- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Some 54,000 people have signed a petition in support of the San Francisco archbishop who wants Catholic moral teachings modeled or upheld in Catholic schools.

LifeSiteNews.com is also within $2,000 of a fund-raising drive to raise $30,000 to purchase a newspaper ad, which will feature an open letter to Pope Francis to defend San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone.

“I don’t know about you, but I was outraged when I saw the ad by the self-styled ‘prominent’ Catholics who had the gall to ask Pope Francis to replace Archbishop Cordileone simply because he is courageously defending Catholic teachings,” John-Henry Westen, editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews, said in an email to supporters.

The news group and other allies want to use a newspaper ad to run an open letter to Francis thanking him for “the great gift” of Archbishop Cordileone to San Francisco.

He “has challenged us to better model our lives on the compassionate love of Christ and the teachings of His Church,” the open letter says. “This is why Archbishop Cordileone is exactly the shepherd we need.”

Recently, some 100 San Francisco Catholics took out a newspaper ad to publicly ask Francis to replace Archbishop Cordileone, saying he has “fostered an atmosphere of division and intolerance” and is coercing educators and staff “to accept a morality code” against their consciences and California labor laws, they wrote. “Please replace” him, they asked the pope in their open letter.

“Holy Father, please provide us with a leader true to our values and your namesake,” the San Francisco Catholics, including retired Catholic Charities leader Brian Cahill and Bay Area business leaders Clint Reilly and Charles Geschke, said in their April 16 ad in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The LifeSiteNews’ petition — which will be sent to Francis, the San Francisco City Council and San Francisco Catholic school board, teachers and administrators — requests an end to “shameful attacks” on the archbishop’s efforts to “protect the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.” That month-old petition drive, co-sponsored by American Life League, is more than halfway to its goal of 100,000 signers.

Faithful Catholics are also being asked to sign the open letter to Francis; more than 2,000 have done so in the first day.

At issue is the archbishop’s February changes to faculty handbooks for four Catholic high schools.

The changes are aimed at countering “confusion among the faithful and any dilution of the school’s primary Catholic mission.”

Catholic staff are asked to model their lives after Catholic teachings, including ones that view birth control and nonmarital and homosexual sexual relations as sinful. Non-Catholic staff were asked to respect — and not undermine — those teachings.

These “morality” clauses — and Archbishop Cordileone’s leadership — have been protested by students, faculty and even California state lawmakers, who in February called for an investigation into the teacher’s union contracts.

Archbishop Cordileone, while signalling willingness to add clarifications about the changes in the 2015-16 faculty handbook, has stood his ground. He told state lawmakers in a Feb. 19 letter that “I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission. I simply ask for the same respect from you.”

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