If school officials can't sign it, they shouldn't be teaching in a Catholic institution, or be in a position of authority.
Linda Morris Religious Affairs Reporter
The Sydney Morning Herald
June 4, 2007
THE Catholic archdiocese of Sydney wants its 167 school principals, its deputy principals and religious education co-ordinators to publicly commit to a "vow of fidelity" by adhering to church teaching on homosexuality, birth control and women's ordination.
In a first for the Australian church, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, is set to extend the oath of fidelity and profession of faith, a requirement of church law for bishops, priests and heads of seminaries, to all senior educational leaders.
The oath demands "religious submission of intellect and will" on questions of faith and morals - even if these are inferred but not defined by the pope and his bishops - and an acceptance that everything solemnly taught by church tradition is divinely inspired.
It suggests they would be bound not only to impart these teachings but to live by them.
The controversial requirement is contained in a draft pastoral plan circulated to all parishes of the Sydney archdiocese for comment. The plan, at least two years in the drafting, gives a series of priorities, goals and strategies for the archdiocese from 2008 to 2011.
Among its other new measures are marriage preparation classes for senior secondary school students, twice-yearly reviews of its educational bodies, and forums so Catholic politicians can be updated on church teachings.
There will also be renewed efforts to teach youth about "sexuality and life issues" through formal courses and seminars, and measures to bring in to the fold young people inspired by next year's World Youth Day.
Cardinal Pell has taken an intense interest in Catholic education, ordering the rewriting of the religious education curriculum, and aiming to turn around Catholic thinking that faith is caught, not taught.
The oath has symbolic value as a public commitment to the moral teachings and identity of the church and is not an attempt at control, the archdiocese says.
But a recent Vatican push to institute an oath for theologians in the US was greeted as an attack on academic independence and an attempt to impose tighter doctrinal controls over education institutions connected to the church.
One critic of the archdiocese's plan says it contains "shades of the Opus Dei", the Spanish-founded conservative Christian movement that achieved notoriety as the villain of the fictional bestseller The Da Vinci Code.Writing for the online magazine Catholica, a Sydney priest, Father Dan Donovan, said the plan needed a serious rewrite and failed to take note of the "infiltration" of Opus Dei and the Neocatechumenal Way, a lay movement that heads the turbulent Redfern parish.
In addition, the plan lacked a suitable process for "critiquing structures and providing just outcomes, and was directed to the needs of clergy and not churchgoers", he said.
"There must be developed a listening hierarchy who are able to connect with the broad masses of the faithful and their issues rather than endorsing the agenda of the various movements."
The Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous said the oath would act as a reminder to educational leaders of their role in promoting church teachings.
"It's not about control," he said. "The oath gives greater clarity to the importance of the role of principals in schools, that their first responsibility is that the Catholic faith is taught and lived authentically within the school.
"Anybody who speaks in a Catholic education institution is meant to be presenting the Catholic faith in its integrity. There can be a place for theologians to make explorations of criticism, but in teaching positions the role is to very much be faithful to the teaching of the church."
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