our students well in an array of academic subjects, and unprecedented challenges in forming our young people with a deep and strong Catholic identity as well as a knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith.

The Second Vatican Council, in its declaration on Catholic education Gravissimum Educationis, insisted on Catholic schools assisting Catholic parents in their primary duty of educating their children in virtue, holiness, and their ability to evangelize others in society (see especially nn. 3 and 8). Picking up on this theme, the U.S. bishops have affirmed that “Catholic elementary and secondary schools [are] invaluable instruments in proclaiming the Good News from one generation to the next” (see Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, US Conference of Catholic Bishops [2005], p. 2).

As one means of fulfilling this most serious responsibility, all of our schools currently have programs to help teachers give more effective witness to the Catholic faith. I support these programs. However, I also see a need to provide more clarity for our teachers. For this reason, I have developed a document that clarifies Catholic issues in our Catholic schools. At the outset, though, I wish to state clearly and emphatically that the intention underlying this document is not to target for dismissal from our schools any teachers, singly or collectively, nor does it introduce anything essentially new into the contract or the faculty handbook.

Many Catholics are at Variance with Church Teaching

At the same time, we need to face the current reality in society and the Church honestly, seriously and frankly: many people have opinions directly contrary to the natural moral law and the teaching of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, many Catholics themselves have beliefs at variance with Church teaching. This is simply a reality of our modern society. This reality stems in great part from the tremendous pressure the contemporary culture places on everyone to conform to a certain agenda at variance with, and often aggressively so, our Christian understanding of the human person and God’s purpose in creation. This pressure is exerted relentlessly in the media, in entertainment, in politics, in academia, in corporations – in short, in all of the influencers of popular culture. This problem in society in general is already serious enough, but when people in Catholic institutions endorse such views it creates a toxic confusion about our fundamental values among both students and others in society at large. As teaching institutions, therefore, Catholic schools have to be very clear about what constitutes the true teachings of the Catholic Church. They owe that to the teachers, to the students, and to the parents of the students.

Confusion on Sexual Morality and Religious Discpline

Confusion about the Church’s stance is prevalent in areas of sexual morality and religious discipline. For this reason, the statements for inclusion in the faculty handbook focus on these two areas. This focus does not imply lesser importance to Catholic teachings on social justice, which in fact are widely accepted and well interpreted in Catholic educational institutions. The areas requiring clarification are in Catholic teachings on sexual morality and religious practice.

Having clear statements especially about “hot button issues” related to faith and morals is important to teachers for two reasons. The first is that a forthright statement of the Church’s position on these issues helps teachers provide good perspectives to their students who often struggle in these areas.

The second reason is that candid formulation of Church doctrine protects those teachers who don’t agree with the statements. That sounds counterintuitive, but it is indeed the case. In a society in which confusion reigns about Church teachings, highlighting the controversial issues alerts teachers to avoid contradicting Church teaching on these issues either in the school or in some public way outside the classroom.

Dissenting from Catholic Teaching does not Promote Holiness

All teachers are expected to contribute to an atmosphere of holiness, virtue, and familiarity with the Gospel. How can this occur if not all teachers agree with Catholic teachings?
The way to assist teachers who distance themselves or privately oppose some Catholic teachings is to alert them to sensitive issues. Because the school fosters holiness, virtue and evangelization, teachers not knowledgeable about the precise contours of Catholic teaching have to be cautious about what they say in the school and what they do in the public sphere outside the Catholic school. Honest mistakes do happen, and when they do, reparation can be made. This is not in and of itself a cause for a teacher to be punished. At the same time, teachers and staff at Catholic high schools have to strive to present Catholic teachings as consistently as possible. Dissenting from Catholic teaching or the natural moral law in a Catholic high school does not promote holiness, virtue and evangelization.

Finally, it is important to note the careful use of language in the document. In front of many statements of Catholic teaching in the faculty handbook come the words “affirm and believe.” This is a statement made on behalf of the institution, not all individuals in the institutions. Our Catholic high schools try to hire people who do believe what the Church teaches, but in our schools we have good teachers who belong to other Christian faiths or to no faith at all. They are members of the school community. The language “affirm and believe” acknowledges the good activity of the entire corps of faculty and staff by making this claim on behalf of the institution. That is, in the first instance, “affirm and believe” refers to the Catholic high school itself, and, secondly, to many faculty who identify with the Catholic teachings behind which the high school as a whole stands.

