Pell seeks hi fidelity vows from teachers

Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous has defended Cardinal George Pell's controversial draft pastoral plan for Sydney archdiocese which requires Catholic school principals to make a public "vow of fidelity" to Church teachings, saying "it's not about control".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Sydney archdiocese wants its 167 school principals, its deputy principals and religious education coordinators to take the vow in what would be a first for the Australian church.

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 paper says.

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.

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.

But Bishop 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," Bishop Porteous concluded.

Pell plans fidelity oath for principals (Sydney Morning Herald, 4/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Sydney Archdiocese Draft Pastoral Plan 2008-2011 (PDF)
Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney | Bishop Julian Porteous | Cardinal George Pell
Draft Pastoral Plan needs serious re-write suggests Academic (Catholica, 18/5/07)

Sydney draft pastoral plan "seriously flawed": ACU lecturer (CathNews, 18/5/07)
Sydney Planning Committee holds first meeting (CathNews, 16/2/05)
Pastoral plan for Archdiocese of Sydney (CathNews, 23/11/04)
Future Scottish cardinal yields to Vatican pressure (CathNews, 14/10/03)

4 Jun 2007