‘Fidelity oaths’ in Catholic dioceses

Spurred by controversies over contraception and same-sex marriage, a growing number of Catholic dioceses across America are requiring oaths of fidelity to Church teachings for lay people doing such jobs as volunteer Sunday school instruction.

The Diocese of Baker, Ore., in a lengthy document, lists such teachings to include “the sinfulness of contraception, the evil of extra-marital sexual relationships, the unacceptability of homosexual relationships, the wrongness of co-habitation before marriage.”

The three Catholic dioceses in Washington do not require such pledges.  “Teachers in our system sign no such oaths,” Greg Magnoni, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Seattle, said in an email.

The issue gained national recognition Thursday, as the Washington Post reported that Sunday school teachers had resigned in the Diocese of Arlington (Va.).  They had received an order to submit “of will and intellect” to all teachings of the Church hierarchy.

“The Arlington ‘profession of faith’ asks teachers to commit to ‘believe everything’ the bishops characterize as divinely revealed, and Arlington’s top doctrine official said it would include things like the bishops’ recent campaign against a White House mandate that most employers offer contraception coverage,” the Post reported.

The Catholic Church has seen both dissent among its laity, and many simply ignoring such decrees as the Church’s ban on contraception.

In an interview before the London family planning summit this week, Melinda Gates said:  “It’s going to be women voting with their feet.  In my country, 82 percent of Catholics say contraception is morally acceptable.  So let the women of America decide.  The choice is up to them.”

The co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a practicing Catholic educated by Ursuline nuns.

But American nuns have become the target of the Vatican and orthodox bishops, charged in a Vatican report with embracing “radical feminist themes.”  U.S. bishops have begun an investigation of the Girl Scouts to see if they have embraced themes frowned upon by the Church.

Conservative bishops use a familiar metaphor, seeing themselves as “shepherds” of a flock that must not wander or be led astray.

“As chief shepherd of the Church of Eastern Oregon, I need an assurance that those who serve in official capacities hold interior dispositions consistent with Church teachings,” the Most Rev. Robert Vasa, then-Bishop of the Baker diocese, wrote.

Vasa, a canon lawyer, has now taken a new posting as Bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif.  (Outspoken orthodox bishops have recently been named to the dioceses of Baltimore and Philadelphia — where they are likely soon to be cardinals — and Denver.)

In an affirmation of faith used in the Baker diocese, the lay ministers’ oath involved repudiation of abortion and says, “I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience on this matter.” [More]


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