Catholic School Matters

October 13, 2019

Sr. Angie & School Law

This week’s Catholic School Matters Radio Hour is a long-form conversation with Sr. Angie Shaughnessy of Loyola Marymount, the “nun lawyer.” This is her 4th time on the podcast and this time, our discussion is focused on hot topics in Catholic schools. I sent Sr. Angie the topics beforehand and we alternate topics we want to discuss. This podcast serves as a conversation starter with school leaders to introduce these topics and give guidance to them about how to proceed.

We lead off by discussing the firing of gay teachers and Sr. Angie maintains that teachers are not fired for being gay. Rather, they are being fired for a relationship becoming public. She maintains that firing a teacher because of their sexual orientation is not recommended but schools are usually cleared to fire (in most states) if a gay marriage violates a moral standards clause.

The second topic is the firing of a teacher for social media posts which seem to indicate that she was favoring a pro-choice positions. The teacher identified herself as a Catholic school teacher. Sr. Angie mentioned that a teacher was fired years ago for signing a pro-choice petition and the courts have upheld the school’s position. We discuss the nuances of Facebook posts, accountability, and intention.

Then we discuss the teacher claiming to be fired for being single, the school contended that she was dating a married school parent which became the source of scandal. Sr. Angie made it clear that she didn’t think the teacher had much of a case. Then she discussed the teacher fired for being pregnant and we discussed some of the particulars of the case. She also brought in cases of teachers fired for IV fertilization. She mentions that there is a double standard of how men and women are treated in these cases. We discuss the implications and difficulties of these matters as well as examples of situations we’ve come across. We are hoping to give guidance and direction to Catholic school leaders.

The next discussion centered around a newly-hired teacher who was showing support for the LGBTQ community. After signing the contract, the teacher was fired. Sr. Angie discusses how different interpretations impact actions and the course of action she would favor.

Then we discuss last summer’s racist video controversy when a student was allowed to withdraw from school after making racially threatening videos. Parents were upset that more information was not been made public. The balance between transparency and privacy is discussed as well as the balance between public discipline and individual needs. The issue of how seriously the Church takes allegations of racism (compared to other complaints) is explored. Here is another link to this week’s podcast.

Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.

Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.

A recently hired teacher had her contract revoked when it was discovered that she had advocated for Gay & Lesbian rights. Is your application process robust enough to avoid this type of situation? Would you have chosen the same course or worked for a different solution?

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning


What I'm Up To

This is our Catholic Teacher Days Week! I'll begin the week chaperoning our keynote speaker, Jodee Blanco, around the state as she gives school presentations in Great Falls on Monday and in Billings on Wednesday. Then I'll spend Thursday with our catechetical providers (Sophia for elementary religion teachers, Credible Catholic for our high school religion teachers) and then we'll kick off Catholic Teacher Days on Thursday night with Jodee's keynote. FACTS Education is providing a great lineup of sessions on Friday after our Mass with Bishop Warfel. It's a great time to learn and connect with all the Catholic school educators in Montana.

This week’s podcast features an in-depth and wide-ranging conversation with Sr. Angie Shaughnessy about hot topics in Catholic school law. We spend time talking about the implications of recent controversies in our Catholic schools. It's a great primer for all the Catholic school leaders heading to Rhode Island for the Catholic Leadership Summit the following week.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on Apple podcasts and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • Monday: Jodee Blanco presentations at Great Falls Catholic Schools
  • Tuesday: Travel to Billings
  • Wednesday: Jodee Blanco presentations at Billings Catholic Schools
  • Thursday: Catechetical classes, administrator meetings, opening session of Catholic Teacher Days (Billings)
  • Friday: Catholic Teacher Days (Billings)

Miles this week: 623 driving miles

Miles travelled in 2019-20: 13,434 road miles; 19,885 air miles

Last 5 Books

    1. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance (2014) by David Epstein
    2. Meeting Wise: Making the Most of Collaborative Time for Educators (2014) by Kathryn Parker Boudett
    3. River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey (2019) by Sister Helen Prejean
    4. The Sermon on the Mount and Moral Theology (2017) by William C. Mattison III
    5. Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age (2019) by John Sexton

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            • Here is a link to the slideshow from the October 1st Virtual Meeting
            • Catholic Teacher Days: catechetical classes start at 9 am at St. Thomas Parish Center on Thursday, Oct 17th, and the opening session is that evening at St. Francis School at 6 pm. The next morning we begin at 8 am with Mass with Bishop Warfel at St. Thomas Church.
            • We'll have an Administrator's meeting to discuss OKRs at 1 pm at St. Thomas Parish Center
            • Press release announcing the appointment of Fr. Austin Vetter as Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Helena

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Oct 6, 2019 "River of Fire"

            Sep 29, 2019 "Male and Female He Created Them"

            Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"

            Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"

            Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"