My hope is that the document on Catholic faith and morals that is becoming part of the faculty handbook in our Catholic high schools will help the schools better fulfill their mission, and also highlight for teachers true Catholic teachings that are contested by many people in secular society today.

Sincerely in Christ,
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone


I am usually opposed to cloning, but in the case of this Archbishop I would make an exception.

More to explorer


  1. So hoping and praying he does not back down in face of the hurricane of hatred coming his way from all sides… well, except from the few just men left in Sodom and Gommorah San Francisco.

  2. Government will use Archbishop Cordileone’s stance against us in this way. Government will say that just as Archbishop Cordileone has stated that Catholic School Teachers are not permitted in their public lives to dissent from Catholic teaching on the right to life and the sanctity of marriage, so also employees in government and government regulated industries (such as mine in nuclear energy) are not allowed to dissent from a woman’s reproductive rights and from the civil right of same sex marriage. Just as Archbishop Cordileone has said that the private life of a Catholic School Teacher remains private, so also will government say that our right to worship as we please remains private – and must forever remain private and not in the public square.
    In other words, soon it will be impermissible for a government employee of an employee of a firm regulated by the government to espouse views on Facebook, Google blogger, Word Press or whatever, that are contrary to the government’s position on advocating reproductive rights (abortion) and gay marriage. We will be told, “You can hold your views within the four walls of a Church, but if you espouse them on Facebook or Goggle Blogger, then we will have you fired from your job.”
    That is going to happen, folks. Then will follow law suits, incarceration, torture and execution. It always happens that way. That’s what Democrats do (communists by any other name). That is who and what they are.
    Now all that said, Archbishop Cordileone is 100% correct and we should NOT back down even in the face of government eventually doing what I have described above. The point is that the Church is going to go through persecution. Romans 11 – the pruning that God will do – comes to mind.

  3. [S]oon it will be impermissible for a government employee of an employee of a firm regulated by the government to espouse views on Facebook, Google blogger, Word Press or whatever, that are contrary to the government’s position on advocating reproductive rights (abortion) and gay marriage. We will be told, “You can hold your views within the four walls of a Church, but if you espouse them on Facebook or Goggle Blogger, then we will have you fired from your job.”

    We’re a few votes shy of the Supreme Court carving out that broad of a “hate speech” exemption to the First Amendment.
    What’s more likely is the continuing encroachment of you can’t say that! political correctness in the name of “tolerance.” The result of which will be that the government won’t have to coax or coerce your employer into firing you –because it wouldn’t occur to him or her to not fire you.

  4. People choose Catholic schools because of athletics or academics. Anything regarding development of Catholic moral character was kicked out a while ago.

  5. Ken: Time to bring Catholic education to the respect for God and man for which it is established. We need good teaching sisters and nuns. A few good priests too…

  6. And right on cue, Instapundit provides the evidence for my the government won’t take away your free speech until you demand that it makes you give it up thesis, sort of alluded to above:

    WHAT’S SAD IS HOW MANY PEOPLE THINK THIS WAY: <a href=The First Amendment Should Never Protect Hatred. “One of the most admirable things about Europe is that most (if not all) of the right-wing rhetoric that you hear in the US is explicitly against the law there. For example, attempting to link Islam with terrorism, saying that gay marriage isn’t really marriage, or saying that trans women aren’t really women would get you charged with discrimination and/or incitement to hatred. Numerous European public figures have been charged with hate crimes for implying that large-scale immigration is connected to higher crime. In fact, a politician in Sweden was prosecuted for hate crimes for posting statistics about immigrant crime on Facebook. Assaults on the human dignity of Muslims are simply not tolerated in Europe, and Europe cracks down hard on any attempts to incite hatred against Muslims. In a notable example, a woman in Austria was convicted of a hate crime for suggesting that the Islamic Prophet Muhammed was a pedophile. Recently, a man in Sweden was charged with incitement to ethnic hatred for wearing a T-shirt saying “Islam is the devil.” Nobody in Europe believes that these laws interfere with their sacred, guaranteed right to freedom of speech. Rather, these laws protect freedom of speech by ensuring that it is used responsibly and for the purposes of good.”

    I think I need to come up with a catchier title for my thesis.

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